Buying second hand? Check it, don’t regret it!

Jo_SwinsonBuying a second hand car has entered folklore as a potential minefield of financial, mechanical and emotional headaches. With over four million purchases (worth an eye-popping £25bn) made from second hand dealers every year, and another three million on top from the private market, it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously. That’s why Citizens Advice and Trading Standards, with the backing of the Government, has launched a campaign called ‘Check it, don’t regret it’ to help buyers get good value for money when they venture into the market. I asked Jo Swinson MP (pictured), the Consumer Minister at the Department of Business, a few questions about the thinking behind this initiative.

The theme of this year’s National Consumer Week is used cars. What problems do consumers often face when buying a used car?

“Last year over seven million used cars were sold in the UK. As a consumer, the last thing you want when you get home is to realise your car needs costly repairs or is destined for the scrap-heap. “It’s clear from the volume of calls received by the Citizens Advice Service that consumers do not always get what they expect when buying a used car. In the last 12 months alone, Citizens Advice received over 80,000 complaints about used cars, worth £363 million. It’s one of their most complained about issues. “We want to make sure consumers know what to look out for when buying a used car. That is why the Government is supporting the Citizens Advice and Trading Standards campaign ‘Check it, don't regret it’ this week.”

What tips can you provide for consumers looking to buy a used car?

“The message to consumers is clear - the car should match its description, be fit for purpose and be of satisfactory quality. Think before you hand over your hard earned money.

What are you doing to help tackle rogue used car traders?

“I understand that it isn't just about making it easier for consumers to know what pitfalls to look out for when buying a used car. It’s also essential that we clamp down on rogue used car traders. “Last year we set up the National Trading Standards Board to take on complex cases and they have already had a significant impact. For example, in West Yorkshire six people were imprisoned for a total of eight years for a nationwide conspiracy to sell unroadworthy used cars. “We also want consumers to be able to recognise easily the good dealers. Part of our solution is getting industry on board. We already have in place Motor Codes covering servicing, repairs and new car sectors, but we know that there is more that we can do. “That is why I am pleased to announce that the Trading Standards Institute is together forming a commission on used cars. The commission will bring representatives from motoring associations the AA and the RAC, Citizens Advice, the Retail Motor Industry Federation, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Government to agree a set of customer service standards by March 2014.”

second-hand-car

What rights do consumers have when buying a used car?

“If you bought the car from a dealer, the car must:
  • Match its description. This means it must be as described by the seller. This includes any written description in an advertisement or catalogue.
  • Be of satisfactory quality. This means the car must be in reasonable condition, considering its age and make, its past history and the price paid.
  • Be fit for its purpose. If you request a vehicle which is capable of towing a large caravan, it must be capable of doing the job.
  • Be roadworthy. It is a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. A car is not roadworthy if its brakes, tyres, steering, or construction make it unfit for the road. Even if the car has an MOT certificate, this doesn't necessarily mean that it is roadworthy when you buy it.
“If your car does not meet these standards you have the right to return the car to the trader and get a full refund, if you do so within a reasonable time after buying the car. Alternatively, you can require that the trader repair or replace the car and if this isn’t done without causing you significant inconvenience or within a reasonable time, you can get some money back. “We also want to strengthen these rights. In June I announced a new Consumer Rights Bill. For example under the reforms if you buy a used car which develops a gearbox problem soon after purchase, you will have the right to ask for a repair, replacement, or reject the car with a full refund up to 30 days after purchase.”

Q What should consumers do if they have a problem?

If you have a problem with a used car, you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 (08454 04 05 05 for the Welsh language line) or visit www.adviceguide.org.uk Jo Swinson is Consumer Minister at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Citizens Advice has nine top tips to help you make sure you get what you expected:
  • Check MOT certificate – indicates if the car was roadworthy when tested.
  • 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 – ensure car doesn’t have an outstanding hire purchase agreement.
  • Test drive and walk around check – for signs the car isn’t what it seems. Take someone with you if it helps.
  • Get engineer’s check – shows condition of car and any hidden dangers.
  • Check price value guide – indicates reasonable price to pay.
  • Check car is not recalled – shows if car was recalled for safety reasons by manufacturer.
For more information on the Check it, don't regret it campaign click on: www.adviceguide.org.uk
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