/ Motoring

Have you had problems with a second-hand car?

One in three people who’ve owned a second-hand car have had problems with their vehicles – but you do have rights. Have you ever been caught out?

From the moment I looked under the bonnet and didn’t notice the radiator reservoir was a bright shade of rust-orange, Fred knew he had me.

Before signing on the dotted line, my friend and I even took the converted Renault Master campervan for a spin. Despite noticing the breaks were a little spongy, we thought the price was right and I was eager to snap it up before someone else did.

And to further prove his trustworthiness, Fred had a life-sized Mother Teresa statue in his kitchen.

Warning signs

But looking back a couple of years and a consumer rights job later, all the warning signs (and dashboard lights) were there. Hindsight is such painful thing.

Not a fortnight into owning the campervan, an MOT mechanic told me the handbrake needed an overhaul and all the brake pads replacing to the tune of more than £400.

Then just over a week later, the clutch blew and lightened my wallet by another £600.

And because bad things always come in threes – it was the orange radiator reservoir’s time to shine. While struggling up a steep hill in the height of the European summer, the radiator cracked. That cost another $600.

Yet Fred somehow managed to dodge my hundreds of unanswered calls. Legally, despite probably knowingly selling me a lemon, he was clear; the onus was on me to check what I was buying.

Break down in trust

Looking back, I can only think how naive and trusting I was of the hustler with a Mother Teresa statue in his kitchen to not take the campervan to a mechanics for a once-over.

Fortunately, the brand-new parts bumped the value of the camper up again so I wasn’t left too out-of-pocket. But the shame of being duped still stings.

Have you ever been caught out like me and learned the hard way about how to buy a second-hand car?

You definitely wouldn’t be the only one. We surveyed a representative of the British public and found of those who had issues with their car, 6% of them were so bad it affected their essential functioning.

But did you know you have different rights if you buy from a dealer versus a private seller?

Ian Jones says:
21 July 2018

Buying a used car is always a risk (unless still under manufacturer’s warranty). Buying privately and without paying for a professional inspection is the cheapest option which reflects the highest level of risk. Reducing that risk by getting an inspection or buying from a trader costs more. Buyer’s choice! ps it’s brakes not breaks…

Parting with a substantial sum when you are not competent to assess the condition of a vehicle is a risk not worth taking. If you have already owned a car and have a trusted garage take it there first and ask them to examine it for you. The cost will be well repaid either in avoiding a rotter, in finding repairs needed you are happy to have done, but reducing your offer, or just setting your mind at rest. If you don’t have a trusty garage or mechanic of your own have a look at Which? Trusted Traders and contact a convenient one.

Bought a Renault Espace from a RENAULT main dealer in Belfast that came with a 180 point inspection sheet. Two months later I got a puncture in Yeovil and took it to National Tryes who called me out of the waiting lounge to show me what they had found. The left (nearside) front wheel rim was seriously distorted from an impact on the inside face. The dealer denied liability when I returned home. I have owned 4 cars since then , all SKODAS, no more RENAULTS for me.

Zaphinkas says:
21 July 2018

I bought an Approved Used BMW from a major UK retailer. It came with a 2yr warrantee. I assumed it was fine after the “140 Checks” to be approved. Within 24 hours I discovered: cracked windscreen, cracked alloy. Within a week the rear diff. needed replacing (+) brakes. Within a month the steering column needed fixing. All were fixed under the warantee. But it was clear that the Dealer had made no checks whatsoever and just relied on me identifying the faults and claiming under warantee. So be wary of “Approved Used” claims even from National Main Dealers.

When buying a secondhand car that is more than three years old it’s worth looking at the MOT history, which can be found by inserting the registration number on this page: https://www.check-mot.service.gov.uk If a car has failed an MOT with a range of faults, that might suggest that the previous owner did not look after it well.

“We surveyed a representative of the British public ” – who was this person?! It is reassuring 2/3 suffered no problems.

Whilst it is useful to know one legal rights surely the emphasis needs to be on being very wary in the first place. You can also reduce risk of a lemon by not changing cars frequently.

Mark Colman says:
24 July 2018

Sloppily written article with spelling mistakes and $ instead of £ sign. Probably reflective of the author’s overall due diligence when buying the car. Private second hand car sales = caveat emptor. Simple.