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Whenever buying a used car most sensible motorists will know it's important to carry out thorough checks on its condition and history, after all, you don't want to have to fork out for replacement car engines or other car parts just days or weeks after you've bought the vehicle.

But some unscrupulous dealers will use a variety of means to try and obscure a car's true past, meaning unsuspecting buyers could end up with a dangerous or dodgy motor if they are not careful.

In fact, according to figures from car history check service HPI, a shocking one in three used cars has "something to hide".

"It's alarming to see used car buyers are still exposed to danger when looking to invest their hard-earned cash in a new set of wheels," commented Kristian Welch, the company's consumer director.

The most common problem is unpaid finance, with one in four cars checked by HPI being the subject of an outstanding finance agreement.

In a worst case scenario, the buyer could end up being liable for any outstanding finance and lose both the vehicle and the money they paid for it.

Meanwhile, stolen vehicles are also frequently palmed off on unsuspecting buyers, with dealers often using tricks such as 'cloning' - using the details of a legitimate car to replace those of a stolen model to hide its real history.

HPI uncovers 19 stolen vehicles everyday through background checks.

As well as legal problems, there are also safety issues for those who do not fully investigate a car's history before buying.

Four per cent of the vehicles checked by HPI are recorded as an insurance write-off, but many are often given a cosmetic makeover to make them appear to be in good condition.

According to a recent survey by used car specialist, one in ten people would lie about the mileage of their car in order to persuade a potential buyer to purchase it, while a further five per cent are prepared to hide the truth when it comes to accident history.