22nd June 2006.
Buying a new car does not need
to be always in the literal sense. It can be new for its
next owner, and nearly new in its condition.
Of course, the used car market is like
anything else in this world, since it began! You'll always
find in the garden the nice couple, the apple tree... and
But that can apply to anything, even to
some brand new car dealers as well. Disappointment is not
the rule, but it can happen too.
The problem is that only experience
will tell the difference, and everybody is not an auto
Luckily, experience can be hired. Don't
we all hire, or buy advice and services from
solicitors, brokers, physicians, plumbers... etc?
Likewise, we can hire the necessary
experience to buy a used car quite safely, through
official and recognised motoring organisations, either
buying from one of their affiliated garages, or by
paying one of their approved experts a fee for a full
survey on the neighbour's car before we buy it.
This approach can be applied in many
countries where there are automobile clubs or associations
/ federations defending their adherents interests.
One of these examples is the Retail
Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) in the UK. Sue
Robinson, franchised dealer director for the RMIF,
explains: ‘In the trade, there are a number of car
categories that make up the second hand market.
Overall, cars are usually priced as either nearly new, or
‘Nearly new cars are
those up to one year old. Used cars fall
into two sub-categories: one to three years old, and over
three years old. Nearly new cars often have very low
mileage, and are usually thousands of pounds cheaper than
they were when new, just a few months before. This means
the consumer should often see good value for money.
‘Franchised car dealers generally
offer a good supply of carefully prepared late model low
mileage used cars and demonstrators with genuine mileage
and service histories. The efficient after sales service
and warranties offered also help to ensure peace of mind,
as do mechanical breakdown services, insurance services,
hire-purchase facilities and servicing back-up.’
Used car buyers make savings on the
purchase price of a car and benefit from cheaper insurance
as well. Depending on the age of the vehicle, improved
value can be had by servicing and repairing a used car
through an independent garage.
According to Robinson, there are a few
things to remember when buying a used car:
Avoid looking at a car in the dark.
Make sure you can see the car you
may end up buying clearly.
If you don’t know a lot about
cars, take someone knowledgeable with you who can
Before buying any car, and especially a
used car, it is important to check its condition
thoroughly and test it out on the road, and ask yourself a
How does it feel on the road?
Do the brakes provide smooth and
Is the car quiet, or are there
rattles and clunks when it is moving?
Robinson continues: ‘If you are
serious about buying, find out if the car has a current
MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificate. If the car is
more than three years old, it must have one to prove it
complied with the criteria of the MOT at the last test
date. However, remember that this is not a guarantee that
any subsequent faults will be put right by the dealer.
‘A full service history should
ensure that the vehicle has been properly looked after. It
might be an idea to check that the mileage is warranted in
writing to avoid potential problems in the future.’
Mileage can be checked, for a small
fee. Find out more at www.hpicheck.com
Robinson goes on: ‘Ask to see the
registration document and service record. Does everything
match up? Does the logbook show how many owners the car
Having test driven the car and looked
at its documents, it is vital to inspect the car itself
Check the underside for signs of
rust, and welding - any mysterious welding could
signify that the car is a ‘cut and shut’.
Check the exhaust system.
Check the bodywork and fittings.
Ensure that all tyres including the
spare have the correct tread (1.6mm or more) and
Paintwork should be in a good
Make sure no panels are a slightly
different shade, or rippled, uneven, or heavily
chipped by stones.
Check all locks are in working
Make sure rubber seals are intact,
as leaks can be expensive to rectify.
Windscreen wipers and door sills
should also be checked.
The interior of a car can reveal
a lot about the way it has been looked after and the
mileage it has covered:
Seatbelts should be free from
Carpets can hide high mileage; does
the condition compare with the mileage and age of the
Milometer, dashboard instruments
and pedal condition should also be checked.
The engine compartment should be
subject to thorough investigation. Robinson explains: ‘For
many, the engine bay could seem complicated and dirty, but
there are still some very easy practical steps that can be
taken to gauge the condition of the engine.
‘However, if engines are really of no
interest to you, and you do not trust your own judgement,
the major motoring organisations offer inspection services
for a fee.’
When you buy from a reputable dealer,
the car’s financial history should have been checked to
show there are no outstanding hire purchase agreements on
it and there is neither an insurance total loss, nor has
it been stolen.
Robinson believes that prospective
buyers should make sure that this is the case: ‘Ask the
dealer for written proof that the check has been made.’
Private buyers can also check the
history of a used car for free by acquiring the
appropriate form from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Buyers should always be careful when
parting with their money. Robinson explains: ‘Before
entering into any finance agreement, accepting any
warranty or indeed accepting a used car, make sure you
read and understand all the documentation before signing
paperwork or handing over any cash.
‘If the dealer has arranged the
finance agreement whereby you purchase the used vehicle
and he refuses to deal with a subsequent complaint, your
claim will be against the finance company, which in turn
will claim from the dealer. Remember not to stop your
It is important to remember that used
cars need to have been looked after. When buying a used
car, it is best to buy from a reputable garage. Robinson
commented: ‘Main dealers and independents that belong to
the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) are bound by
the conditions of their membership to provide a good
service to their customers.’
Of course, this is not the end, as
Robinson explains: ‘The vehicle will need both servicing
and occasional maintenance, for which you will need a
reputable garage. If the supplying garage is too far away
for such jobs, a local RMIF member would be happy to
support you with service. A member will be able to advise
you on the type of service you need, and will be able to
point out potential problem areas before they arise, or
She continues: ‘Whether you want to
buy or sell a new or used car or motorcycle, service or
repair your existing vehicle, find an auction house, or a
cherished number plate dealer, the RMIF will be able to
‘If you have a complaint against an
RMIF member garage, the RMIF’s National Conciliation
Service may be able to help you get redress if the problem
cannot be solved in direct consultation with that member.’
Robinson concludes: ‘If you want to
buy a used car, get out and start looking now, and you
should quickly come across a great deal.’
* The Retail
Motor Industry Federation (RMIF, Consumer Motorline
– 08457 58 53 50) represents the interests of operators
in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man,
providing sales and services to motorists and businesses.
The RMIF has a formal association with the independent
Scottish Motor Trade Association, which represents the
retail motor industry in Scotland. Retail Motor Industry
Federation members adhere to a strict Code of Practice and
pride themselves on providing high quality,
value-for-money services to the motoring public.