Competition & Consumer Protection Commission: Don’t buy used until sure

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New research commissioned by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) provides insights into consumer behaviour when buying used cars. The results show that 4 in 10 (44%) Irish consumers have bought a used car in the last five years, (23%) of which bought from a private seller/individual. 45% reported checking if the vehicle had been previously crashed or seriously damaged before purchasing, with 20% admitting they did not carry out any checks before buying.

Every year the CCPC receives over a thousand calls from consumers reporting issues with used cars, including those who have unknowingly bought crashed or clocked cars. Consumers are being warned to think twice before buying a used car without carrying out essential checks. The CCPC has published a car history checklist to help consumers through the process of buying a used car as safely as possible.  

CONSUMER RIGHTS: CAR DEALERS –V- PRIVATE SELLERS:

Over half (51%) of consumers who bought used cars over the past five years, bought from a car dealership, with a further 21% buying from a motor garage. However, almost a quarter (23%) bought from a private seller, with a further 5% buying directly from a family member or friend. The CCPC is reminding consumers of the important differences between buying from a business compared to an individual, and that if they buy from a private seller then they do not have rights under consumer protection law, if something were to go wrong. 

LESS THAN HALF CHECKED CAR HISTORY BEFORE BUYING:

The CCPC research shows that less than half (45%) of consumers checked if the vehicle had been previously crashed, or seriously damaged before buying. Women (42%) were less likely than men (48%) to carry out this check. When compared to a similar study carried out by the CCPC in 2016, the percentage of consumers who had a mechanic check their car before buying has fallen from almost half (49%) in 2016 to 1 in 3 (36%) in 2021. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of consumers who bought a used car without carrying our any checks at all, from 17% in 2016 to 20% in 2021. 

Grainne Griffin, Director of Communications with the CCPC said: “Buying a car is one of the most important purchases a consumer can make. Not only is it a substantial financial investment, but buying an unsafe car can have tragic consequences. Since March, we have seen an increase in the number of consumers contacting the CCPC because they have unknowingly purchased a crashed car. The Irish used car market has been significantly impacted in recent months by both COVID-19 and Brexit. Consumers in some cases are taking increased risks by buying cars from private, or less reputable sellers without checking the car history. Brexit has had an impact on the cost of used cars and consumers may be tempted to cut corners to get a lower price. We are strongly advising consumers to use our car buyer’s checklist if they are buying a used car and always independently check the vehicle history.”

ADVICE WHEN BUYING A USED CAR:

Before buying a used car from a business or a private seller, the CCPC is encouraging consumers to carry out the essential car checks, and follow these simple steps:

Be aware that consumer rights don’t apply to private sales and watch out for disguised traders (professionals who pose as private sellers illegally). Search online for information about the seller, e.g. – how many ads they have placed online. If they are selling a number of cars at once, this could indicate they are a disguised trader and not a private seller.

Ask the seller to fill out the CCPC car history checklist: to ensure you have all the relevant vehicle information and have carried out all essential checks before buying.

Check that the mileage on the odometer matches the cars paperwork. The car’s previous mileage will be listed on its NCT paperwork.

Don’t be led by price alone: what may appear as a bargain now can end up costing you more if repair or replacement work is needed after you buy.

Get a second opinion: bring a mechanic or someone who is experienced with cars or buying cars.

Shop around: Check car buyers’ websites and magazines so you know the average price for the type of car you want, based on the specification, mileage etc. And remember if it is too good to be true it usually is.

Pay by credit or debit card: You should be very careful about how you pay. Always try to pay by a traceable method, such as credit/debit card or bank transfer. Paying cash is risky as you will have no record or trace of your money if something goes wrong.

Visit ccpc.ie for more information on consumer rights when buying a car.