How to spot a cloned car


Prevention is and always will be the best remedy and this requires due diligence.

Author: Howard Tilney
Reading time: 3 minutes

This article is 3 years old.

Read our disclaimer keyboard_arrow_down

This website content is intended as a general guide to law as it applies to the motor trade. Lawgistics has taken every effort to ensure that the contents are as accurate and up to date as at the date of first publication.

The laws and opinions expressed within this website may be varied as the law develops. As such we cannot accept liability for or the consequence of, any change of law, or official guidelines since publication or any misuse of the information provided.

The opinions in this website are based upon the experience of the authors and it must be recognised that only the courts and recognised tribunals can interpret the law with authority.

Examples given within the website are based on the experience of the authors and centre upon issues that commonly give rise to disputes. Each situation in practice will be different and may comprise several points commented upon.

If you have any doubt about the correct legal position you should seek further legal advice from Lawgistics or a suitably qualified solicitor. We cannot accept liability for your failure to take professional advice where it should reasonably be sought by a prudent person.

All characters are fictitious and should not be taken as referring to any person living or dead.

Use of this website shall be considered acceptance of the terms of the disclaimer presented above.

If the owner receives any fines or penalty notices from somewhere they have not been then chances are their car has been cloned.

For buyers, there are a number of clues. For example, the V5C might be missing or is not registered to the seller’s address.

This document could also be forged. Verify such document by attempting to use the online car tax website, which will request the document reference number;

An online MOT history search will only reveal the details for the genuine vehicle attached to that number plate, unless the original has been off the road and VIN checks have not been performed during the MOT test. Large gaps in the timeline or discrepancies in mileage are signs of potential trouble.

Carry out a history check
A history check will provide details such as the mileage, which can be compared to the car you are looking to buy. Also, engine details might not match the car being sold since the criminals may not be able to get an exact match. Any discrepancies here might mean all is not as it seems. It will also confirm the last change of owner. A dodgy seller is unlikely to know this, so if they cannot or refuse to give this information or they are just wrong, then walk away.

Check the manufacturer records
If you have the VIN, get a factory build sheet from the dealer or manufacturer listing items like the engine specification, colour and trim, together with details such as equipment and factory accessories, which a cloner may have overlooked.

Visual checks of the car must include the VIN plate in the windscreen and under the bonnet. Check online for information on other locations, such as under the carpet or in the boot.

A stolen car wearing the plates and VIN of a cloned (or written off) car is known as a ‘ringer’; often these can appear to be completely legal as it’s the body of the car, not the identity that has been stolen.

Check the infotainment system for details like VIN and in particular, the pages associated with the software version and status.

What to do if your car has been cloned
First, return any fines or tickets sent to you, along with any evidence you have to prove it was not you. Next, notify the DVLA what has happened so they have the plate on record for future use. Finally, inform the police so that they can attempt to trace and prosecute the scamster.

What can you do if you bought a cloned car?
The brutal truth is, not much! In some cases it may be possible to take legal action against the seller for misrepresentation, if you can find them and they are worth suing and some protection is afforded when paying by credit card.

Prevention is and always will be the best remedy and this requires due diligence.

Howard Tilney

Legal Advisor

Read more by this author

Getting in touch

You can contact us via the form or you can call us on 01480 455500.