How to Spot a Cloned Car

When it comes to buying a used car, one of the things you really want to avoid is buying a car that has been cloned. If the price of a car seems to good to be true, then there’s every chance that it could have a sinister history, and you should walk away.


What is a Car Cloning?

Car cloning is very much like identity theft, except it applies to cars instead of people. In a nutshell, criminals steal a car or repair a written-off one, and give it the same identity of another legally registered car that fits the same description. This is done by changing the number plates to the same ones as the original car, altering the VIN number on the illegal car and then issuing a fraudulent logbook in order to make it look legitimate. The result of this is two identical vehicles (clones) being on the road at the same time.

The trouble is that only one of these is a legally registered car. Therefore any crime committed in the clone will lead right back to the innocent owner of the legitimate car. In the majority of car cloning cases the honest owner has no idea that their car has been cloned until they receive a parking charge notice or fine in the post.


Spotting a Potential Clone

There are a few things that you should avoid when buying a used car, to reduce the risk of buying a cloned car. These are:

  • Paying cash. Paying in cash means that there’s no traceable transaction to prove that you own your car. Should you be found to be driving a cloned car there’s no way to prove that you own it.
  • Grabbing a bargain. All cars have a market value that is quite solid. If you see a car that is more than 30% cheaper than the market value then alarm bells should ring – there may be something not quite right.
  • Buying the car in a public place such as a car park or petrol station. If the previous owner has nothing to hide then they should be selling it from their home.


Cloned car Checks

There are a number of things that you can check when looking at a car to help identify whether it has been cloned or not.

  • Check the logbook, and make sure that the vehicle’s number plate matches that on the car. Also check the VIN number on the logbook matches the VIN number stamped on the car. Check as many locations as possible. (Typical locations are under the bonnet, below the windscreen and on the driver’s door sill). Ensure the address on the logbook matches the location of the car.
  • Know the market value of the car. That way if the owner is selling it suspiciously cheap you will know. If the car is a bargain then the seller is looking for a quick sale – so you have to ask yourself why.
  • Never pay cash. Car cloners don’t want to be traced, so only offer to pay with a traceable method. Also avoid paying part cash, especially if the cash proportion is high.
  • Complete an online car check on the vehicle. This will include a V5C check against known stolen logbook numbers. That way you can identify if the car is probably a clone or not.
  • If you are buying the car via a private sale then make sure you visit the registered keeper’s address.
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