You Might Be Surprised How a Changed License Plate on a Used Car Can Affect You

Posted by at 21 February 2017, at 21 : 07 PM

You Might Be Surprised How a Changed License Plate on a Used Car Can Affect You

It’s surprising just how many of the used vehicles on sale in the UK have had at least one change of number plate. Sometimes this change is perfectly innocent—we’ve all seen vanity plates here and there and many of us have at least thought about getting our own—but occasionally it’s done because the seller has something to hide.

Here’s how a changed license plate might affect you and what you can do to protect yourself.

Legitimate Changes

There are perfectly innocent reasons that someone might change their license plate. They may have personalised plates, or have had personalised plates which they have arranged to move onto another vehicle before selling the old one. They might also switch plates if their car has been cloned—if someone else is illegally using plates with their registration number—since this can lead to them getting someone else’s speeding tickets or even being stopped by the police.

Whatever the reason, they should make you aware of the change, and as long as they do so, there is little reason to be suspicious.

A Hidden Past

If a seller has changed the plates on their car and is not telling you, it’s usually because they’ve got something to hide; an incident in the vehicle’s history that could affect its value.

Whether it be an accident, a write-off (a car can still be safe and drivable after a category C or D total loss, but you should be told if that is the case), or even the vehicle being listed as scrapped with the DVLA, there are plenty of things an unscrupulous dealer might try to hide with a changed license plate. This is a tactic that pays off for them, because free car history checkers won’t pick up on changes of registration and the dark secrets they can hide.

What to Do

Even if the seller has informed you that the number plate has been changed, it’s still better to be safe than sorry and pay for a license plate check. If what it reveals matches up to what you’ve been told, then, there should be no problem, but if there are discrepancies you ought to be wary.

You can also get a history check for a vehicle’s past plates if it is revealed to have any, on the off chance that the change really is innocent and the seller has failed to mention it because they didn’t know it was something they had to inform you of, or that it had happened if they aren’t the first owner. This should let you know one way or the other about the car’s history and set your mind at ease.

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