Used-car buyers should be cautious of left-hand-drive imported vehicles which still display their original overseas registration plates.
Under UK law, cars should only stay on foreign plates for six months before being re-registered. Some people from other countries struggle with the paperwork and find that it is easier to sell their vehicles on than to encounter the bureaucracy.
This leads to a new owner being unaware that the six-months transfer period has expires. It may also mean that the car has not been serviced or MOT checked.
It can also be a cover for deliberate criminal behaviour.
Kieren Puffett, editor of Parker’s, the car buyer’s guide, said: "The government has trouble putting a figure on how many immigrants there are in the UK, so it’s hardly surprising it can’t tell us how many illegal foreign cars there are here.
"The government needs to take action now to start recording details as cars enter the country and get offending cars off our roads. Many owners of these cars will be thinking ‘What’s the point of registering a car with the DVLA?’, when there’s little chance that they will be caught out. Anyone stopped by the police can claim that the car has been in the UK for less than six months – there’s no evidence to prove otherwise."
Motor insurance companies are reluctant to insure overseas vehicles, and so a quick call before purchase may save some inconvenience afterwards.