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RAC identifies the UK's savviest used car buyers

18 May 2015 at 09:00

Bristol motorists lead the way in checking a used car’s history before purchase; those in Glasgow and Edinburgh twice as likely to go without checking

53% of checks sold by the RAC used to check on cars sold by dealers

7 in 10 motorists ‘buy blind’ with no check on a vehicle’s past at all

Motorists in Bristol are the savviest used car buyers in the country as figures show they are most likely to check out the history of a vehicle before stumping up the cash for it.

Data taken by analysing sales of the RAC’s new vehicle history check service, the RAC Car Passport*, found that drivers in the city are twice as likely to look into a used car’s past before purchase compared to motorists in Glasgow, and nearly three times as likely as drivers in Newcastle. The RAC car check was also particularly popular among car buyers in Birmingham, London, Oxford and Leicester.

Top ten cities for car data checks:

  1. Bristol
  2. Oxford
  3. Birmingham
  4. London
  5. Leicester
  6. Southampton
  7. Coventry
  8. Bradford
  9. Bournemouth
  10. Nottingham

 Newcastle and Edinburgh came bottom of the table of Britain’s big cities – meaning these are the places where motorists are less likely to buy a vehicle having done a data check, based on the RAC’s data.

Checking a car’s history is a cheap, simple way of finding out if the vehicle has been stolen, written off or scrapped, or still has outstanding finance. Buyers of an RAC Car Passport also benefit from a respected valuation from Glass’s, an unbiased vehicle review, plus details of common reasons for breakdowns and MOT failure for the particular make and model, as recorded by RAC patrols.

Data from the RAC also showed the extent to which the car buying public need confidence when buying from a dealer – more than half of all RAC Car Passports sold (53%) were to check up on dealer-owned vehicles, stock which buyers might reasonably expect would already have been fully data-checked.

With used car sales at a seven-year high, and some 1.9 million vehicles changing hands in the third quarter of 2014 alone***, the market is buoyant but motorists need to make sure they take a few straightforward steps to protect themselves when buying their next vehicle.

RAC Car Passport managing director Rob Diamond said: “Motorists can never be too careful when purchasing a used car, but fortunately there is enough help out there to make the used car buying process much less stressful – and dramatically boost the chances of not spending money on a lemon.

“It is also interesting to see the extent to which used car buyers are seeking extra confidence when buying from certain dealers. Generally, dealers are meant to take some of the uncertainty out of the car buying process but our data suggests that motorists still need a lot of reassurance before they are prepared to part with their cash.

“This also sends out a powerful message to many dealers to give their prospective customers as much information about the vehicle they are buying as possible – the cost to a dealership in obtaining this is minimal, and can make the difference between a sale and the customer walking away.”

In February, the RAC warned motorists against buying a used car ‘blind’ after a study revealed some 70% of buyers of private vehicles carry out no history check. This means they could be purchasing a vehicle that has a shady past – with outstanding finance for instance, or potentially even written off.

Robert continued: “Our message to motorists looking to buy used is clear: by making sure you’ve got a full data check for the car you can be a lot more confident about your purchase.”

For more information about the RAC Car Passport, visit


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

RAC Press Office – 01454 664 123 /

Notes to Editors

* Data based on sample of RAC Car Passports sold between December 2014 and April 2015, weighted to number of full driving licence holders in major UK cities  
** Source: Experian, February 2015
*** Source: Research conducted online with 2,300 members of the RAC Opinion Panel from 23-30 September 2014

About the RAC Car Passport

The Car Passport is a key product available on the RAC Cars online marketplace for used and new cars, which is now free for private sellers and dealers to advertise. The RAC recommends that buyers seeking reassurance should utilise the UK’s most comprehensive vehicle check which includes up to £30,000 insurance on the data check.

About the RAC

With more than eight million members, the RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, insurance, buying a used car, vehicle inspections and checks, legal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – the RAC offers a solution for all motoring needs. The RAC is committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.

The RAC is the motorist’s champion and campaigns to support the interests of its members and UK motorists at a national level, including advancing levels of road safety, supporting the needs of young drivers and voicing concerns about the increasing cost of motoring. The RAC’s annual Report on Motoring survey, now in its 25th year, provides a clear insight into the concerns and issues facing today’s motorists.

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