Citizens Advice received more than 80,000 complaints concerning used car purchases in 2013. Most complaints concerned a fault that developed following the sale, and in around one in eight cases, the vehicle ended up having to be scrapped.
However, if you follow some simple steps, you can easily avoid making a bad purchase. Here we take a look at some steps to help you avoid bad decisions and getting ripped off when buying a used car.
What to buy Before you start the search for a car, set a strict budget and remember to include running costs in your budget. Once you know what you can afford, you can start to scour magazines and websites for bargains. Cars with larger engines often appear to be relatively inexpensive, but do bear in mind that the running costs such as insurance, tax and fuel will be higher.
There are lots of motoring forums online, such as Torque Cars, and they can be a valuable source of information and advice.
Use a dealership
Buying privately can save some cash but you don’t have any of the consumer rights which you can get when buying from a professional car dealership. Make sure that the dealer follows the code of conduct of a trade association, as explained in Advice Guide.
If a fault develops after the sale you have the right to return the vehicle for a refund or to have the fault properly repaired.
If you do buy privately
Buying privately can be a great way to save money. Always meet the seller at their own home and never agree to meet them elsewhere. If you can, buy from someone you know or someone who is recommended to you.
Although you won’t have the protection of the Sales of Goods Act, the vehicle still has to be sold ‘as described’, so get plenty of information from the seller, preferably in writing. Then, if a fault develops, you can argue that the seller’s description was false and get your money back.
Always test drive any car you are considering buying and have it checked out by a qualified mechanic.
Online history checks
Always do a full history check on a used car; such checks let you know if there is any finance left to pay on the vehicle, whether it has ever been written off or in an accident and whether it is stolen.
You need to see the registration document (V5C
) for the vehicle. Check with the DVLA website
You also need a valid and current MOT certificate. Although not essential, a full service history is also valuable for peace of mind.
If you are planning to take finance out to pay for the car, source this separately beforehand. Finance deals supplied by car dealerships tend to be on the expensive side and there are usually much better deals to be found elsewhere.
Most sellers are honest people, but there are some unscrupulous people around, and if you have any doubts at all about the sale, just walk away. There are plenty more bargains to be found.