From illegal tyres to missing engines, car dealers reveal the trade-in tricks pulled by dodgy customers

From illegal tyres to missing engines, car dealers reveal the trade-in tricks pulled by dodgy customers
From illegal tyres to missing engines, car dealers reveal the trade-in tricks pulled by dodgy customers

Car dealers have a unenviable reputation for not being the most trustworthy profession. In fact, one study placed them below even estate agents and politicians in a list of dishonest jobs.

However, dodgy dealings cut both ways and new research among dealers has found some of the ways that tight-fisted customers have tried to rip them off at trade in time.

From common tricks, such as pulling out the stereo, to the dealer who found a part-exchange car missing its engine, the survey by G3 Remarketing found some buyers will go to all sorts of lengths to make a few extra pounds.

The vehicle disposal group gathered some of the most outrageous stories from dealers as well as compiling a list of 10 common tricks pulled by the public when trading in their old cars.

Old and tyred

Among the horror stories was the prestige dealer in Bradford which took a 2014 Land Rover Discovery as part exchange against a newer model. The dealer revealed that when they checked the car the tyres were in terrible condition. “On closer inspection, they had a date stamp of 2006 – eight years before the car was made.”

bald tyre
Some customers resort to swapping tyres before they trade-in their car (Photo: Shutterstock)

Read more: Map of shame reveals Britain’s least-trusted car dealers

Another recalls the extreme lengths one customer went to to take advantage of a special offer: “I once worked for a Citroen main dealer that was running a minimum £1,000 part exchange campaign against any car with an MoT. We got so much rubbish through that we didn’t even bother to inspect them, we just filled out the paperwork and sent the customer away in their new car. I did a deal with a guy on a new ZX against his Ford, which he’d left in the street. It was only when I went out to move the car at the end of the day that I realised he’d part-exed the car, but kept the engine.”

The top 10 trade-in tricks

Dead battery

It’s very common for a dealer to go out to move a part-exchange car and find that the battery is, well, terminal, as the previous owner has swapped it out to keep the good one for another car. Repair estimate: £80

Illegal tyres

When customers know they’re about to change cars, it’s common for them to switch out good tyres with some part-used or fully worn tyres. Most dealers have to factor a new set of rubber into the refurbishment cost. Repair estimate: £240 (four tyres)

Worn brakes

car brake disc
A visual inspection before trade-in won’t reveal worn brakes, making it easy on sellers who have scrimped on servicing (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s very rare that a dealer will value a part exchange with anything more than a visual inspection. Grinding brakes and worn discs are a common find when it comes to trade-ins. Repair estimate: £200

Where’s the spare?

Look under the boot carpet of a part-ex car and quite often you’ll find the spare wheel has gone… on eBay, most likely, along with the inflation kit. Repair estimate: £80

No fuel

You wouldn’t expect a part-exchange to come with a full-tank, but many people take their old car in with just fumes left in it. “We’ve even seen customers siphoning petrol out into a jerry can,” said one dealer. Repair estimate: £20

Read more: Car dealers overcharging drivers by £300 for insurance add-ons

A load of rubbish

G3 heard from one dealer whose customer had loaded their old car up ready for a tip run, then just dumped it at the dealership. Repair estimate: £10

Mechanical faults

check engine light
Many customers trade-in their cars because of mechanical problems (Photo: Shutterstock)

Visual valuations don’t pick up running problems and for many owners the time to trade in their car is when it’s starting to play up – without telling the unsuspecting dealer. “Back in the day a piece of black tape on the dashboard could hide a warning light long enough to do the deal.” said one dealer. Repair estimate: £300

Daylight robbery

Some customers are so tight that they’ve been known to remove the headlight bulbs from part-exchanges before chopping their car in, leaving the dealer in the dark. Repair estimate: £20

Back to the wall

It’s a common trick for a customer bringing in a part-exchange to park it close to a wall in the hope that a dealer doesn’t notice obvious body damage – even better if they time it for when the rain starts to pour. Repair estimate: £500

Radio ga-ga

Removing a car’s in-car entertainment system is another fast one pulled by some people, no doubt to make a fast buck selling it second-hand. Repair estimate: £150

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