Unreliable used-cars cost brits dear

Article date: 8 September 2006

Poor purchasing decisions leave Brits shelling out over £238million1 on fixing faulty used cars each year, newresearch reveals today.

Lack of motoring knowledge and hasty decision-making mean almost athird (29%) of buyers fail to spot problems before driving off andlater pay needlessly for repairs.

Such faults are not necessarily well hidden, as a significantnumber occur shortly after purchase. For a quarter (24%) of buyerswho experienced difficulties, mechanical problems occurred withinjust one month.

The research, which was carried out by RAC Vehicle Examinations tolook at the problems encountered by motorists when buyingsecond-hand cars, also revealed that these nasty surprises can costblasé buyers considerably. In more than one in 10 cases (11%) ofmechanical faults with a second hand vehicle, motorists have paidup to £400 for repairs. In one in twenty cases (6%), faults wereserious enough that buyers had to pay out up to £800, almost afifth of the price of the average second handcar2.

Poor mechanical and motoring knowledge are the major reasons thatconsumers end up with "duds". Worryingly, almost half (48%) ofthose surveyed admitted they know little or very little about carsyet only 29% paid for a professional vehicle examination, despitethe fact that choosing a car is one of the most expensivepurchasing decisions after buying a house.

In addition, too few motorists are allowing adequate time forthoroughly checking potential purchases, questioning the currentowner and taking a vehicle for a test-drive. Almost half of buyers(48%) spent less than thirty minutes carrying out checks on aused-car. Buyers should allow enough time to view the carthoroughly, take it for a good test drive, review the vehicledocumentation and ensure it matches the car, and ask questions onthe car performance and history.

Motorists justified not paying for a professional check in a numberof ways:

  • 44% relied on the advice of mechanically mindedfriends/family
  • 22% blamed cost – despite the fact that RAC’s"essentials" vehicle examination costs only 3% of the value of theaverage second hand car
  • 15% were too short of time
  • 14% didn’t know such a service existed.

However, as a result of the high incidences of mechanicalfaults, more than one in 10 buyers (11%) wished with hindsight thatthey had paid for a professional examination.

Nick Lindsay from RAC Vehicle Examinations, said: “It’seasy to be persuaded into buying a bargain. Consumers must approachthe business of buying a second-hand vehicle with caution in orderto avoid disappointment. All too often, buyers treat the processtoo casually and suffer the consequences as a result.”

To help motorists avoid the pitfalls of buying used cars, RACVehicle Examinations has the following advice:

  1. View the car in daylight, at the seller’s address so youcan confirm the address is the same as the V5 vehicle registrationdocument
  2. Look for signs of clocking – does the condition of thecar match the mileage?
  3. Is there wear on the seats, pedals or steering wheel. Checkfor rust and general corrosion on the bodywork. How worn are thetyres?
  4. Take the car for a test drive on a variety of roads, but makesure you are properly insured. Listen out for any odd noises fromthe engine and suspension
  5. Get an RAC Vehicle Examination, which can help to identifypotentially expensive problems and signs of major accidentrepair.
  6. Check out the history and status of the car with an RACVehicle Status Check– the check will reveal whether the carhas any outstanding finance against it, has been written off orreported stolen by the Police. RAC Vehicle Checks cost £24.99
  7. Check engine numbers/chassis numbers match the V5documentation provided with the vehicle
  8. Beware of false keys – separate keys for thedriver’s door and boot may indicate previous damage
  9. Check under the bonnet for signs of undue wear and tear– is anything leaking, are all the fluid levelscorrect?
  10. If you feel something’s not right – walk away.Don’t get too attached to a car – if something’stoo good to be true, it probably is.

For more information about RAC Vehicle Checks and Examinations,visit www.rac.co.uk/checks or call 0800975 5867.


RAC Press office contact:
Amanda Glover or JasmineAgbulos at Lexis PR on 0207 908 6462 or 0207 908 6402

Lucy Haughey / Liz Kennett at RAC Press Office on 01603 354337 or01603 688263

Notes to editors:
1Industryfigures from HPI estimate that 3 million second-hand cars are soldprivately in the UK annually. 29% of buyers surveyed by RAC VehicleExaminations (equates to 870,000 people) encountered problems witha second-hand vehicle, with the mean spend for repairs being£274.

2Figures from the survey by RAC Vehicle Examinationsreveal that the mean spend on second hand cars is £4450

RAC Vehicle Examinations commissioned ICM research to interview arandom sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+, by telephone between 25 and28 August 2006. Interviews were conducted across the country andthe results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM isa member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.Further information at www.icmresearch.co.uk

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is oneof the UK's most progressive motoring organizations, providingservices for both private and business motorists. Whether it'sroadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning todrive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial servicesor up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able tomeet motorists’ needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC AutoWindscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC'spowerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leadingposition in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part ofAviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one inseven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 14%.

RAC’s news releases and a selection of images are availablefrom the internet press centre at www.racnews.co.uk.

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