There's No Such Thing as a Silly Question

The following email arrived into the Motorcheck help-desk last week. Apart from the kind words about Motorcheck (which are welcome!) I thought it was a great example of how someone buying a used car should question all the information available.
A previous article we wrote about an expert's guide to buying a used car showed how you can never ask too many questions when buying a car. It's amazing how asking a seemingly innocent question about a car's ownership history can unearth problems you might never have known about.
If you're thinking about buying a used car privately be prepared to ask a lot of questions. If this makes you uncomfortable why not bring someone along to do the asking for you? Remember it was PJ's number one tip? -"Bring someone with experience. If you are not technically proficient, get someone who is to help you, preferably someone with mechanical or bodywork experience".
Question
Dear Sir / Madam,
I recently had completed full motor checks on two cars. The first one was a BMW 316, Auto. The check came out fine apart from the fact that there was still a HP agreement still on this car and still outstanding. For that reason alone, I decided not to purchase the car.
The second car you checked out for me was a Toyota Corolla 1.4 D4D, Registration number:- 05XXXXXX. The check on this car came out reasonably well. There had been some recalls on safety issues. However, when I was investigating this car there was approx 56,900 Km's, i.e. 35,563 miles.
When I was inserting the mileage I inserted a rounded figure of 35,000 miles ( 56,000 Km's).  I note from the report that the previous reading on the 23 rd March 2010 was 35,211 miles ( 56,667 km's ). I presume since I rounded the mileage figure off to 35,000 miles, when the previous readings read 35,211 miles, this would have shown up as a odometer discrepancy. I am just curious and was wondering can your system show a true mileage figure from day one?
The last NCT on this car would be in or around June 2009. Can a mileage check be done on the day that that NCT was completed? I am sure that the NCT would have the stated figure to hand.
Apart from anything else that car is running fine, with an average miles per gallon running a 63. Quite impressive! Just one little concern is the internal lights that light up the four speed fan and the warm and cold air fan appear to be blown with the exception on one light. In past experience such bulbs would normally tend to blow on high mileage.
The last issue is the hand brake light. When I left the garage I did not notice that it was not working. My son did. However, only yesterday the hand brake light appears to be now working fine. I informed the garage in question of the blown bulbs and the intermittent problem with the hand brake.
Your report also showed up that there were FOUR previous owners. The seller was quick off the mark to state that there was a change over from father to son. The seller offered me phone numbers to check this out had I any concerns. On completion of the deal, I managed to have the warranty of the car extended from three months to six months.
The only concern is that the master key was not provided and the one key has an alarm system built in. He gave me a standard spare key with no alarm system build in. I indicated this to him as I could be really in trouble if I lost the original key with the alarm. He indicated that he would look into the possibility of a 'fob' key, with which I would have no problem. In a situation like that would I be help liable for the FOB key? I presume I would. The key issue was only a problem when I paid him in full for the car, €9,000. It left me with no bargaring position at that stage to have a spare 'fob' supplied.
Is there any other way that I can actually check the owners of this car? If there are four previous owners, why are there only three dates of sale? I appreciate that I should have read your detailed document more carefully and pushed the dealer more on certain issues. I thank you for your service and I think EVERYONE should use this service. I am an accountant by profession and next year there is a nine year rule being implemented for all taxi drivers. In other words, cars exceeding nine years are not eligible to be a taxi. The average length of a taxi in Dublin is four years approx.
Realistically, taxi drivers will have to purchase cars no less than 2006 (depending on mileage and condition) to sustain a reasonable living. I would urge all taxi drivers to use your service in full as it is tax deductible and that a complete 'dud' of a car could put them out of business, as the banks at present are tight enough in that sector.
My apologies for the rather exhaustive email, but I would be  grateful if you could advise me on some of the issued that I mentioned above. The speed to his answer on the four owners made me that bit uncomfortable. I thank you for your service and I await your response.
With kind regards,
Martin.

AnswerHi Martin,
Thanks for your email and your kind words about Motorcheck. It's always great to hear how our customers use the service.
I've been through the points in your email and written a response below. Hopefully you'll find everything you need here but if not, don't hesitate to leave a comment below and I'll pick it up directly.

Outstanding Finance

I notice that you decided not to purchase the first car because it had outstanding finance on it. Whilst we always advise against concluding a sale where finance is an issue, it's usually something that can be resolved with the seller before you commit to buying the car. Outstanding finance agreements are very common.

Outstanding Finance

Of the last 10,000 Irish registered cars that Motorcheck investigated almost 1 in 3 of of all 2007/8 cars were registered as being the subject of a finance agreement. It's certainly something you should be aware of in a negotiation but not necessarily a deal breaker.

Odometer Contradiction

You're correct in assuming that your entry caused the contradiction above. Motorcheck sources all its mileage information from the Irish National Mileage Register (INMR). This is a central database that was built specifically for the collection and audit of odometer readings. It's the longest serving database in Ireland and currently has just over 2.5 million readings. Unfortunately it can't guarantee to have a reading for every car on the road and confirming any reading as absolutely 'true' is not possible.
When looking at the odometer history of a car you should take into account the pattern of mileage that the readings suggest. Are they fairly consistent with the stated use of the vehicle? Do they match those recorded in the service book? Unfortunately NCT records are not currently available to Motorcheck. We are lobbying Government for access and the Road Safety Authority is supportive of our case but the red tape presenting itself is considerable.

High Number of Owners

I'm glad that you were able to point out the high number of owners as a possible reason for devaluing the car. It sounds like the explanation given was a good one but if I were you I'd contact the previous owner just to be sure. Well done on getting an extension to the warranty. That could prove to be very valuable.
The three dates of sale on the ownership history would be correct as the first owner would be the person it's registered to from new. Only subsequent owners would create a date of sale on the Motorcheck history.

Spare Key

I'd advise contacting a main toyota dealer for your spare key. They should be able to code one for you so that it works with the immobiliser and the alarm on the car (provided it's a factory fit one). You can find the nearest one to you by clicking here.

10% Discount

Thank you for offering to tell your taxi colleagues about Motorcheck. Positive word of mouth continues to be a major contributor to our growth and we welcome all our referrals.
I've dropped you a note by email with a special discount code that I would encourage you to share with your contact list. It will provide the user with a 10% discount on any check performed on the system.
In the current climate it's something small that I hope your industry will be pleased to benefit from.
Best regards,
Shane

Expert Advice

Need some expert advice?

At Motorcheck we endeavor to source the best independent advice on any technical questions you may have about your current or prospective car.
If you have a question that you'd like to put to our expert panel simply click on this link and leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
One of our expert panel will respond as soon as possible.

Joe - June 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm
Folks, I purchased a 3 check bundle and conducted one search on your website. I was advised I woudl receive instruction in an email as to how to utilise the remaining 2 checks. I haven't received anything to date. Please advise. Thanks
Shane Teskey - June 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm
Hi Joe, The receipt email for your report should have contained two codes that would allow you to source reports FOC. Maybe there was in error with your email address in the system. Do you remember the first registration you ran a check on? If you could let me know, I'll check our system for you.