Next to their homes, a car is probably the most expensive thing most people buy. Most garages and traders are honest. But there are some who are not and you need to be careful.
When you buy a car from a garage or trader, you are covered by the normal consumer protection laws. Your car should be of satisfactory quality and fit for any specified purpose. The car must also be as described.
You don't have the same rights at an auction if the cars are 'sold as seen'. Check the auction's Conditions of Sale before you buy. These conditions must be well displayed at the auction or in the catalogue.
A key check to make is on the history of the vehicle. In the same way that you would get a survey on a house before you purchase, you should get a history check on the vehicle prior to completing the purchase. A comprehensive check (from a company such as HPI Ltd) will tell you if the vehicle is recorded as stolen, has been written off by an insurance company, still has finance outstanding on it, is at risk of being sold illegally, or has any mileage discrepancies. Unscrupulous sellers will try all sorts of tricks to secure a sale, so take your time and let your head rule your heart. Good buying tips include: avoid paying in cash – use a banking payment method where possible, buy from the registered keeper’s address (as on the V5 logbook), and don’t pay less than 70 per cent of the average market value of a vehicle of that specification, age and condition.
A good quality vehicle history check should include a mileage check as standard. Get an accurate mileage reading and see if the check flags anything that needs investigating further. You can also check the mileage by reviewing the service and MOT records, and contacting the servicing garages to verify the mileages they recorded as part of the service process. The V5 logbook will also have the details of the previous keeper - contact them to find out what the mileage was when they sold it, and see if that fits into the pattern of mileages for the vehicle. A reduced mileage vehicle not only inflates the value of the vehicle, but also poses a safety risk as it could obscure the service intervals and work required at each interval.
If a serious fault arises within a few weeks, you may not be able to get your money back - even with a new car. This is because you may be held to have accepted the car. And so, you may only be entitled to have the fault put right. The longer you have the car, the more likely the acceptance rule will be used. The lesson from this is to take your car back to where you bought it, as soon as you discover any problem.
HPI Limited have produced a guide for car buyers and it may be helpful to print it out and take it along with you when you go to view a car as it contains practical hints and tips.
Many people feel that they get better value if they buy a used car from a private seller. And, perhaps they do. But 'let the buyer beware'. You have fewer legal rights, so make sure you inspect the car and know what you are buying. Bring a motor mechanic along with you and, if you are properly insured, take a testdrive. For a fee, the RAC or the AA will examine the car for you. You will only be able to claim against the previous owner if he lied, eg about its age or mileage. You will not be able to claim where there are faults with the car.
Some sellers who pose as private sellers are in fact traders. If you think this is the case, you should report your suspicions to Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.
A common problem with buying used cars can be the illegal practice of 'clocking'. This is the turning back of the recorded mileage to make the car more attractive and valuable. Low mileage is a good selling point and you should therefore try to check the recorded mileage. You can do this by asking to see the service record. Better still, if you're buying from a garage or trader, ask the previous owner. If you find out later that your car has been clocked, contact Consumerline.
If you need advice on your rights you can contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262. Alternatively try to sort it out first with the person who sold you the car. If that doesn't work, and you bought your car from a garage or trader who is a member of a trade association, write to the Retail Motor Industry Federation, or to Motor Codes Ltd for complaints about cars still under a manufacturer's warranty. Their addresses and phone numbers are shown below.
Most trade associations have codes of practice which offer a low cost arbitration service. Arbitration is where an outsider is asked to look into a dispute and to decide who is right. If you decide to go for arbitration, remember that your garage or trader has to agree to this as well, and that you will not get your fee back if you lose. Also, the arbitrator's decision will be binding on both of you. This means that you will not be able to go to court later on if you don't agree with the arbitrator's decision.
If you haven't been able to sort out your complaint and haven't used arbitration, you may have to think about court action. If the amount involved is not more than £3,000, you can take your case yourself to the Small Claims Court. Talk to Consumerline, your local Advice Centre or Citizens Advice. They can advise you how to apply. For larger amounts, you should talk to a solicitor.
Please also note that motoring organisations may be able to help any member who is having trouble with buying a used car.
Click here to download an advice leaflet on how to solve consumer problems with cars.
From category: Buying Goods & Services