22nd May 2024

Used cars top complaints list

Citizens Advice’s latest data reveals that used cars remain the most complained-about purchase.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Before making a big purchase like a used car, don’t forget to brake and make all the right checks before you buy

Citizens Advice has revealed that last year its Consumer Service received a complaint about a used car every three minutes.

The charity, which helped with almost 43,000 complaints relating to used cars in 2023 alone, found the majority of these (66%) complaints were about defective goods, while 13% concerned safety issues.

The announcement comes as research from Citizens Advice reveals more than one in four people (28%) who bought a used car in the last decade experienced an issue. The most common issue was the car turning out to be defective (30%), while 27% said the car had damage they were not told about, and 19% said the car had a higher mileage than they were told.

Analysis of Citizens Advice research shows 3.5 million people (15%) are currently looking to buy a used car.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Year after year problems with used cars top the charts of consumer issues our expert advisers help with.

“Unexpected car problems can cost more than just money, they can leave people missing work or unable to drop their kids off at school.

“Many of us are feeling the pinch right now so it’s vital to make sure you’re getting exactly what you paid for. Before making a big purchase like a used car, don’t forget to brake and make all the right checks before you buy.”

CTSI Cheif Executive, John Herriman,  said: “The data presented as part of this national campaign really highlights that consumers are often left out of pocket when purchasing a used car. The complex and ever-changing used car landscape means consumers are left confused and without the knowledge and information needed to make a well-informed purchasing decision.

“Consumers are rightfully wary of the ‘Del Boy’ type car traders, but in reality, there is just as much harm and bad practice lurking behind used car adverts on online platforms, such as Facebook. Car clocking is still an ongoing issue, and cars are being sold with the mileage being adjusted and not declared at the time of sale – this is an offence and Trading Standards will take action when necessary.

“For peace of mind we would encourage consumers to purchase a used car from a garage that is a member of the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). These garages adhere to a robust code of practice that sets them above and beyond other car traders. In the event that a problem does arise, all garages in the CCAS family offer free Alternative Dispute Resolution to help resolve the issue quickly and effectively.”

As part of its Consumer Awareness campaign (20 May – 2 June). The annual campaign is run by Citizens Advice in collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP), which includes Trading Standards and the Department for Business and Trade.

The campaign is advising motorists to:

  • Check the trader
  • Check the car’s history
  • Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything in the small print

Colin Briggs, Used Car Lead at National Trading Standards, said: “Buying a car is one of the biggest financial commitments most people will ever make. Many rely on used cars to get to work or visit family and save hard for the car they need, trusting they will get a fair deal.

“Unfortunately, while the vast majority of used car dealers are honest traders, those looking to buy a used car should be alert to unscrupulous sellers. Some sell dangerous vehicles unfit for the road and don’t care that those who buy and rely on used cars are often not in a position to fork out for repairs.

“We urge people thinking about buying a used car to do their research into the seller and check the car’s history before handing over any money.”

Business Companion’s new ‘Car traders and consumer law’ Business in Focus guide is available here.

One response to “Used cars top complaints list”

  1. Michael James says:

    This has been the case for value Chinese motorcycles, often the traders selling them over charge for services or do not carry out the repairs themselves not reflecting the excellent value of the bikes. I am going through this as we speak.