Londoners urged to use caution when buying used cars

LTS Week, Day 3 – Buying a used car

An estimated fifth of used cars advertised through online platforms have unresolved or outstanding safety issues, warns London Trading Standards (LTS) in light of its recent research.

The warning comes on the third day of London Trading Standards Week and forms part of its five-day campaign that raises awareness of consumer protection issues with the public and ensures legitimate business can thrive in the capital.



LTS conducted research looking at online adverts for 155 used cars, most professing to be from private sellers in London. Of the adverts investigated by trading standards, 18 of the vehicles had outstanding safety recalls, and six didn’t match their advertised mileage, suggesting the odometer had been tampered with, or ‘clocked’.



Trading Standards found further disparities between the adverts and the vehicles on sale when ten vehicles were found to be insurance write-offs, a fact omitted from the advert. Though this is a legal requirement for traders, private sellers are under no obligation to inform buyers of insurance write-offs, as long as the vehicle is considered legally roadworthy.

18 of the cars were either untaxed or had no MOT, so it would be illegal to take them for a test drive.

Nicola Tudor, Chair of LTS’ Fair Trading Group said: “Don’t get taken for a ride when buying a car. It’s not a bargain if it’s unsafe or clocked, so check it out first at Trading Standards looks to protect consumers by enforcing the law in relation to the sale of used cars so if you suspect that a seller is not complying with legal requirements or not recognising your rights, report them to Trading Standards via the Consumer Advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”



According to LTS, approximately one in six of the ‘private’ sellers were likely to be traders. Trading Standards often find rogue traders posing as private sellers to take advantage of the fewer protections offered to their buyers.

When buying a used car from a private seller, remember:

  • The seller must have the right to sell the vehicle
  • The vehicle must match the description, but it’s up to the buyer to question the seller
  • Unless the vehicle is being sold for scrap, it must be roadworthy

LTS urges consumers to be diligent when considering buying a used car from a private seller. Where possible, find out the registration number before viewing the vehicle. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) holds free-to-access information on vehicles, including whether a car is taxed and has a valid MOT, the mileage and advisory details on the last MOT, and whether there is a safety recall in place.

Checking the existing MOT will tell you whether the vehicle had any advisory notices, and give you a starting point when it comes to view the vehicle, such as asking whether any of the faults identified in the MOT been repaired.

Lead Officer for Motor Trade at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, Owen Kennedy, said: “It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new car and forget the basics, but remember that you don’t have the same rights when buying from a private individual. Check all the paperwork diligently, and use the DVLA or other online services before viewing the vehicle. You should also consider whether it’s worth having the vehicle inspected by an independent engineer or garage. Many car sales go through without a hitch, but you should always remain vigilant.”

  • LTS Week takes place 10 – 14 September 2018 further details can be found here
  • Follow @London_T_S and @CTSI_UK on Twitter for full updates
  • Watch our short animated advice film here
  • For more information on trading standards law and used cars visit the business companion website


Project Main Page

Project News

Please click "Accept" to use cookies on this website. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.