Saturday 16 December 2017

'How I nearly was duped into buying a 'gem' of a car with 42,000km clocked off its odometer'

A brutal lesson for us all - Buyer beware and check.

Car clocking
Car clocking
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

THIS is a simple story really. It is about a man who was going to buy a car until he discovered it had nearly 42,000km knocked off its odometer.

It is also a simple, brutal lesson for us all: Buyer beware and check.

Knocking nearly 42,000km off a car is a sly, dirty way of taking away two years' previous driving. It's a lot of extra wear and tear not to know about with implications for safety and repairs.

Here, in largely his own words, is how it all unfolded for 'Brian' who has asked to remain anonymous. I have spoken to, and been in touch with him, since his story was relayed to me by colleagues.

For legal reasons we cannot name the dealership nor the person who nearly sold him the car. None of that changes what happened, however.

Brian viewed the car online and on the dealer's own website. It was a Ford Focus 2011 Titanium. It had, he says, "all the bells and whistles - a nice car". The dealer had imported it from the UK.

The asking price was €9,995 but was negotiated to €9,300 for cash. The price included VRT re-register which the dealer undertook to arrange.

He viewed the car at the dealership - down the country. The dealer seemed perfectly legitimate when he met him and had sounded fine on the phone previously.

"At first glance the car was immaculate. Very clean outside and in. (I) went through the service history/log book - all appeared to be fine and in order."

The dealer started the engine, opened up the bonnet, went through all the mechanical checks he had undertaken himself before buying the vehicle. He opened the boot, pulled away internal panels, to show all original bodywork. "He seemed to know his stuff." The dealer told him to take as long as he liked to test drive.

"The car drove/handled well, smooth, no odd or unusual noises, accelerated/braked well, no obvious imbalance in steering. I thought to myself I might have found a bit of a gem."

Brian put a deposit on the vehicle and the dealer was going to arrange the VRT etc. "And away I went, dare I say, almost delighted."

He had done a lot of searching for a similar car for a number of weeks previously and had looked at the usual 'cost benefit' of buying north or south. "I had calculated I could purchase a vehicle for €10,000 from the north, including VRT. Generally mileage was lower and spec higher in the north (compared with the) south."

He adds: "With the offer from this dealer, I was getting a top-model Focus, VRT paid for, and all for €9,300 - a further saving of €700."

On reflection, on the drive home, it started to seem a little too good to be true. "How was he making money on this? How much did he originally pay for the vehicle? Maybe he has good connections? Maybe it's legitimate? Lots of maybes. But too many."

He had heard of Motorcheck.ie etc, and searched for a similar UK version and happened on the RAC website. It cost £15 (€20) to have a search - a 'no brainer' according to Brian.

"(It's) extremely easy to do: Input the existing reg, your details and you get a full report emailed directly to you."

When he got his it appeared there was both mileage and outstanding finance alert/warnings on the vehicle. "Cue major disappointment."

The outstanding finance alert gave details of the company which had issue with the vehicle. "They were my first port of call."

But why bother? Why not take back his deposit and walk away? Wasn't it clear all was not well? "I wanted to dig a little for the facts. Maybe the dealer was also caught unawares - which seems odd in itself - but maybe."

It transpired the vehicle was originally owned by a car rental company and they sold it on. When Brian contacted them they had no issue with the finance on the vehicle. It had been an issue from November 2011 that had been resolved but hadn't been taken off the record.

And the mileage?

When they sold it in April 2015 was 87,284. The last recorded mileage (from the RAC) was 107,919 in June 2016.

"The mileage on the car when I viewed it (February 2017) was 82,000."

A gap of nearly 26,000 miles, or 41,712km.

Brian says: "I'm no Sherlock, but didn't feel the need to consult Watson on that one. The vehicle was clocked by (a lot) more than 20,000 miles."

He contacted the dealer the next day and furnished the information. "He was very surprised (or seemed so), very apologetic and arranged to return the deposit asap, which he did.

"I couldn't understand why he hadn't done this simple check himself. Maybe he took a chance. Or maybe he was trying to pull a fast one."

Brian adds: "The moral of the story: always check, and as the saying goes if it's too good to be true. . ."

He has since bought a car from the north. It is a similar model (Zetec 2.0 TDCi) bought from an outlet with multiple dealerships across the north. "They had all the information on the vehicle. The previous owner purchased the car from the same dealership." The information included a full HPI (RAC) check - which they furnished when he viewed the car - and his purchase came with a warranty.

Brian is one of the lucky ones. He checked. How many people are driving cars with tens of thousands of miles more travelled than they think? Are you one of them? Or are you thinking of buying? Check. And let us know now you get on:

ecunningham@independent.ie.

Indo Motoring

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