Citizens Advice is warning consumers to be on the lookout for problem motors after dodgy used cars bought from independent dealers topped the list of the ten most complained about consumer issues between April and June of this year.
There were over 12,000 complaints about second hand cars bought from independent dealers – 8 per cent of all cases the Citizens Advice consumer service dealt with and three times as many complaints as those made about used cars bought from private sellers and franchise dealerships.
In total, our callers spent a staggering £55 million on used cars from independent dealers where the car or the assistance from the dealer was not up to scratch. Two thirds of the complaints about independent used car dealers were about the car being faulty and over 1 in 10 revolved around salespeople giving misleading information about the vehicle.
Over two years ago the Office of Fair Trading gave traders guidance on selling used cars to help them comply with consumer protection law – yet as our evidence shows many people are still falling victim to bad practice.
Citizens Advice want to see a robust approved code introduced for the second hand car market which will help buyers filter the good dealers from the bad by identifying the sellers willing to go the extra mile to make sure their customers get a car that is in good working order and one they are happy with. However you say it, insist on your rights when buying a car
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said, “It’s time these dealers parked their sharp practices. People save for years to update their car or buy one for the first time. If you’re not a motor head, stepping onto a used car dealer’s forecourt can feel like entering a lion’s den. But there are things consumers can do to protect themselves, like looking out for unusually low mileage on an old car, which could mean it’s been tampered with.
Chris Mason, managing director of Motor Codes said, “Despite the vast majority of garages and car retailers upholding the very best service standards, these figures are impossible to gloss over and demonstrate why some consumers are nervous about buying used cars.
“One of the most important pieces of advice offered by Citizens Advice is to find a reliable retailer, to seek recommendation and to find a seller that operates to an existing motor industry code of practice.
“Motor Codes currently offers consumers an online garage finder and customer review facility for thousands of garages across the UK committed to our New Car and Service and Repair codes of practice and, if asked, we will work with Citizens Advice to explore the most effective way of directing people to responsible used car sellers.”
Top tips for buying a used car
1. Know what you want – whether it is a fuel efficient family car or a little run around that’s kinder to the environment, by knowing what you want you’re less likely to end up with something that is not suitable for your needs.
2. Get a feel for how much it should cost – you can research the market by looking at second hand car advertisements in your local press or online. You could also use an online guide to used car values. That way you’ll know a good deal when you see one and can spot a rip-off a mile away.
3. Find a reliable dealer – look for an established firm with a good reputation and ask friends for recommendations. If the dealer displays a trade association sign it means the dealer is likely to follow a code of practice. You can check with the trade association to find out if the dealer is genuinely a member. And look for a dealer whose cars have been inspected by an independent engineer or motoring organisation.
4. Look over the car’s condition – check every aspect of the car, from the paintwork to headlights, tyres to seatbelts (if the seatbelts don’t work properly this is a significant safety issue and your car wouldn’t pass an MOT).
5. Check the mileage – is it about right for the car’s age? Average mileage is around 10,000 per year. If the mileage is much higher than this, the car could be more likely to develop problems. If it is much lower, this might indicate it has been tampered with. If the odometer numbers are out of line this could mean the mileage has been tampered with. The mileage should be on the MOT and on DVLA details for change of ownership
6. Investigate history of the car – this will help reduce your chances of buying a car that is being sold illegally. You can make several different checks through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), a private history check and an MOT check.
7. Take it for a test drive – check the brakes by doing an emergency stop on an empty road and try the handbrake out on a hill. Listen for any unusual banging or rattling and if the engine sounds different when the car is not moving and the clutch is pressed. Look out for whether the steering wheel shakes/vibrates, the car pulls to one side, if it is difficult to change gear or there is a strong smell of petrol or oil as these can all indicate potential problems.
8. Be wary of specific buying terms – if you see signs such as ‘sold as seen’ or ‘no refund’ as these are illegally trying to limit your rights.
9. Make sure you fully understand the conditions of the sale – before you commit to buying a car. That includes the trade-in price of your existing car (if you have one) and any finance agreement, including deposit terms, interest charges, monthly repayments, how much you’ll pay altogether and payment protection options.
10. Use your consumer rights – when you buy a car from a dealer, the car must be of satisfactory quality; be fit for the purpose it’s being used for, and match its description. If it doesn’t then you have a right to a repair, replacement or refund.