How NOT to buy an illegal truck

One of the worst nightmares faced by many commercial goods vehicle purchasers is that of potentially buying what might be termed an illegal truck. What does that mean?

The illegal truck

However legitimately your purchase transaction is, in the sense that you purchased in good faith and paid your money accordingly, if the vehicle you have bought is illegal in any one of a number of ways it could be seized by the authorities leaving you hugely out of pocket.

Examples of such situations might include:

  • the truck did not actually legally belong to the person you purchased it from – meaning that the legitimate owner is entitled to get their vehicle back from you without compensation;
  • the vehicle’s documentation is fraudulent meaning that it may be illegally on the road or already subject to an insurance scrap order or seizure warrant;
  • it is not in a fit condition to be used on the public road (unless you have purchased it on that basis and have no intention to use it on the road until such time as faults are rectified).

This is just a brief sample of many things that might catch the unwary buyer by surprise.

So, what can you do to avoid being taken in by these scams?

Be aware

The most important thing to help reduce your risks is to recognise at the outset that there are unfortunately plenty of crooks out there who would just love to part you and your money.

So, do everything with a degree of caution and avoid being stampeded into making panicked decisions and parting with cash. Decisions made in haste and under pressure are often regretted later on and trying to push you into moving quickly is a classic conman’s (i.e. thief’s) approach.

Verify the seller

If anything goes wrong you may need to take legal action against the seller – and that might be difficult if you don’t know where they are.


  • make sure you obtain both their personal and business addresses. Don’t be fobbed off with post office box numbers or mail-only phantom office addresses;
  • ask to see objective evidence of both on things such as driving licences, passports and copies of utility bills. Verify their personal address through the phone book or register of electors;
  • avoid transactions that involve parting with cash somewhere on a neutral site such as motorway services or a parking lot;
  • remember that you need to see at least two examples each of something that proves that they are who they say they are and they live / work at the addresses they claim are theirs.

Verify the condition of the vehicle

There is no easy way to summarise how to go about this, as much will depend upon how comfortable you are with professionally checking that a vehicle matches its description.

The bottom line is that if you don’t know how to spot when major problems are being deliberately hidden then you should take someone with you who does understand these things.

Remember that it may be difficult to incorporate a vehicle into truck fleet insurance cover if it is found to be defective are not in a roadworthy condition.

Check the paperwork and that the paperwork matches the vehicle

This is not only about making sure that the registration and vehicle identification numbers of the physical truck are as per the documentation but also that the documentation itself is bona fide.

Look to make sure that the registration document has an official watermark and hold it up to the light to look for any signs of alteration.

The DVLA government site* may be useful in offering you not only tips as to how to spot fake documentation but also lists of registration document serial numbers of stolen paperwork.

You may also wish to consider paying for a vehicle identification check. That will tell you whether the truck has previously been involved in any accidents that resulted in it being effectively an insurance write-off.

That is something you’ll want to discover in advance rather than after your purchase!