Buying Safe

How to avoid buying a clocked car

Buying Safe

Buying Safe

How can you be 100% sure a car isn’t clocked? Put simply you can’t. Even some ‘new’ cars have been clocked! Along with verifying the mileage against the NMR and checking the history with Cartell, There are some extra steps you can take to help reduce the odds of buying a clocked car.

The Car – What to Look For:

  1. Excessively shiny steering wheel
  2. Pedal rubbers worn
  3. Seats showing signs of wear, especially drivers
  4. Scuffing and wear on carpets and mats
    (Bear in mind 1 – 4 can be replaced at no great cost)
  5. Odometer digits not aligned (This sometimes occurs naturally and is also the sign of an amateur Clocker)
  6. Bodywork with serious stone chipping (Bodywork can often be blown over with a thin coat of paint to hide those marks)

The Seller

Whether buying from a dealer or private seller don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask:

  • How long have you had the vehicle?
  • Is there a service history?
  • Is there an NCT?
  • Is there a Vehicle Registration Certificate (VRC)?
  • Are you buying from the Registered Owner?
  • Are there any previous NCT certificates to substantiate the mileage?
  • Is the mileage correct?
  • Can I have that in writing?

The Documents

  • Registration Documents – Make a note of the previous registered owner(s). Phone them before you buy the vehicle. Verify the VRC number on
  • Ask them to confirm the mileage of the vehicle when it was in their ownership, and any other details they may know about the vehicle. (E.g. has it been in an accident?)

Service History

Examine it carefully – there are forgeries about. Make notes of the supplying dealer and any servicing dealers names and numbers – phone them – they may not exist! Is the handwriting the same throughout? Have the staples holding the pages together been interfered with?

National Car Test

A car requires a NCT when its 4 years old and every 2 years after that.

  • Has the car been very recently NCT’d?
  • Is it due in relation to the car’s original date of registration?
  • Did the current vendor have it NCT’d?

Most of this information can be found on your Cartell Two or Three Star Car Check.

The Targets

Cars at risk are generally reliable makes which last and hide their age well, particularly high mileage ex-company cars and lease scheme cars where sometimes penalty clauses operate if cars are returned in poor condition. Once you have bought your car you may well find you are stuck with it, even if it turns out it has been clocked. If the Dealer is successfully prosecuted the courts may award you compensation, being the difference in value between the true and false mileages. It is very rare that the courts order complete reinstitution.


If buying from a Dealer look for a ‘disclaimer’ to the effect that the mileage is incorrect and not to be relied upon. If there is one it shouldn’t be too hard to see, it should be bold, precise and compelling. This should be displayed adjacent to the mileage reading. If it isn’t then the Dealer is saying that the mileage is correct.