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Used car complaints surge

Even more problems in most complained-about area

Used car salesman

Complaints about used cars have increased – again

Complaints about used car dealers have surged in 2010, prompting a call from the Office of Fair Trading for buyers to know their rights.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said the Consumer Direct advice service took just over 38,000 complaints about second-hand cars bought from dealers in the first six months of this year – an increase of 18% on the same period last year.

Used cars get most complaints

Complaints about second-hand cars continued to top the list of calls to the service, above mobile phones and TVs. Around 3.6 million second-hand cars are bought each year, with consumers spending a total of £24 billion.

An OFT study found that many car owners ended up fixing unresolved faults that were actually the dealer’s obligation to correct, paying out an estimated average of £425.

Consumer Direct operations manager Michele Shambrook said: ‘Cars are an expensive purchase, so before parting with any money people need to know exactly what they are getting and what they can do if things go wrong

‘Dealers have a responsibility to sell cars that are of satisfactory quality. This will vary depending on issues including the vehicle’s age and mileage, but as the vast majority of all second-hand car faults come to light in the first three months, they will often be the dealer’s responsibility to fix.’

Used car checklist

The OFT and Consumer Direct have compiled a checklist for potential buyers, including questions about the car’s mechanical history and mileage checks, the number of former owners, documentation about the full service history and any modifications.

They urged buyers to get the answers in writing rather than relying on verbal claims or promises by the seller. It is also worth finding out about the dealer’s complaint procedure and whether they are signed up to a code of practice.

The AA said the sharp rise in complaints from buyers was ‘alarming’. AA president Edmund King said: ‘Getting it wrong when buying a replacement car is potentially a devastating financial mistake, not to mention the safety concerns. The OFT’s campaign is important to remind anyone who owns a car, and will have to replace it at some stage, of their rights.

‘The problem is that the second biggest purchase most people make in their lives happens relatively infrequently, so buyers forget the pitfalls. Too many let their heart rule their head or see buying a car as a chore and are so worried about the consequences that they rush the process.’

Take a look at our advice guide on buying a used car

We’ve also got information on how to buy a used car warranty

If you’ve got a problem with your used car, find out your rights with our guide.


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