Beware the dodgy dealer when times are tough

When you buy a car from an independent dealer or privately, or even through an auction, if the car is sold to you with a full service history, that should, of course mean exactly what it says. The vehicle has a full service record from a main franchised dealer or an authorised repairer for those types of car. However this may not always be the case and your recently purchased car may not have the comprehensive service history it claims.
A vehicle with full main dealer service history will be worth between 30 and 50% more than a vehicle with a, shall we say, more chequered history. For example if you were to buy a 3 year old 40,000 mile example of certain performance cars such as Porsche, BMW or Mercedes, having a full service history which ensures only genuine parts have been used and the car has been looked at by the right specialist technicians, could mean the car being worth literally thousands of pounds more than a car with either non-franchised servicing or worse still no documented history to speak of at all.

This of course is how a consumer makes his/her choice based on the criteria of budget etc, so if a customer would rather pay less and take a chance on a car that has had dubious or sporadic servicing then as long as they are made aware from the outset, then no problem. But what about cars which are sold as having a full service history with a service book stamped correctly and with all the boxes ticked and seemingly what it purports to be?

If you take this information at face value you could well come unstuck. During times of economic hardship rogue dealers will look for opportunities to cut corners and mislead and cheat in order to carry on turning a profit, and whilst there will probably be only a small percentage of dealers carrying out these sharp practices it could cost you, the customer, a lot of money if you aren’t careful.

MTI has recently been alerted to a practice which is truly quite disturbing. There are people producing, almost perfectly, any dealer stamp with the correct logos and colour formation within 48 hours, they are sold to some of these rogue traders who will then acquire a car stamp, a blank service book (or the book which belongs to the original car) and claim it to have a full service history.

If a customer saw such a service book he would assume that everything was in order, but in fact if he could have a car that is worth significantly less than he will be paying.

Our advice; if you are buying from a non-franchised dealer, whoever they may be and whatever the stamp in the book says, call the garage on the dealer stamp and ensure the service history is correct or your gleaming sports car may not only not have been serviced but the mileage may also not be correct!

Beware the car dealer who has “Billy the Stamp” on short-dial!

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4 Responses to Beware the dodgy dealer when times are tough

  1. mARK rOBBINS November 4, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    Full service history? four year old cars? dodgy stamps from dodgy dealers? lets set the record straight here for a moment. The vast majority of four year old cars nowadays whatever the make have active servicing, for example a four year old Renault Megane, Mini Cooper, Ford Focus, and especially luxury brands such as Mercedes and Jaguar etc will commonly have on average 20,000 mile or two year servicing (whichever comes first) therefore it would not be out of the ordinary for these vehicles to have just TWO service stamps over a four year period. As for five, six, and seven year old cars there tends to be a very real argument (mainly based on their servicing costs) for servicing these ages of vehicles outside of the Main Agent networks, many times a vehicle will come in to us with service receipts but no stamps to prove, either because the customer didn’t present the book, or the garage simply didn’t bother to see if it was in the glovebox! if you are talking about fully stamped up service books then you surely are referring to much older higher mileage cars are you not? As for copying stamps into replacement books they will by the very nature of their content say COPY or REPLACEMENT in bold letters, along with a warning to check the information very carefully indeed, I wonder just how many dealers out of the tens of thousands out there are doing this so called service doctoring? Why do you persist in thinking this practise should be confined to independents, private and auction? do you think the Main Agents are beyond such deviance? I doubt it very much!

  2. Jeremy Sargeant November 4, 2008 at 12:50 am #

    It should be remembered also that some dealers advertise cars with full service history when in reality, the history is patchy at best. How many clients walk onto a forecourt and know how to authenticate a service book? Dealers who mislead in their advertising in this way rely on the ignorance of the buyer at point of sale. Perhaps this practice, whilst wholly undesirable, is preferable to those who fraudulently stamp service books. I always authenticate service history before buying a car. In fact, I do it before even travelling to view a car. As for duplicate service books, it was the case that they were always branded duplicate or copy, but this is no longer the case with all manufacturers. There is a lot to know about service history, from checking the book corresponds to the vehicle to understanding the entries and the relevance of the PDi. If you are a dealer, honesty is your best policy – authenticate before you buy and stock only what you are comfortable to sell. If you read this as a private buyer, then perhaps a bit of expert advice would be prudent when making such a large capital investment?

  3. admin November 4, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    You make some relevant points, although lots of main dealers are now setting their customers cars back to “time and distance” as variable servicing is proving unpopular with many customers and most repairers obviously want the vehicles back in their workshops more regularly. I have no doubt either that the “invention” of service histories was not at some stage relevant to main dealers also. Indeed a desperate salesperson could easily be tempted to enter stamps in a service book in an attempt to complete a history, however if this is ever brought to light then at least the customer has the security of knowing that most manufacturer backed dealers would not want the damage that incidents like this could inflict. Therefore it would be much easier to gain compensation.
    The car which is 4 years and older and therefore out of manufacturer warranty would be far more likely and generally far cheaper to have serviced at an independent repairer, although with investment in technology at its highest at present some independents take their customers car to be ‘plugged in’ anyway.
    The point is that there are some dodgy dealers out there who are making serious money from this practice and whether they are main dealers or any other servicing point we have a duty to inform the consumer about what could happen which sadly during an economic downturn is likely to be more prevalent.

  4. mARK rOBBINS November 6, 2008 at 12:14 am #

    I understand the point you are making, however, lets take an 2001 51 Plate BMW for example with say 70,000 miles, not unreasonable mileage for the year, it has seven stamps, the earliest being 12,000, the latest 65,000.

    Let us say all of the stamps are genuine but not every single stamp has been done exactly on time or at the exact mileage, or even at a Franchised Dealer, so what? it has been serviced, it is nearing eight years old, and it is in lets say good looked after condition and most importantly the price is very reasonable Are you saying that just because every single stamp hasn’t been done on time at the correct mileage that people should walk away? I see very few cars over three years old where the servicing is spot on every time, very few indeed, the servicing stamps themselves become almost irrelevant as more and more time evolves, in fact most Main Agents don’t keep record longer than seven years nowadays anyway, I should know, I try to check histories with then daily! As for making serious money out of dodgy cars, get real, what do you call serious money? take a hard look at these so called Dodgy Dealers, are they driving Aston Martin Virages or Porsche 911? more likely a Mondeo! there is very little room for these type of dealers nowadays, (thank goodness) certainly less than you would have the public believe. so much for serious money.

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