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600,000 used cars sold each year with km counters wound back

How can you be sure that the second-hand car you have your eye on is as good a deal as it seems? 

The well-known ‘buyer-beware’ adage is especially true when you are planning to hand over several thousand euros for a vehicle.

  Earlier this year, an investigation by fraud inspectors found that nearly half of used car dealers were guilty of some form of fraudulent selling, ranging from small-scale misdemeanors, such as failing to mention that a vehicle was formerly a rental car, to more serious offences such as ‘clocking’ (deliberately winding back a kilometre counter.)

  ‘Clocking’ can artificially increase car prices and help hide serious mechanical problems that can end with expensive repair bills. Official figures suggest an estimated 600,000 used cars sold in France every year have had their counters tampered with, while across Europe, as many as 12% of used cars may have been ‘clocked’.

The standard advice for all buyers is to budget carefully, and stick to it; look around for comparable vehicles; carefully check your prospective purchase’s service history and registration documents — and never view a car at night or when the weather is bad.

But not everyone has the time or expertise to carry out mechanical checks.

One solution is to employ a company to do this for you. An example is Paris-based Experveo which has 600 accredited agents across the country, who can check a vehicle’s condition, its history and offer an independent opinion of its value.

 Its services are available to both buyers and sellers and cost from €69 for a basic history check and vehicle examination to €239 for an more in-depth inspection that comes with a mechanical guarantee.

A spokesman for the company said: “People come to us from all over. For example, a recent customer in Strasbourg saw a car for sale in the Paris area. For the same model and mileage, roughly, if you had a budget of €10,000 to €15,000, you’d find cars are €2,000 €2,500 more expensive in Strasbourg than Paris.

“He had to make a two-way journey but the car cost more than €2,000 less than if he had bought it at home — even taking into account the cost of our services and travel. The expertise is always worth paying for.”

He added that avoiding any legal entanglements after a sale may be worth the investment.

“It’s better to have a car expertly checked before you buy to avoid the risk of getting into a legal dispute, which costs time and money and could end up with your car stuck at a garage when it’s your only one and you absolutely need it for work.”

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