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Drivers make a used car complaint every three minutes

Drivers make a used car complaint every three minutes
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

Motorists made a complaint to a charity about their used car every three minutes last year, research reveals.

Around 43,000 complaints were received by Citizens Advice Consumer Service last year, with the most common concern being that the vehicle was faulty in some way.

That represented two-thirds of complaints raised by drivers, with grievances on safety issues making up 13% of them.

Further, over the last 10 years, over a quarter (28%) of used car buyers had an issue with their new motor, according to Citizens Advice.

Much like in 2023, the most common problem was with defective vehicles, but 27% had some damage that was not declared before the purchase.

The next most regular issue was that the mileage was higher than they were told by the seller, which marked a fifth of those complaints.

If you have an issue with a used car, the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline can assist and progress your complaint with the garage or dealership responsible for the sale.

To avoid spending excessive amounts on repairing a used car once you make the purchase official, there are 10 checks to undergo that could help you save thousands of pounds.

These include checking the brakes, clutch operation, and engine.

Meanwhile, as three-and-a-half million drivers are looking to buy a used car, many will want to save cash as the cost-of-living crisis continues.

This could be in the form of car finance, which allows you to pay for your vehicle over a term agreed by you and a lender. However, less than a third are aware car finance can be agreed to purchase used vehicles, a separate study found.

‘Vital to get exactly what you paid for’

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Year after year, problems with used cars top the charts of consumer issues our expert advisers help with.

“Unexpected car problems can cost more than just money; they can leave people missing work or unable to drop their kids off at school.”

Moriarty added: “Many of us are feeling the pinch right now, so it’s vital to make sure you’re getting exactly what you paid for. Before making a big purchase like a used car, don’t forget to brake and make all the right checks before you buy.”

To help you avoid any nasty surprises before buying a used vehicle, Jane Parsons, consumer expert at Citizens Advice, has provided three tips for you to take on board.

Three tips before buying a used vehicle

  1. Check the trader

If you’re buying from a trader (a business that sells cars) you should:

  • Look for an established firm with a good reputation. Look for a garage that is a member of the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, which means you can act through the Code Sponsor if something goes wrong.

If you’re buying from an individual seller:

  • You’re entitled to expect that the vehicle is roadworthy unless you and the seller clearly agree it is bought for scrap or for spares and repair.
  1. Check the car’s history

You’ll need the seller’s permission to have the vehicle inspected. Make sure to keep a copy of all inspections or checks, either by taking a screenshot or downloading the information.

  • Check the car’s details with the DVLA using its free online vehicle checker, and check the MOT history on GOV.UK.
  • Get a private history check. This might cost up to £20, but will give you valuable information about serious problems the car might have. If you’re still not sure – get an independent report. This will give you detailed information about the car’s condition and will cost around £120-250.
  • Inspect the car and take a test drive. You should arrange to view the car in daylight, preferably when it’s dry – it’s harder to spot damage to the car if it’s wet.
  1. Paying for a used car

Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything in the small print. Remember, you can stop the deal if you feel like you’re being pressured into paying too much or buying additional features. And make sure you get the original (not a photocopy) of the log book (the V5C registration certificate) and the valid MOT test document. Never buy a car without the log book.

Indeed, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you have an unresolved complaint and have paid by debit card, credit card or using finance.

The way you pay will affect what rights you might have if something goes wrong:

  • If you pay by cash, there are no extra fees or interest, but if something goes wrong with the car, you won’t have the protection that you have if you buy using a card or on finance.
  • If you use a debit card, you might have protection from problems from your provider’s chargeback scheme. And if you use a credit card, you’re protected as long as you paid more than £100 and no more than £30,000, even if you only paid for a small part of the cost on a credit card (this is called ‘section 75’ protection).
  • If you pay using finance arranged by a trader, you might have extra protection if there’s a problem later, because you can take action against the finance company as well as the trader (or instead of the trader).


Related: Car finance commission review could pave way for big compensation payouts