Pre-owned cars: How to buy them, how to avoid scams, and how to register the change of ownership…

16 minute read

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Are you in the market for a second-hand car? Well, we’ve put together a guide to cover everything you need to know when buying a pre-owned car. Plus, we look at what to do when you’ve made the purchase…

  • A new car can lose up to 60% of its value in its first three years
  • More than half of shoppers discover vehicles online
  • What should you do once you’ve bought a second-hand car?

Why are more people buying second-hand cars?


We’re all cutting back on costs wherever we can. From your daily coffee to long-term investments, we’re all purchasing with a lot more caution right now. That’s why the second-hand car market is currently booming, it’s a well-known fact that as soon as you take a car off of the forecourt, it loses value, so many buyers are turning to second-hand to reduce their losses. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why…

In the first three years, a new car can lose up to 60% of its value and much of that is in the first year. That means that if you bought a flash new car at £60,000, it’d lose £36,000 in just three years! Second-hand cars tend to lose less value. A nearly new car around two to three years old, after its initial depreciation, could prove better value for money.

There are a number of factors that influence how much a car will depreciate. Things such as the brand, model and year it was made, and how fuel efficient it is. To find out how much your car is depreciating, you should track its value over time. It’s also worth taking a look online and seeing how different brands and models fare against each other.

Sticking with an older model

We’re creatures of habit, but with the ban on petrol and diesel cars being brought forward to 2030, many drivers' favourite petrol and diesel models are disappearing from the production line.

Last year, Ford announced that they were no longer producing one of their best-selling cars of all time, the Ford Fiesta. Following this news, the Ford Fiesta has been named the UK’s best-selling used car of 2022. Experts have even warned that Ford Fiesta could now be more at risk of being stolen, so make sure your car is covered for theft!

Want to know which cars have been the most popular over time? Check out our cars through the decades article.

On top of this, there are less new cars available on the market. Manufacturing and supply chains continue to be impacted by external factors, so fewer options. Many new car buyers are turning their heads to see what’s on offer from the second-hand market.

Where can you buy a second-hand car?

Whether it’s your local car dealer or the internet, there're lots of different ways to get your hands on a second-hand car… but don’t worry, we’re on hand to help you figure out where’s best.

Car dealerships

Local dealerships are a good way to browse second-hand cars, and just as you would with a brand-new car, you’ll get the chance to try before you buy. Finding a dealer you can trust can be tricky, so it’s worth doing a bit of research on customer reviews before deciding who to buy from. Ask around, see who your friends have previously had good experiences with and check out Google reviews.

Online marketplaces

Did you know that more than half of shoppers now discover vehicles online? That’s why online car dealerships such as Cazoo and Carwow are springing up left, right and centre! In fact, the number of car buyers who discover new vehicles online is nearly double the amount than those in dealerships.

So why are more and more people shopping online for cars? Research finds that 77% of us think it’s important for the purchase of a vehicle to be as easy and convenient as possible, and browsing from the comfort of your own home at any time of day is certainly that!

Online dealerships aren’t the only place people are heading to for second-hand cars on the internet, with 44% of us discovering new cars through apps such as Facebook! On Facebook Marketplace, you can browse second-hand cars from independent sellers and dealerships from across the world. Although you can’t physically tap to buy, you can arrange to view and purchase someone's old car. With Ebay, you can buy the vehicle through the site itself. Often, it’s cheaper to buy a car directly from a seller on Ebay and Facebook than going through a dealership because you cut out the middleman.


Used cars are becoming more and more popular

What are the dangers of shopping online?

Buying a car online can be risky. Over 40 million Brits have been targeted by scammers as the cost-of-living crisis bites, with online shopping reported as one of the most common type of scam. So what are the dangers that you need to be aware of?

It’s always wise to try before you buy, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to test drive the car first if you buy through Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or an online dealership. Not only would you have to pay a sum to be insured on the vehicle for an hour or so, but you’d also have to convince a stranger that you’re not going to run off with their car without paying!

You’re just going to have to take the seller's word that the car is how they describe it. We’ve all been through the ordeal of ordering something online for it to arrive looking nothing like its pictures or description... Well, the same thing can happen when you buy a car online.

Remember: Never test-drive a car without having a valid insurance policy. You could get points on your licence and be liable for any damage caused… and who wants to be out of pocket when they’re purchasing a new car?

With Facebook Marketplace, it’s a social platform first and foremost, with every listing connected to a Facebook account. Unlike with Ebay, this gives the seller the power to block you, so you won’t be able to contact them if there are any problems with your new car. Some dodgy sellers will even ask for payment upfront, so you might not get your goods before their profile and contact details are gone forever!

A second-hand car could also have been stolen. Many criminals steal cars to sell on and make a nice profit, or to use whilst committing other crimes, before later trying to shift them to an unsuspecting buyer.

A whopping 58,000 vehicles were stolen in 2022! If you buy a stolen car and take it out on the roads, you could find yourself in some legal trouble… and it could be taken off and returned to its rightful owner, leaving a hole in your pocket!

Worried about your own car being stolen? Find out how to protect your car from theft.

Tips for buying on Facebook Marketplace or Ebay

Is the car a ‘catfish’?

What do we mean by 'catfish'? Well, according to the official definition from Urban Dictionary, a 'catfish refers to a fake or stolen online identity'. So, whether dents have been airbrushed out, or the description is a little inflated, you want to make sure what you're getting is what you've been advertised.

Unlike with traditional dealers, you won’t qualify for purchase protection on Facebook Marketplace and Ebay, and there’s no money-back-guarantee.

You do have the legal right to a refund if you were misled about the product you bought, wherever you bought it from. Make sure to take a screenshot of the listing and save it somewhere safe. If your vehicle was described as “running well”, but you’ve ended up stuck with an old banger that hasn’t made it past the first junction, you’ll have evidence to argue that description was inaccurate.

Spotting a scammer

There are a lot of scammers out there, so make sure you check out the seller's profile before buying. If you’re looking on Ebay, check out their seller score and customer feedback. The more buyers who have rated their experience positively with a seller, the more you can trust them.

Often scammers create multiple profiles on Facebook to sell goods on the Marketplace under a false name so that it can’t be traced back to them. Between January and March 2022, Facebook removed 1.6 billion fake accounts, so it’s important to keep on the lookout. Scroll through the seller's profile and see how recently it was made. It’s unlikely that if someone has just joined Facebook, they’d be selling on the platform straight away.

Another way to spot a fake account is to see how many photos they’ve been tagged in. If they’re real, it’s likely there’ll be a good few snaps. You can also take a look at their friends list to see how many friends they have. Having very few friends can be suspicious, as well as not having any local friends.

We all love a bargain, but if you find a car at an unbelievable price, it might be just that… unbelievable. Browse second-hand car selling sites such as Auto Trader to compare how much the cars of that model, make and condition are going for elsewhere. If the price of the car you’re thinking of buying is way below the average, it could be a sign of a fraudster at play.

We bought a car through Auto Trader. The seller seemed genuine and said they were selling the car because they were moving abroad for work. Over the next few months some major issues arose, including the clutch, turbo and DPF (diesel particulate filter). The repair bill was almost as much as we paid for the car! It's reasonable to think the seller knew about the issues before selling!
Simon Allen, Content Exec at LV=

Change of ownership

So, you’ve navigated the exciting yet stressful process of buying a new car. Money and keys may have changed hands, but there’s something else you need to make sure you take home with you as part of this process, and that’s the log book (also known as a V5C registration certificate).

Once the deal is sealed, the previous owner must tear off a small subsection of the log book called the V5C/2 and give it to you, filled out. The previous owner is then responsible for informing the DVLA of a change of car ownership. You’ll receive your very own log book within five working days.

Car tax isn’t transferable, so you’ll need to pay vehicle tax as soon as you buy the car. But before doing so, you’ll need to make sure you're insured on your new set of wheels. This all has to be done before you drive your new car back home. Find out how to get insured on your new car from our article.

Or, if you’re looking to sell your car before you buy your next one, follow our guide on selling a car.

Things to consider when buying a second-hand car

Buying a second-hand car is a whole lot easier if you understand what a healthy car looks like, but we’re not all mechanics. So, we’ve put together a guide on what to look out for when you’re buying a second-hand car.

Firstly, it’s important to know the car's mileage. The more miles a car has driven, the cheaper it usually is as the car’s parts will have gone through more wear and tear. To give you a guide on what’s considered a lot of miles on the clock, the average car in 2019 travelled 7,400 miles. Historically this figure (in 2002) was 9,200.

With the rising cost of living, it’s important to consider how much your car will cost you in the long-term. Check if the model of car is still being produced as it will be easier and cheaper to get hold of replacement parts. It’s also worth considering different fuel options. To find out about the cost of owning an electric car, check out our article.

You can check when the car last had an MOT online through the DVLA. If it’s due soon, that’s another cost on top of the price of the car you’ll need to consider. To find out more on what to consider when buying a second-hand car, check out our article.

Make sure a car hasn’t been stolen before buying. Firstly, check the car details match what the sellers are saying on the DVLA’s website. You should also ask to see the vehicle's log book and the sellers ID, this will confirm that the car is registered to the seller. 

About to shake on a deal on a second-hand car? Get in touch to get a quote or update the details on your car insurance policy, so that you can ride off into the sunset with your new four-wheeled friend.

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