Don’t be caught out by buying one of these hidden write-offs

Car dealers and consumers alike are buying and selling written-off cars without even knowing it. The BBC’s ‘Rip Off Britain’ has highlighted how many major car dealerships around the UK are selling unmarked write-offs and most online car checks won’t be able to pick up on this. This is due to a loophole in the system that results in a complete lack of communication between insurance companies and the official Motor Insurance Anti Fraud & Theft Register (MIAFTR).

But it’s not the dealers’ fault

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Just like consumers, the car dealers themselves are left in the dark. Although it is law that insurers must report to the DVLA immediately if they have written off a vehicle, it is not law that they have to tell the Motor Insurance Anti Fraud & Theft Register. Because of this, car dealerships are told that written-off cars have never been written off, simply because the information has never been passed on from the insurance company that wrote the cars off!

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Shane Teskey, Co-founder of vehicle history checking company, MotorCheck, explains: “A small number of insurers are not expediently updating MIAFTR, which means that vehicle history checks conducted by dealers are not necessarily highlighting vehicles as insurance write-offs, leaving them to unknowingly sell these onto their customers. It’s not illegal to repair and sell-on written off vehicles, but a vehicle that has been through this process will be worth less than a same age make and model that is all-clear.”

“Dealers are as much victims of this loophole in information as the public, although it’s unlikely their customers will see it that way if they’ve been sold a write-off. That’s why it’s imperative that dealers check their historical and current stock against the list of non-listed MIAFTR insurance write-offs as quickly as possible. This way, they can be proactive in rectifying any sales they may discover.”

As many as 80,000 written-off vehicles a year are slipping under the radar

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This shocking statistic was revealed from freedom of information request, which tells us that up to 80,000 written-off cars are not being added to the MIAFTR database. So what can be done about this?

As a car buyer, the simple and most relevant advice is to be as diligent as possible when buying. That means checking the car from all angles. Look underneath, look in the engine bay and one of the greatest tell-tale signs is inconsistent panel gaps. As you know, some cars will have inconsistent panel gaps from-factory but you should always be wary of them when buying a used car. Panels that have been repaired or replaced aren’t always able to go back on the car perfectly and may sit one or two millimetres out of place.

If you do spot anything suspicious and you want to be absolutely sure, ask for previous insurance details and enquire with the insurers or if you want to investigate further, ask the DVLA for details on the car.

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MotorCheck is currently campaigning to the government in an attempt to urge them to change legislation and make it a legal requirement for insurance companies to report write-offs to the MIAFTR. Their message also goes to the insurance companies that don’t currently report write-offs to MIAFTR. They also stress the importance of doing pre-purchase checks to car dealerships and individual buyers alike.

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It really is surprising to hear that communication issues like this exist in the motoring industry, especially when regarding something as important as a car being a write-off. Although these repaired vehicles may look acceptable on the outside, there could be internal damage affecting the engine, chassis, exhaust and so on, any of which could make the car still road unworthy, despite repairs. For all things motoring-related, subscribe to our mailing list!

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