Motortrades Insight Magazine Online

Consumers urged to do research to avoid 'villain' car dealers

Ref:A00099
Published: 12 February 2013
DRIVERS are being warned they must conduct their own vehicle history checks before buying from independent garages, according to vehicle information experts.

"Too many people are buying cars at face value, leaving them vulnerable to attack from unscrupulous sellers, including some motor retailers and garages," explained Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI. "Once you've bought a vehicle, any problems that arise become much harder to resolve."


Used Car Delaers
While the majority of car dealers and garages are legitimate and follow Office of Fair Trading guidelines to protect themselves and their customers, figures from Citizens Advice places complaints about used cars purchased from independent dealers as the number one grievance lodged by people using its helpline.

Unscrupulous sellers have a bag of tricks and scams they use to bamboozle unsuspecting buyers. These include altering information relating to finance agreements or lowering mileage readings, to sell vehicles on at a higher price. Buyers also need to watch out for immaculate bodywork used to disguise badly repaired, written-off vehicles.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said of its findings: "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."

The value of vehicles that were the subject of complaints logged with Citizens Advice exceeded £115m, equating to £4,500 per person.

Nicola Johnson supports added: "After their house, a car is likely to be the biggest household expense, but nobody would dream of buying a property without conducting the proper checks. Used car buyers need to think the same way and take responsibility for ensuring the vehicle they are buying is legitimate."

"We wholeheartedly urge consumers to understand their rights when buying a used car from dealers and private sellers," concluded Nicola Johnson. "Buyers who are presented with an old history check certificate from a private seller or trade vendor, must carry out their own check to be sure the car is everything it appears to be."

Tips on buying from the trade:

  1. Organise your finance so you know your budget
  1. Decide on the make and model you want
Do your homework. Research the current values of the vehicle you want and be suspicious of any rock bottom prices
Check the VIN/chassis numbers match any paperwork
Does the mileage correspond with the condition of the car? If it seems low, it could have been clocked
Check the vehicle has a current MOT certificate, if it is over three years old
Ask to see the full service history, including receipts and check mileage readings
Beware of forged documents, such as V5s and don't take any dealer history checks at face value
Conduct your own vehicle check, using the registration number to confirm whether the vehicle has been stolen, clocked, written-off or if it's on outstanding finance
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