News item

Scots being ripped off by used car dealers

Scots are spending over £600,000 a week on Used Cars which are faulty – according to new evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland.

The charity reveals today (Monday) that nearly 100 Scots contact its special consumer helpline every week after being ripped off by irresponsible Used Car dealers. In one out of every 10 of these cases, the car is un-safe to drive.  The figures are part of a campaign launched today by the CAB service UK-wide.  

Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
“The CAB service is one of the main consumer support agencies in the country. And what we are finding is that used cars are one of the biggest areas where consumers are being exploited. 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.  

“These figures are shocking, but it’s worth remembering that these are just the cases that were reported to us at the CAB service. There will be many more cases out there which have been reported to other authorities, or which haven’t been reported at all. Many people feel that when they buy a Used Car they don’t have the same rights and guarantees that they have if they buy a new one from a garage. One of our messages today is that consumers do have rights in these cases, and we will support you in standing up for them. 

“Our message to consumers today is that you always have rights as a customer, and we will help you stand up for those. But also it’s vital that you check what you are buying before you part with your money. You don’t need to be a car expert to be able to spot what’s not right. We have a list of easy checks you can make when buying a used car. And anyone who has a complaint about a used car dealer can get specific advice by calling our special Consumer Advice Line on 08454 040506.”

John Cleland, former racing driver and a responsible car dealership owner who is backing the campaign, says:

“Buying a car can be one of the biggest purchases anybody makes and it’s important that you get a fair deal. There are a number of quick and easy steps people can take to make sure they are buying a decent motor, taking the car for a test drive can really help you decide if the car is right for you. Watch out for things like frayed seat-belts, signs of big accident damage or heavily worn tyres that should be a red light to buyers.”

The UK Government’s Consumer Minister Jo Swinson MP is also backing the campaign. She says, “Last year over seven million used cars were sold in the UK. As Citizens Advice Scotland figures highlight, too many consumers end up footing the bill when their car needs repairs or, worse still, is unsafe to drive just weeks after purchase. 

“Consumers need to know what to look out for when buying a used car. The nine top tips launched during National Consumer Week are an excellent way to make people think about some of the basic checks they should be making before parting with their hard earned money.”

To arrange interviews, please call us on 07774 751655. The story is embargoed for Monday but we’re happy to record interviews in advance.

To arrange interview with Consumer Minister Jo Swinson please call Sneha Patel on 07500063241/020 7215 3505 or email

Notes to editors:

Citizens Advice Scotland dealt with 4,774 complaints about used cars between October 2012 and September 2013. (the number of cases UK-wide was 70,556). 

We analysed 190 calls received by our Consumer Advice line in Scotland in the first two weeks of September.  

Added together, the total value of the cars in these cases was £1,211,059. 

In 69% of the cases the car developed a fault in the first three months.

In 10% of cases the car was actually un-safe to use and could have caused an accident if driven.  

A further 12% said the car was un-usable, and a 59% reported that repairs were needed.

The average age of the car at the time it was bought was 5 years old. And the average mileage was 38,500.

Top Tips for What To Look for When 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 un-roadworthy 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.

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