News item

Citizens Advice and Trading Standards Institute launch used car campaign

National Consumer Week 2013 - Natasha's Story from Trading Standards Institute on Vimeo.

Dodgy used cars display faults within weeks of purchase. Half of faulty used cars display problems within a month of buying the vehicle, reveals Citizens Advice. 

The findings come as Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and the National Trading Standards Institute launch a new campaign to help steer people away from buying a dodgy used car. 

Citizens Advice helped with over 84,000 problems with second hand motors in the last 12 months.  It the most complained about problem to the Citizens Advice consumer service. Drivers spent over £363 million on these complained about cars.

An analysis of 2,519 complaints about second hand cars, made to the Citizens Advice consumer service in the first two weeks of September 2013, finds 83% were about faults, of which:
- more than half (53%) developed faults within a month of buying the car
- 4 out 5 cars required essential repairs
- 139 cars were worthy of the scrap heap. 

Essential repairs include smoke emerging from the engine, corroded break pipes and snapped clutch. 

The new drive is a month-long campaign, launching on 4 November and in National Consumer Week (4-10 November).  

Other common problems experienced by used car buyers include substandard services, misleading advertising and incorrect information about the car before they bought it.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“People are spending, on average, over £5,000 on a second hand car with many drivers saving for months on end or taking out expensive finance packages in order to afford it.  

“With rising day to day costs putting extra pressure on already tight finances, people cannot afford for such pricey purchases to go wrong.  Not only could it cost families money but it can mean their car is off the road because it is unsafe.

“The second hand car industry needs to put the brakes on malfunctioning motors by making sure the cars they sell are in good working order.  That way people aren’t wasting their time or money trying to fix issues that should never have been there in the first place.”

Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of Trading Standards Institute said:
“In this age of austerity, it is important for consumers to have the right knowledge when buying a used car. By conducting a HPI check on the car's history, checking the MOTcertificate and investigating the seller before making a purchase, consumers can ensure they make the best decision and prevent any nasty surprises cropping up in the future.”

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said: "Last year over seven million used cars were sold in the UK. As Citizens Advice’s figures highlight, too many consumers end up footing the bill when their car needs repairs or, worse still, ends up on the scrap heap just weeks after purchase. 

“Consumers need to know what to look out for when buying a used car. The ‘Check it, don’t regret it’ campaign during National Consumer Week is an excellent way of making people think about some of the basic checks they should be doing before parting with their hard earned money and stop those traders looking to exploit buyers in their tracks.”

Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
“At a time when many Scots are struggling financially and looking for ways to save money, rogue car dealers are cynically ripping them off by selling them vehicles they know are duds. Every industry has its rogues, and it’s only fair to say that many used car dealers operate fairly. But the minority in this industry who exploit their customers are not only ripping them off, but in many cases are putting lives in danger by letting cars on the road that are not safe to drive.”  

The campaign is urging people buying a used car to ‘check it, don’t regret it’ by assessing whether it is safe, legal and what it seems. 

Top tips for buying a used car 
Check MOT certificate – indicates if car is roadworthy
Check service history – shows if car has been maintained
Check V5 registration document – shows if car is stolen
Check if car is a write off – helps you know what you are buying
Check finance history – ensures car doesn’t have an outstanding hire purchase agreement
Test drive and walk around check – for signs the car isn’t what it seems
Get engineer’s check – shows condition of car and any hidden dangers
Check price value guide – indicates reasonable price to pay
Check car is not recalled – shows if car was recalled for safety reasons by manufacturer

Your rights when buying a second hand car

If you bought the car from a dealer, the car must:
Match its description. This means it must be as described by the seller. This includes any written description in an advertisement or catalogue.
Be of satisfactory quality. This means the car must be in reasonable condition, considering its age and make, its past history and the price paid. 
Be fit for its purpose. If you request a vehicle which is capable of towing a large caravan, it must be capable of doing the job. 
Be roadworthy.  It is a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. A car is not roadworthy if its brakes, tyres, steering, or construction make it unfit for the road. Even if the car has an MOT certificate, this doesn't necessarily mean that it is roadworthy.

If you have a problem with a second hand car, you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 (08454 04 05 05 for the Welsh language line) or visit  

TSI has developed a series of online training courses for all businesses and staff working in the retail motor industry, including service, maintenance and repair, vehicle sales and customer services. The training is designed for all sizes and types of organisation including sole traders, small businesses and larger motor retail groups, franchised and independent dealerships. Find more information here:



For contact information  please visit:

Notes to editors:

3 in 4 complaints about used cars to the Citizens Advice consumer service are bought from independent dealers
Unsurprisingly, older used cars were more likely to develop a fault.  
The average mileage for cars developing a fault was 70,000 miles – rising to 87,000 for cars over 9 years old and reducing to just 15,200 for cars under 2 years old (Source: Citizens Advice analysis on used car complaints).
7.1 million second hand cars were sold in 2012 (Source: BCA Used Car Market Report)  
Extra advice tips
Keep copies of any advertisement or description of the car in case it's needed at a later date.
Do not agree or sign anything unless you are absolutely sure that you wish to go ahead with the purchase.
If the deal is subject to finance, but you have not signed a finance agreement, neither party is legally bound until the finance agreement has been signed by both parties.
If you have signed a finance agreement but the finance company has not yet approved it, you may be able to withdraw if you act very quickly. Telephone the finance company immediately and follow it up with a letter confirming withdrawal.
Beware of signing any document that states that you have examined the car and found it satisfactory in all respects.
If the car was sold with a guarantee or an extended warranty, you may have additional rights. 
If you used your credit card or the seller arranged the finance for you to pay for the car, and it cost more than £100 and less than £30 000, the credit company may be equally liable for any breach of contract. This means that if the car is faulty, you may be able to claim a refund or the cost of repairs from the finance company, the dealer, or both jointly. The rules regarding hire purchase and conditional sale are different to other agreements in that it is the finance company that is solely responsible.

1. The Citizens Advice consumer service dealt with 70,556 complaints about second hand cars between October 2012 and September 2013 

2. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales helped with 14,405 used car problems between October 2012 and September 2013. 

3. Citizens Advice carried out an analysis of 2,519 complaints about second hand cars, made to the Citizens Advice consumer service in the first two weeks of September 2013.

4. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.

For more see the Citizens Advice website.

5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

6. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at

7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers

8. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends

9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. 

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the TSI press office on 0845 608 9575 or


DATE: 04 November 2013