Car Confidence - Things to look out for when buying used cars

West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service works with consumers to help prevent them becoming victims of mis-selling. With the purchase of used vehicles being one of the top five consumer complaints received by Citizens Advice, with nearly 11,000* complaints each year, we decided to check on the selling practices of independent garages across West Yorkshire.

After checking 64 used cars that were being offered for sale, 35 of which were mechanically inspected, we have issued the following guidance:

Tip #1: Buy from a reputable dealer - 1 in 3 cars mechanically inspected were unsafe to drive due to not being repaired correctly.

One of the most shocking vehicles inspected was a 2010 Ford Focus which was unsafe to drive because of structural damage not being repaired correctly. The cars B-pillar and sill was found to be significantly deformed and to try and camouflage this, the dealer had used thick body filler. Other examples include a 2014 BMW X3 that had chassis misalignment and the passenger door didn’t fit correctly due to front-end impact, and a 2016 Audi A6 that had misaligned panels and deformed structural panels.

Car Confidence - Tip 1: Buy from a reputable dealer

Tip #2: Ask to see all relevant original paperwork - 1 in 4 cars checked were falsely described as having full/part service history.

We found a VW Golf GTI that was being advertised for sale with a ‘full service history’. Upon investigation there was a four year service gap, between 2010 and 2014. Also, over a third of cars checked didn’t declare their HPI salvage category either on their windscreen or on the dealers’ website, or both. For example, a Land Rover Discovery Sport was advertised without declaring that it had been written off by the insurance company as no HPI salvage category was displayed on the windscreen.

Car Confidence - Tip 2: Ask to see all relevant original paperwork

Tip #3: Don't impulse buy and take the time to make on-line checks - 1 in 4 cars checked were falsely described as having 12 months MOT.

A Chrysler PT Cruiser was advertised for sale with ‘full 12 months MOT’ with a description that it ‘looks and drives well’. However, upon checking we found that it had an MOT failure certificate highlighting a number of issues that need fixing. Also, we found cars on the forecourt advertised for sale that had a description offering a test drive but didn’t have a valid MOT.

Car Confidence - Tip 3: Take the time to make online checks

Tip #4: Check that the condition of the car is consistent with indicated mileage - 1 in 8 cars checked had a mileage discrepancy.

An example of this was a Rover Streetwise that was advertised for sale with 79,000 miles on the clock. In reality, this figure could have been over 90,000 as in 2016 the mileage was logged at 78,046 and in 2017 it was logged as 73,343.

Car Confidence - Tip 4: Check that the condition of the car is consistent with the indicated mileage

West Yorkshire Trading Standards Motor Trade Partnership

Those car dealerships and garages that are Motor Trade Partnership members follow strict criteria and are audited to make sure that high standards are maintained. The Partnership is an excellent example of alternative enforcement. By creating a strong working relationship with the Motor Industry, it promotes best practice and helps to build consumer confidence.

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