Last year Citizens Advice had 80,000 complaints about used cars. And with it being National Consumer Week, here’s Leon Livermore of Trading Standards to explain why you should ‘check it or regret it’.
When I reflect on my time spent as a frontline trading standards officer, the complaints about second hand cars were often times the most complex to deal with.
It wasn’t just the law or the technical aspects of a car buying that made it difficult – it was how emotional we can be about cars. They are major purchases and we put the safety of our families in them. So while it might be tempting to go for that bargain, are you confident you’re not gambling your family’s safety?
Car buyers beware
Are you doing all you can to make sure you’re protected? For those of a certain age – and I’m one of them – the image of Arthur Daley’s dodgy deals still sits in my memory. While many modern car dealers are a million miles away from that image, they still exist.
Two old maxims come to mind. The first is ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’. The second is ‘buyer beware’. So how can we become savvy buyers? Do two things – check out the seller and check out the car.
When picking a seller, there’s no stronger recommendation than word of mouth. Have you got a friend that has recently bought a car? Search the seller online and see what review sites and previous buyers say about the seller.
You can also look for an approved trader. There are plenty of schemes run by main dealers, local authorities, or motoring organisations that serve as another safe guard when buying a used car.
Checking your used car
Checking the car may be more difficult. While standard advice says you should get an independent check, is paying for an independent check realistic when you’re only spending £1,000 on the car? If the answer is no, you can still do an HPI check on the car’s history, check MOT mileages, or take a friend who knows about cars with you when you go to look at it. These simple checks empower you as the consumer to make an informed decision.
In this age of austerity, is it the job of the public sector to look after someone who turns up in a service station and hands a bundle of cash over to someone they’ve never met before? Is it up to the industry to protect consumers? Or is it the job of all of us to arm ourselves with the necessary tools provided by industry to make good buying decisions?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute. All opinions expressed here are Leon’s own, not necessarily those of Which?