If you are buying a second-hand car and do not have a lot of money to spend you may be tempted to go to an auction. DON’T unless you really know what you are doing. The auctioneer’s terms and conditions usually give you no rights to returns or refunds.
Cases I have dealt with at the CAB include someone who took the car for an MOT and found a huge list of faults. The repair bill would be much more than the value of the car. Then there was an unlucky buyer who had taken the car away from the auction and it had broken down on the motorway and he was stranded. In a worse case was the buyer who could not start the car to drive it away from the auction. The auctioneers demanded it be moved promptly or they would start charging him for storage.
Sadly, I could not help any of these clients. The auctioneer had displayed Terms and Conditions.
Buying from a private seller also has risks. There are genuine sellers out there but there are also sharks. I have both bought and sold this way myself. The vehicles I sold were good. Of those I bought, one was excellent and the other had a fault that was not at first obvious. The seller has to guarantee that the car is ‘as described’ . They will not mention the faults. You have to ask. You can also get an H.P.I check for £20 that tells you if there is outstanding finance on the car, if it is stolen or if it has been in an accident. Be very careful if buying on-line; for example, from E-Bay. E-Bay’s Buyer Protection does not extend to cars.
A client had paid £1500 for a car from E-Bay and driven down to England to collect it. The day after he bought it an expensive fault became apparent and the garage said it was not worth repairing. He phoned the vendor to say the car was not as described. The vendor said the car was fine when it left him.
The CAB helped him compose a letter which asked for a refund. This was ignored.
The only action open to him was to bring a court case under the Simple Procedure saying that the car was not ‘as described’. This would cost £100 and he would have to pay for a written report on the car. The case could succeed. The vendor might just ignore the whole thing and so judgement would be against him. But this would not mean he would pay. There would be more money and stress involved in having the judgement recognised in England and still it might not be easy to get any money from him. The client would have to decide whether it was worth the time and money for an uncertain outcome.
Buying from a dealer is more expensive but safer. Dealers have to abide by the ‘Sale of Goods Act’. We are lucky in Abernethy to have a choice of trustworthy dealers. They have a local reputation to consider and will treat you fairly. If you buy from them and a fault develops you can use your Consumer Rights.
For any consumer problem I would recommend using the Consumer Help-line. This is run by CAB and uses advisers who are consumer specialists. They can also refer you to Trading Standards if this is appropriate.
Consumer Help-line 03454 04 05 06
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is completely confidential. The articles I write for the Crier are always based on true stories but I disguise the client so they could never be identified.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is at 7 Atholl Crescent. Drop in is 10am-12 noon, Monday to Friday or phone 01738 450581 for an appointment in the afternoon. If the line is busy you can leave a message and you will get a call-back. The number will come up as Withheld to protect your privacy.
01738 450580 is the Advice Line. This line is often busy but if you leave a message your call will be returned.
Everything is confidential, even the fact that you visited the bureau.
There is also a web-site run by the CAB. Adviceguide.org.uk covers many topics and is easy to use.