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Motorists are being alerted to the much-increased risk of buying a used car that still has payments due.

A new study by (belatedly published here) highlights how potential purchasers now have a one in six chance of buying a car with finance outstanding.

It leaves buyers at considerable risk of losing what they paid for the car if it is seized.

Lenders are legally entitled to take the car and leave you with nothing, even though you might have paid €20,000 for it.

The report found the number of cars still “in debt” when offered for sale has risen to 17.5pc this year.

That is up from 16.6pc last December and a significant rise from the 11.5pc of January 2017. expert John Byrne warns: “You may be buying a huge problem.”

One of the key findings is that the newer the vehicle, the more likely it is to have money still owed.

The analysis shows there is now more than a two in five chance of a one-year-old car being offered for sale with finance outstanding. There is a similar degree of risk with three-year-old vehicles.

The level of indebtedness emerges from a sample of nearly 6,000 vehicles offered for sale and checked via the website in the first half of the year.

The figures seem to reflect two broad trends.

The first is that many owners have stretched too far and can’t keep up the repayments.

But experts also believe the increase gives an insight into how more people, especially those on PCPs, are gauging the value of their car. They are testing the market to see what they would get if they sold privately.

They are checking if someone will pay more than the guaranteed minimum value (GMV) under a PCP plan, for example.

The real danger – for unsuspecting buyers – is the likelihood that some unscrupulous sellers may be trying to pull a fast one.

That is why it is essential to have a car’s financial history checked out.

It is unlikely that older vehicles have PCPs, yet even they are regularly offered for purchase with money owed – 16.43pc of all 2013-registered vehicles were in that bracket.

Mr Byrne says: “What’s really concerning is that finance levels are up all across the years, and the headline figure of 17.5pc overall is particularly concerning.”

* Ford Mustang owners from all over Europe set a new world record for the most models in a single parade, at the brand’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium recently.

The 1,326 Mustangs beat the previous record of 960 – also set by Ford – in Mexico in December 2017

* Best wishes to all concerned at the new Downey’s Suzuki dealership in Co Laois.

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