By South West News Service and news reporter

Motorists have been warned against buying a used car online, as it could spell disaster for their safety.

In fact, one in five used cars advertised online have safety issues, trading standard chiefs have revealed.

The warning comes after London Trading Standards inspectors investigated adverts from 155 cars for sale in London and discovered one in six private sellers were likely to be rogue traders.

Of the adverts investigated, 18 vehicles had outstanding safety recalls, and six had manipulated their advertised mileage.

Ten of the vehicles investigated were insurance write-offs, a detail many private sellers omitted.

While it’s a legal requirement for traders to inform buyers of insurance write-offs, private sellers are under no obligation to divulge it.

18 of the cars were either untaxed or had no MOT and therefore would be illegal to test drive.

Nicola Tudor, chair of LTS' Fair Trading Group said: "Don't get taken for a ride when buying a car - it's not a bargain if it's unsafe or clocked.

"Trading Standards looks to protect consumers by enforcing the law in relation to the sale of used cars.

"If you suspect that a seller is not complying with legal requirements, report them to Trading Standards."

Owen Kennedy, lead officer for motor trade at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: "Many car sales go through without a hitch, but you should always remain vigilant.

"It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new car and forget the basics - remember that you don't have the same rights when buying from a private individual.

"Check all the paperwork diligently, and use the DVLA or other online services before viewing the vehicle.

"You should also consider whether it's worth having the vehicle inspected by an independent engineer or garage."

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency holds information on vehicles, such as the mileage and advisory details on a car's last MOT, which is free to access.