Steering used car buyers in the right direction

A used car bought over the internet had broken down as the new owner had driven it home – that was the first session I observed when I joined Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau.

The young driver was given advice about her rights and where to go for help to get her money back. She left happier than when she had come in, but had some work ahead before resolving the issue and was still without a car.

We’re hoping to help people avoid such problems by steering them in the right direction before buying a second-hand car.

In November the bureau is running the “Check It – Don’t Regret It” campaign to urge drivers to ensure used vehicles are safe, legal and value for money.

CAB’s Consumer Service receives 6,000 calls a month to its helpline about dodgy second hand vehicles – more than any other issue – with faults being the most common problem.

So we know whether you have £500 or £5,000 to spend it can be difficult to make sure the car you buy is in the condition described by the dealer.

Half of faulty cars displayed problems within a month of being bought, and nationally drivers spent more than £363m on fixing the vehicles they had complained about.

It is not just about expense, as some of these vehicles were not roadworthy so drivers and their passengers could have been at risk.

Our Consumer Service looked at 2,519 complaints about second-hand cars made in the first two weeks of September 2013, and 83% were about faults, with 53% developing within month.

Four out of five cars needed essential repairs and 139 vehicles were only fit for the scrapyard. Other problems experienced by used car buyers were substandard services, misleading advertising and incorrect information.

There are some simple steps drivers can take to make sure that the vehicle they are buying is safe, legal and what it seems:

  • Check MOT certificate – indicates if car is roadworthy
  • Check service history – shows if car has been maintained
  • Check V5 registration document – shows if car is stolen
  • Check if car is a write off – helps you know what you are buying
  • Check finance history – ensures car doesn’t have an outstanding hire purchase agreement
  • Test drive and walk around check – for signs the car isn’t what it seems
  • Get engineer’s check – shows condition of car and any hidden dangers
  • Check price value guide – indicates reasonable price to pay
  • Check the car is not recalled – find out if the car was recalled for safety reasons by manufacture

If you have a problem with a second hand car, you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or online.