Nigerians and others who patronize the second hand cars known in the local parlance as Tokunbo vehicles should exercise caution as investigations have shown that many of those cars have hidden pasts.
Most of these vehicles find their way to Africa and other emerging markets where low par capita income forced people to settle for low-grade second-hand vehicles sourced from salvage yards and repaired by dealers and display as almost brand new.
Equally, most buyers of such Tokunbo vehicles are ignorant of the state of such cars before they purchase them because there are no proper channels to investigate the histories of such vehicles.
In a new investigation conducted exclusively for MailOnline, showed that motors for sale on a popular second-hand car website revealed that 16,703 have a secret history, with issues ranging from clocked odometers to potentially lethal write-offs being offer to buyers as clean vehicles for way over their real value.
We reveal images of cars that have been investigated and found to have previously been written off but since been repaired. Now they are being advertised for sale as if nothing has ever happened to them.
We have joined with safety campaigners and vehicle checking providers to call for insurers to better protect consumers when purchasing second-hand cars.
The investigation on behalf of MailOnline and This is Money was carried out by Vcheck.
The comprehensive analysis by the vehicle history checking company flagged that over 4,000 vehicles on sale on the site, which we have opted not to name, were obtained from salvage yards, clearly described as write-offs.
The examples were matched against their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from salvage records and matched to those listed in online adverts of second-hand cars advertised for sale.
They are appearing on the market as completely clean examples, having passed checks against the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR), which is supposed to outline if cars have previously been written off.
However, due to records of write-offs being out of date or simply not entered into the database, many vehicles are slipping through the system and sellers are demanding prices that would suggest to an unwitting consumer that the cars have been well looked after and barely suffered a scratch.
We found examples of small runarounds like the Fiat 500 for sale in what looks to be near-pristine condition, only to find images of the very same car in a salvage yard after sustaining damage in a crash.
There are also cases of family cars, including an Audi A4, Vauxhall Mokka and Volkswagen Passat, that would likely appeal to buyers looking for motors to transport their nearest and dearest.
These examples look – on face value – to have never had a ding or bump in their life, but salvage records show alarming images of them in sorry states after being declared insurance writes-off after collisions.
None of these cars had any information in their adverts that they were subject to any claim or were an insurance write off. They also had no details in the description about previous accident history.
The investigation found that used cars being sold with hidden histories are duping drivers out of millions of pounds each year, because buyers are paying over the odds for motors with concealed histories.
It estimated that over £25million would be pocketed in total through sales of vehicles listed for more money than their condition should allow – and many with potential safety issues due to previous undeclared damage.
Specialist used car websites use details sourced from the MIAFTR, operated by Insurance Database Services Limited, to carry out a check to see if a vehicle has ever been taken off the road due to damage.
If motors are shown to have been written off by an insurer, sellers are unable to list the car on the website without this vital information.
However, it’s clear from our investigation that the database it not being sufficiently updated, with numerous examples of salvaged vehicles appearing for sale as if they have never been in a prang.
Anyone who buys a vehicle at standard market value and subsequently finds out it was declared a Cat S or Cat N write-off stands to make a huge loss when they sell it on if it’s true history is later detected in history checks, or the owner finds out it was written off.
industry insiders have said for years that the market is not being regulated adequately and more protection for consumers is needed from the motor insurance sector.
‘I felt compelled to start Vcheck after buying my own car in good faith which passed all the provenance checks I’d paid for without issue or detection. In reality, the car was a write-off, unsafe and should never have been allowed to be re-sold.
‘This is happening all over the country, and thousands of cars are being sold with clean vehicle reports and driven by motorists who are completely unaware that they could be at the wheel of a car with a hidden past.
‘It could have been written off in an accident, done three times the amount of mileage that they believe to be true, or in the worst-case scenario, be a potential death trap.’
Vehicle write-offs explained
Category A, or ‘Scrap’ cars, remain the most badly damaged vehicles. They can’t be repaired or even broken for spares.
Category B, or ‘Break’ cars, are again very badly damaged and beyond repair, but they can be ‘broken’ into parts for salvage and recycling.
Category S, or ‘Structural’ cars have incurred damage to the basic structure that gives a car its strength. These ‘S’ cars can be fixed and re-sold, but you should ensure that the work has been checked by a qualified mechanic.
Category N, or ‘Non-structural’ cars, are equivalent to current Cat D cars. Their damage isn’t to the core structure, but there might still be some safety-related parts in areas like suspension or steering that will need to be replaced.