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Buying a used car akin to “motoring roulette”

Buying a second-hand car can help motorists save a few quid and avoid heavy depreciation, but it seems the process is riskier than you might think.

67 per cent of drivers admitted they were sold a faulty used car, while 45 per cent said they felt misled by the seller. 21 per cent, meanwhile, believed they had overpaid, according to an RAC survey of 2,300 UK drivers taken in September 2014.

Half of motorists said they bought a used car to get the best value for money, even though 29 per cent feared existing mechanical faults, 24 per cent were worried the vehicle might be stolen and 13 per cent were worried it might be a write-off.

To combat these fears, the RAC study found 43 per cent of buyers spent more than ten hours of research into the model of car they are after, while 34 per cent took a friend or family member with them for a second opinion. 35 per cent said they relied on a friend with motoring knowledge.

Two in five used cars are sold privately, as opposed to on a garage forecourt. That’s about 2.7 million vehicles, according to figures from British Car Auctions.

RAC data services managing director Robert Diamond said: “Buying a car privately can work out cheaper than going through a dealer and is therefore a popular choice in the UK. But clearly many drivers don’t have a lot of trust either in the person they’re buying from, or in the car they end up driving away with.

“Sadly, motorists are telling us that buying a car privately appears to resemble something akin to motoring roulette. What’s more, buying privately doesn’t afford the same levels of consumer protection as buying through a dealership – putting more pressure on making the right purchase of a vehicle.”

He added: “Happily, this doesn’t need to be the case and there are now a range of services available to help ensure that private buyers needn’t spend hours researching their next car only to be let down at the very end.” 

One of the services available is Car Passport, an RAC service that lets you see useful information on a car such as common faults, what to expect on a test drive and what a fair price would be. Another is Gov UK’s online vehicle check.

Best to ask for a full service history (FSH) and talk with one of the garages that has serviced or performed repairs on the vehicle for a neutral opinion. If the vehicle is of high enough value, you could also get a mechanical check done professionally.

Also Bear in mind vehicle excise duty (aka car tax) is now non-transferrable.

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