New Survey Figures Reveal Used Car Sellers Still Top of Complaints List

The latest figures from the OFT reveal that over 56,000 people complained to OFT-managed Consumer Direct in the last 12 months and over 70% of those complaints were about faults with cars.

With 1 in 3 used cars checked with HPI revealed to have a hidden history, the findings are sadly no surprise to the vehicle information expert which urges consumers to get familiar with the OFT’s ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign.  Launched last week, the campaign encourages used car buyers to be better aware of the risks and understand their rights ahead of making a purchase.

“These figures released by the OFT show that many consumers are still experiencing problems when buying a used car,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager of HPI. “It’s all too easy to be taken in with the look of a vehicle when searching for the car of your dreams, and if you find one that’s offered at a good price, all the better.  But the harsh reality is, as the OFT’s figures confirm, many people come a cropper after they have parted with their money.

Problems which they may not have noticed at first glance soon materialise.  We urge buyers to do their homework, no matter whether they are buying privately or through a dealer, and ultimately buy with the head, not their heart.”

The OFT survey revealed that 13% of complaints were due to misleading claims or omissions from a seller and 7% were with regards to substandard service. HPI warns that these omissions can be deliberate and have serious ramifications – as in the case of finance agreements on vehicles.

Nearly 1 in 4 vehicles checked by HPI are still subject to an outstanding finance agreement, with many people who cannot afford the finance on a car simply selling it on to someone without paying it off. When this happens, the vehicle is still owned by the finance company and the finance company can claim it back from the new owner at any time.

Johnson continues, “While a used car may look perfectly fine, it is really only as good as the information a buyer has on it. Therefore, in addition to doing some research on the seller, to really ensure you have all the bases covered, checking the vehicle with HPI before purchase is also a must.

The HPI Check will confirm whether a vehicle is on outstanding finance, is currently recorded as stolen, or has been written-off, and a mileage check comes as standard, which can help root out a seller trying to pull the wool over buyer’s eyes when it comes to how much mileage the vehicle has on the clock.

“Under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, all descriptions applied to a vehicle must be true. For instance, a car cannot be advertised as having had one careful owner if it has actually had three, so ask to see the vehicle’s paperwork such as V5 and service history, and don’t just take the seller’s word for it.

The V5C will have previous keeper details on it so you can use that to contact the previous keeper for their experience of the car. If buying from a dealership, as well as asking to see the history and mileage checks the dealership should have conducted, it is also advisable to check  that they are part of an organization such as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) as they will then be required to adhere to a strict code of practice.”

On occasion, sellers go beyond simply disingenuous practices to those which are actually criminal. Every day, HPI uncovers more than 19 vehicles that have been registered as stolen. Criminals, often working as part of a gang, will steal a vehicle and try to sell it as quickly as possible – of course claiming the vehicle is perfectly legitimate. Buying a stolen vehicle means you will lose the car and the money you paid for it, as it did not belong to the seller in the first place.

A common case of mis-selling occurs with car ‘clocking’, where sellers try to reduce the mileage on the vehicle in order to boost its value. 6 in every 100 cars checked by HPI have a mileage discrepancy, which could indicate potential clocking. If a seller does not disclose the correct mileage, the vehicle is likely to be worth a lot less than advertised, and the buyer could end up having to spend lots to ensure the car is safe, as the components are likely to have wear and tear. The OFT figures show just how much buyers have to spend on unforeseen vehicle costs – on average £425 each or £85 million per year in total, to fix unresolved faults that dealers are obliged to correct.

Johnson concludes, “The OFT continues to raise awareness and help consumers understand their rights. HPI fully supports the ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign and encourages buyers to make sure they know exactly what their rights are when buying a used car.”