Buying a used car privately, read this & don’t get ripped off

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Little research before signing dotted line goes long way to protecting yourself


March is national fraud prevention month and ICBC is advising consumers to be aware when purchasing used vehicles. By taking the proper precautions, ICBC says, buyers can greatly reduce their chances of purchasing a stolen or fraudulently altered vehicle.

“When buying a used car, a little research can go a long way. Arm yourself with knowledge about the vehicle before you sign the dotted line and hand over your payment” said Mark Francis, ICBC manager of regulated vehicle programs, in a news release.

“If at any point along the process something causes you concern, your best option is to walk away from the sale,” said Francis.

ICBC invests in more fraud prevention and investigation programs than most property and casualty insurance companies in Canada. ICBC seeks to identify instances of fraud to deter others, and actively pursues fraudulent claims through civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions to recover fraudulent payments.

But there are a number of precautions individuals can take to help protect themselves. The following list of suggestions is intended to help better inform customers buying used vehicles:

Inspect the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Since 1981, the VIN is a combination of 17 numbers and letters used to uniquely identify a vehicle.

Confirm the VIN on the dashboard matches the vehicle registration form.

Check for signs of tampering with the VIN. Signs to look for include: loose or mismatched rivets, scratched numbers, tape, glue or paint over the VIN.

Have a licensed mechanic check the VIN on the doorpost and engine firewall.

Insist on seeing the original Vehicle Registration form, not a photocopy.

A recent change by ICBC now requires the original computer-generated registration form to transfer the ownership of a vehicle.

Check that the licence plate on the vehicle matches the licence plate listed on the vehicle registration form.

Confirm that the vehicle make, model, and colour match the description on the vehicle registration form.

Ask the seller to provide photo identification.

Make sure the name on the vehicle registration form is the same as the person selling the vehicle. Make note of the seller’s valid home address and contact information.

Inspect the vehicle’s odometer for signs of tampering. Odometer fraud is the illegal practice of rolling back an odometer to display fewer kilometres than actually driven.

Look for marks on the odometer, and make sure the numbers are properly aligned.

Check to ensure the vehicle’s mileage is consistent with the condition of the vehicle.

Pay careful attention to the following high-wear points: the brake pedal, carpets, seats, steering wheel and seat belts.

Keep in mind that a car travels an average of 25,000 kilometres per year.

Uncover the vehicle’s claims history. Visit and perform either an ICBC Vehicle Claims History report or the new more detailed CarProof Verified BC report. Both are specific to the vehicle; descriptions of the reports are available online.

Perform a lien search. A lien may have been placed on the vehicle by a person, a bank or other entity as collateral for an unpaid debt. A lien is attached to the vehicle, not to the owner of the vehicle. In the event the previous owner does not pay their debt, the car can be repossessed.

A lien search can be performed at an ICBC Driver Service Centre, some Government Agents Offices, or at the Personal Property Registry in Victoria at a cost of $10.

The CarProof Verified BC report includes lien searches from across Canada.

As well, be wary of sellers who don’t want you to come to their house to see the vehicle. They might suggest meeting at a mall or bringing the car to your house because it’s “more convenient.” These cars are sometimes the products of “curbers” who buy cars that have been written off in accidents and then do the cosmetic work to make them salable. Such cars can be a safety hazard.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


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