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RAC joins TSI and CAB to champion used car buyers

04 Nov 2013 at 16:04

New campaign aims to steer drivers away from buying a dodgy car

Britain’s most experienced breakdown provider, the RAC, has joined forces with the Trading Standards Institute and the Citizens Advice Bureau to launch a Used Car Campaign.

Research by Citizens Advice reveals that half of faults with used cars are discovered within a month of buying the vehicle. Citizens Advice helped with over 84,000 problems with second-hand motors in the last 12 months – making it the biggest complaint to the Citizens Advice consumer service.  Drivers spent over £363 million on these complained about cars.

An analysis of 2,519 complaints about second-hand cars, made to the Citizens Advice consumer service in the first two weeks of September 2013, finds three in four were about faults, of which:

  • more than half (53%) developed faults within a month of buying the car
  • four out five cars needed major repairs making them un-drivable
  • 139 cars were worthy of the scrap heap

Major repairs include smoke emerging from the engine, corroded brake pipes and clutch problems.

The new drive is part of a month-long campaign, launching on 4 November and in National Consumer Week (4-10 November).  

Other common problems experienced by used car buyers include substandard services, misleading advertising and incorrect information about the car before they bought it.

The RAC has championed the cause of used car buyers for years and has developed a range of products and services to help drivers buy with confidence and to choose the right vehicle for them. To support the campaign the RAC has cut the price of its Car Data Checks by a third reducing the cost of an online car check to £10.85 (Quote voucher code: RACCDC30; normal price £15.50 or £18.19 instead of £25.99 for three checks) and is reducing the price of its vehicle inspections by 10% for members and non-members (Quote voucher code: RACCDC30; offer price for a standard vehicle inspection on a car 1800cc or below RAC members £121.50; non-members £134.10 until 31 November 2013).

It’s important buyers feel confident that their new car is roadworthy, safe to drive and that it doesn’t have a hidden past. An RAC vehicle inspection gives new owners the confidence that their car has been inspected and road tested by an experienced RAC engineer. Included in the vehicle inspection, but also available separately, an RAC Car Data Check provides an instant on-screen report answering all those important questions buyers need to know about a car’s history.

The RAC launched its own used car website in May this year, giving drivers a safer way to buy a used car. RAC Cars features almost 100,000 quality used cars from the UK’s top franchise dealers and the RAC’s own BuySure dealer and Approved Dealer networks.

To coincide with the National Consumer Week RAC Cars is launching a prize draw to win up to £10,000 off the price of a used car this winter on Logged in, registered users simply have to search for their next used car on the RAC Cars website between now and 31 January 2014 to have a chance of winning. Every vehicle has had a multi-point check, a history check and comes with a minimum one-month warranty and six months’ free RAC Breakdown cover.

RAC Cars research shows that three out of four people looking to buy a used car fear they will be ripped off on the forecourt and sold a duff vehicle, according to a poll of 1,000 motorists.

The survey, carried out by RAC Cars, reveals used car salesmen have failed to shift the dodgy ‘Del Boy’ image, as issues around trust and reliability are top of the list of concerns from people buying a second-hand vehicle.

And, it’s not just car dealers that make people feel wary as more than a quarter (27%) of men and more than a third (35%) of women said the thought of buying a used car from a private owner made them feel ‘stressed and anxious’.

RAC vehicle inspections manager Mike Hill said: “Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases most of us make and it can be a worrying and frustrating business. We know that not everyone wants to spend a fortune on a car and that sometimes it is a question of getting the best quality car for the money you are able to spend so we are here to help drivers make the right choice and avoid unnecessary stress and expense.

“The RAC has a range of products which will help buyers use our experience and skill to choose a safe and legal car. Our vehicle inspectors are trained engineers who understand all of the pitfalls of buying a used car and have seen literally thousands of both reliable and problem cars and know exactly what to look for and the questions to ask. They will carry out a full vehicle inspection, test drive and data check providing the buyer with a written report and the buyer is welcome to call them for additional advice and opinion.”
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “People are spending, on average, over £5,000 on a second hand car with many drivers saving for months on end or taking out expensive finance packages in order to afford it.  

“With rising day-to-day costs putting extra pressure on already tight finances, people cannot afford for such pricey purchases to go wrong. Not only could it cost families money, but it can mean their car is off the road because it is unsafe.

“The second-hand car industry needs to put the brakes on malfunctioning motors by making sure the cars they sell are in good working order. That way people aren’t wasting their time or money trying to fix issues that should never have been there in the first place.”

Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of Trading Standards Institute, said: “In this age of austerity, it is important for consumers to have the right knowledge when buying a used car. By conducting an HPI data check on the car's history, checking the MOT certificate and investigating the seller before making a purchase, consumers can ensure they make the best decision and prevent any nasty surprises cropping up in the future.”

The campaign is urging people buying a used car to ‘check it, don’t regret it’ by assessing whether it is safe, legal and what it seems.

Top tips for buying a used car

  • Check MOT certificate – indicates if car is roadworthy
  • Check service history – shows if car has been maintained
  • Check V5 registration document – DVLA advises that you shouldn’t buy a vehicle that doesn’t have a V5
  • Check if car is a write-off – helps you know what you are buying
  • Check finance history – ensures car doesn’t have an outstanding hire purchase agreement
  • Test drive and walk around check – for signs the car isn’t what it seems
  • Get engineer’s check – shows condition of car and any hidden dangers
  • Check price value guide – indicates reasonable price to pay
  • Check car is not recalled – shows if car was recalled for safety reasons by manufacturer

Your rights when buying a second-hand car

If you bought the car from a dealer, the car must:

  • Match its description – this means it must be as described by the seller. This includes any written description in an advertisement or catalogue
  • Be of satisfactory quality – this means the car must be in reasonable condition, considering its age and make, its past history and the price paid
  • Be fit for its purpose – if you request a vehicle which is capable of towing a large caravan, it must be capable of doing the job
  • Be roadworthy – it is a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. A car is not roadworthy if its brakes, tyres, steering, or construction make it unfit for the road. Even if the car has an MOT certificate, this doesn't necessarily mean that it is roadworthy

If you have a problem with a second hand car, you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 (08454 04 05 05 for the Welsh language line) or visit


Note to Editors:


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With around seven 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.

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