Drivers are exposed to an enormous risk of buying used cars with a hidden history. A new study carried out exclusively for MailOnline and This is Money has shown.
A review of the engines for sale on a popular used car website revealed that 16,703 have a secret story. Issues ranging from clocked odometers to potentially fatal depreciation are offered to buyers as clean vehicles to exceed their real value.
We show pictures of cars that have been examined and previously written off but have since been repaired. Now they are being put up for sale like nothing has ever happened to them.
We have teamed up with security fighters and vehicle inspection providers to call for insurers to better protect consumers when buying used cars.
Hidden Stories: Research conducted by Vcheck on behalf of MailOnline and This is Money found that over 16,700 used cars for sale were hiding issues. This includes manipulated kilometers and depreciation, as shown here
The investigation on behalf of MailOnline and This is Money was carried out by Vcheck.
The company's extensive vehicle history review analysis found that more than 4,000 vehicles for sale on the site that we did not identify were from salvage yards, which are clearly labeled as depreciation.
The examples were compared to their vehicle identification number (VIN) from recovery records and matched with those listed in online advertisements of used cars for sale.
They appear in the market as perfectly clean examples after passing checks against the Motor Insurance Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR), which is supposed to show whether cars have previously been written off.
However, due to records of obsolete or simply not entered into the database, many vehicles are sliding through the system and sellers are asking for prices that suggest to an ignorant consumer that the cars have been well cared for and have suffered a scratch.
We found examples of small bypasses like the Fiat 500 for sale in near pristine condition and only found pictures of the same car in a junkyard after being damaged in an accident.
There are also cases of family cars, including an Audi A4, a Vauxhall Mocha, and a Volkswagen Passat, that would likely appeal to buyers looking for engines to transport their loved ones.
These examples seem – at first glance – to have never had a thing or a bump in their life, but recovery records show alarming images of them in sad states after being declared as insurance write-offs after collisions.
None of these cars had any information in their ads that they were the subject of a claim or insurance written off. They also had no details in the description of the previous accident history.
BEFORE: A VW Passat property pictured in a junkyard that has suffered serious damage. AFTER: The same VW family car looks as good as new and is being sold online without a record if it has previously had an accident
A Vauxhall Mocha, pictured on the left after being involved in a severe shunt and pictured on the right, is being advertised on the second hand market with no indication of its previous condition
BEFORE: This Mercedes-AMG E-Class was clearly involved in a serious collision. AFTER: However, it is pictured here for sale and bears no scars from its previous accident
Vcheck even found examples of top-of-the-line supercars, including a formerly wrecked Ferrari F12 Berlinetta worth over £ 200,000, a McLaren 650S, and a Porsche 911.
All images delivered in our investigation are depreciations, which Vcheck can confirm that they are subject to insurance claims.
Under current law, it is illegal to sell a knowingly written-off vehicle, and it is against consumer law to hide information about the harm in advertising the sale.
However, if insurance records don't flag cases like the one pictured here, many innocent sellers will not be able to verify the real background of the vehicles – unless they have procured and repaired the cars themselves.
The research found that used cars sold with a hidden history fool drivers by millions of pounds each year because buyers pay about the odds on engines with a hidden history.
It has been estimated that selling vehicles listed for more money than their condition allows would save more than £ 25 million in total – and many with potential safety issues from previous undeclared damage.
Specialized used car websites use details from the MIAFTR operated by Insurance Database Services Limited to verify whether a vehicle has ever been taken off the road due to damage.
If engines are shown to have been written off by an insurer, sellers will not be able to list the car on the website without this vital information.
However, our investigation shows that the database has not been adequately updated. Numerous examples of recovered vehicles are for sale as if they had never been in danger.
The cars identified as secret depreciation aren't just mainstream models. This McLaren 650S is shown on the left in terrible condition after an accident but is later sold on the right in near pristine condition
BEFORE: A £ 200,000 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta was involved in an accident. AFTER: The same Ferrari is sold in a dealership
This Porsche 911 has sustained a lot of damage if you look at the picture to the left of the car in a junkyard. The picture to the right shows what it looked like when it was put up for sale after being repaired
Cars written off are worth significantly less than without a single stitch.
Anyone who buys a vehicle at standard market value and then finds out that it has been declared a Cat S or Cat N depreciation can suffer a large loss on resale if true history is later determined in history checks or the owner finds out it was written off.
Vehicle depreciation explained
Category A.or "junk" cars remain the most damaged vehicles. They cannot be repaired or even broken for replacement parts.
Category B.or "Break" cars are again very badly damaged and irreparable, but they can be "broken" into pieces for salvage and recycling.
Category S.or & # 39; Structural & # 39; Cars have suffered damage to the basic structure that gives a car its strength. These & # 39; S & # 39; vehicles can be repaired and resold. However, you should ensure that the work has been checked by a qualified mechanic.
Category N.or "non-structural" cars are equivalent to current Cat D cars. Your damage will not affect the core structure, but there may still be some safety-related parts in areas such as suspension or steering that need to be replaced.
Industry insiders have said for years that the market is not adequately regulated and that more consumer protection is needed through auto insurance.
Incredibly, the MIAFTR – the only database available to leading vehicle inspection agencies – is voluntary for insurers to update.
As a result, vehicles can be resold without ever showing a previously written off record.
There is also no set timeframe for insurers to update the industry databases, and it can take many months for a vehicle to be marked as depreciation.
Adrian Mierzwinski, founder of Vcheck and security fighter, has been calling for a change in the law to protect motorists since he was stabbed when buying a car two years ago.
He said he was driven to open his own vehicle safety testing business after accidentally purchasing a written-off car in 2018, despite buying an origin test to make sure the engine was overboard.
In addition to the usual background checks, his service offers a comprehensive search of salvage auction records and ex-taxis to ensure drivers aren't buying engines with hidden history.
BEFORE: An Abarth 500 was almost entirely in a major shunt. AFTER: The same supermini has been repaired and advertised without pointing out its history of a crash
BEFORE: Searches of recovery documents revealed that this Audi A4 station wagon had suffered a violent bang at the front. AFTER: The family car is sold without reference to its previous depreciation
In addition to depreciation, Vcheck also found hundreds of cases of cars that have had their mileage changed, masking the fact that they were being used more than the advertisements suggest
Mr. Mierzwinski commented, “I felt compelled to start Vcheck after buying my own car in good faith, which passed all the origin checks I paid for with no issue or discovery. In reality, the car was a write-off, uncertain and should never have been resold.
“This is happening across the country and thousands of cars are being sold with clean vehicle reports and driven by drivers who are completely unaware that they might be behind the wheel of a car with a hidden past.
"It could have been written off in an accident, traveled three times as many miles as you believe to be true, or in the worst case scenario, a potential death."
“Watching” is also becoming increasingly important
A clocking study earlier this year found that there could be up to 2.5 million single-mileage cars and vans on the UK's roads, putting shoppers at risk of buying vehicles that have driven misleadingly long distances.
Rapid Car Check checked the mileage of seven million cars and vans and found that 443,061 – or 6.3 percent – had deviations from documented records.
The study identified which models were most likely to have been clocked by devious owners and unscrupulous salespeople, with French brands topping the Citroen Dispatch van ranking.
By adjusting a vehicle's mileage using cheap equipment or service providers found online, crooks can charge more money for a vehicle they sell in the used market, putting buyers at risk of buying models that have been driven further than advertised.
Not only does this mean that a consumer might pay over the odds on a used car or van, but it also runs the risk of receiving more repair bills for wear and tear issues that occur as vehicles reach higher mileage.
Essential maintenance work that should be carried out at specified mileage could also have been skipped.
Data shared by the Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency with the vehicle history review company showed that 443,061 (5.9 percent) of the seven million engines tested had inconsistencies between the vehicle's mileage and documented MOT history.
These cases could be the result of willful criminal activity aimed at reducing the vehicle odometer reading.
According to Mierzwinski, the law should be amended to require insurance companies to add all depreciation records to the MIAFTR and ensure that the database is updated regularly so that consumers are not scammed later.
"This is the only way for a potential buyer, when paying to have a full vehicle inspection, to be sure that they are getting the car they are paying for and that it is safe and ready to drive," he said.
Earlier this year, Vcheck helped TV personality Joe Lycett reclaim refunds for drivers who unknowingly bought written-off vehicles through no fault of their own.
The Comedian's Channel 4 Joe Lycett I'll keep your back free The investigation found in April that insurance companies had not recorded used vehicle depreciation on the MIAFTR, which resulted in many drivers overpaying for cars.
Working with VCheck, the show looked at cars that had sold over nine months in the past year and found that over 400 car buyers paid at least 20 percent more than they should have paid because they didn't know the vehicle was in was involved in a serious accident was previously written off.
About 30 percent of the cases were due to the fault of insurer Axa, which offered to reimburse those who bought cars that the insurer had not updated on the system.
Axa said: “The insurance industry voluntarily set up the Motor Insurance Register for Anti-Fraud and Theft in the late 1980s. It aims to help monitor written-off vehicles, recover stolen cars and uncover fraud.
& # 39; We know it is a valuable tool for people buying used cars and we have been updating MIAFTR for several decades, registering around 25,000 vehicles per year.
& # 39; When the salvage categories were changed in September 2017, an IT bug meant that some of the vehicles that were written off were not included in the database.
& # 39; As soon as we found out about this, we fixed the technical problem and reported the missing cars to MIAFTR. We had made significant strides by the time Joe and the team walked into our Tunbridge Wells office. & # 39;
It was said that for "data protection reasons" it could not contact the new owners of the cars.
However, the insurer encouraged anyone who believes their vehicle may be affected to contact customer service.
& # 39; If the new owners have any safety concerns, we can send an engineer to check their vehicle. And if they paid too much because their car was not in the database, we will absolutely make up for their shortage, ”it said.
Mr Mierzwinski has campaigned for insurers to take action, as the MIAFTR database is the only safety net protecting the market from potentially unsafe and overpriced vehicles from being illegally returned to our roads.
“Cars that count as insurance depreciation after serious accidents pass the vehicle history review and are sold to unsuspecting drivers.
“Millions of shoppers rely on these checks to determine if a car is subject to pending financing, mileage irregularities, has been stolen, previously scrapped, or has been classified as insurance depreciation.
“That was far too long ago and this only has to change in the interests of the safety of motorists. At Vcheck, we work tirelessly with the necessary government agencies and companies to stamp out this dangerous and immoral practice.
"Inevitably, however, there are still a lot of vehicles sliding through the network."
The Auto Insurers Office has been contacted by This is Money for more information on the MIAFTR.
A comprehensive search on Vcheck takes seconds after entering the registration and costs £ 2.99 for a first check to £ 9.99 for a full check.
The 20 cars and delivery vans "most likely clocked"
1. Citroen Dispatch (van) – 8,188 checked, 2,448 deviations (29.9%)
2. Renault Scenic – 19,717 rated, 5,840 deviations (29.6%)
3. Peugeot Expert (van) – 8,371 checked, 2,397 deviations (28.6%)
4th Renault Grand Scenic – 11,209 rated, 3,134 deviations (28%)
5. Ford Transit (van) – 145,209 checked, 16,116 deviations (11.1%)
6th Vauxhall Combo (van) – 21,756 inspected, 2,403 deviations (11.0%)
7th BMW X5 – 20,510 checked, 2,167 deviations (10.6%)
8th. Peugeot 206 – 37,422 checked, 3,839 deviations (10.3%)
9. Vauchall Vectra – 45,973 rated, 4,704 deviations (10.2%)
10. Citroen Xsara – 22,284 rated, 2,254 deviations (10.1%)
11. Fiat Punto – 40,881 rated, 4,032 deviations (9.9%)
12th Ford Transit Connect (van) – 32,964 checked, 3,162 deviations (9.6%)
13th Peugeot 307 – 21,795 checked, 2,042 deviations (9.4%)
14th Mercedes Sprinter (van) – 26,020 assessed, 2,235 deviations (8.6%)
15th Toyota Avensis – 25,431 rated, 2,152 deviations (8.5%)
16. Renault Clio – 87,553 rated, 7,262 deviations (8.3%)
17th Renault Megane – 47,508 rated, 3,918 deviations (8.2%)
18th VW Passat – 89,797 tested, 7,196 deviations (8.0%)
19th Citroen C4 – 36,205 checked, 2,872 deviations (7.9%)
20th Peugeot 207 – 48,463 checked, 3,822 deviations (7.9%)
Source: Rapid Car Check investigation, September 2020
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