Young drivers beware

Article date: 26 June 2008

  • RAC Inspections supports Trading Standards bid to protect first-time motorists

RAC Inspections is backing Trading Standards (TSI) warning to young motorists about death trap motor vehicles* and is calling parents and guardians to be actively involved in the used car buying decision.

The recent findings of the undercover operation by Trading Standards Institute and Hertfordshire police, revealed that five out of eight second-hand lower-priced vehicles - the kind a young first time motorist may purchase - were not safe to be driven.

Research by RAC Inspections** supports these findings, with an alarming three quarters of the used cars inspected by the RAC having faults that would cause the car to fail an MOT and a further one in three having potentially dangerous or illegal faults. 

Comments Nicola Johnson, manager for RAC Inspections: "Youngsters or first timers looking for a used car bargain are entering a minefield and are unlikely to have the right level of knowledge to know what to look for. This is where a mechanically minded friend or family member can help. Better still, parents or guardians would be wise to invest in an independent vehicle inspection which could ultimately save money or even a life. Over half of the vehicles we checked had more than 10 faults. Even if they weren't a risk to motorists' safety, over 80% of those with faults would cost more than £200 to fix, a headache a first-time motorist could truly do without."

Peter Stratton, TSI lead officer for the motor trade said of its undercover operation and survey: "The poor condition of vehicles is a common contributory factor in road traffic accidents and this new survey shows that there are a lot of death-trap vehicles on the market. For every accident we can prevent by urging drivers to get cars checked before they buy, the better."

"It is vital that used car buyers know what to look for, both under the bonnet and externally. Sadly, and more often than not, dangerous faults can only easily be spotted by a trained eye," concludes Nicola Johnson, manager of RAC Inspections.

For those who have no one to turn to for advice, for just £5 an RAC Car Data Check will establish whether a used car is stolen, an insurance write-off, has outstanding finance or has had previous plates. As a bare minimum, this could help reduce the chances of a first-time car buyer, buying a nightmare.

The RAC Inspection buyers checklist

  1. Do your research, there are lots of reviews available
  2. Pick a good time to view the car, preferably daylight, street lighting can hide a multitude of sins
  3. Pick a good location, it should always be the registered keepers home address if buying privately
  4. Check the bodywork and tyres
  5. Test the electrics
  6. Look under the bonnet, be wary of a warm engine and remember to check fluid levels
  7. Inspect the interior
  8. Take it for a test drive, but ensure that the vehicle has a valid MOT certificate beforehand
  9. Don't get emotionally attached
  10. Get the vehicle mechanically checked and make sure you complete an RAC Car Data Check.

To conduct an RAC Inspection: log on to or call the dedicated number 0800 085 2529

To conduct an RAC Car Data Check: log on to or call the dedicated number 0800 975 5867


* Officers from Hertfordshire Trading Standards posed as members of the public to buy lower-priced vehicles - the kind a young, first-time motorist may purchase - from various small, independent dealers in the county.  It revealed five out of eight second-hand cars bought during a recent undercover operation were not safe to be driven.

** An RAC Inspection will tell you whether a vehicle has any mechanical faults or major accident repair. The results of an inspection can provide reassurance on your potential purchase or enable you to negotiate with the seller on price or to arrange repairs.

For press enquiries please contact:
Margot Tomkinson, Dominic Dennis and Justine Hoadley at HSL 0208 977 9132.

Notes to editors:

About HPI
Originally established in 1938, HPI Limited is a primary source of vehicle information for the UK motor industry and motoring consumer, which since August 2004 has been owned by Norwich Union. HPI encompasses both the HPI database of all UK road registered vehicle descriptions and histories, and the National Mileage Register which holds in excess of 85 million mileage readings.

Together, HPI and NMR represent the UK's largest vehicle information source, combining and interpreting data from government agencies, industry bodies, private organisations, the police and the general public. Registering with HPI helps companies to protect their financial interests in motor vehicles and a wide range of other mobile assets. HPI Checks give purchasers instant confirmation of whether vehicles are correctly described, known to be subject to outstanding finance or serious accident damage, or recorded as stolen or "clocked".

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