The perils of buying a used car privately
Clearly, there are honest and reliable people selling their cars privately out there, and the dishonest ones are still, thankfully, in a minority. But at a time when 16 per cent of cars surveyed by Motorcheck had finance outstanding, and 20 per cent were found to have been clocked to reduce their displayed mileage, there are plenty of tripwires to avoid.
The National Consumer Agency is similarly concerned about consumers’ rights when buying from a private vendor.
“If you buy from a dealer, you have some protection under consumer law. However, if you buy privately, you do not have the same consumer rights because the person selling the car is not acting as a business,” says John Shine, NCA’s director of commercial practices. “If a problem arises with a privately sold car there may be little you can do beyond taking a civil case through the courts. Because of this you should be very careful when buying from a private seller and you really need to be aware of what you’re buying. Remember, a private seller may not have all the answers, so it is important to have the car checked by a mechanic.”
Also, says Shine, “consumers cannot take another consumer through the Small Claims process. However, you could still consider legal action by consulting with a solicitor and taking a civil case through the courts.
Yes, you may well be able to find a bargain out there on someone’s driveway, and yes, the same car, in the same condition, bought from a dealer will doubtless cost you more. But doubt is the key issue here. If you have any doubts as to a car’s provenance, ownership, financial status or mechanical well-being, then use that doubt to propel you away. If you’re buying private, comebacks are few and far between.
“Do your research,” say Teskey. “And always ask to see any documentation that’s going with the car, be it a private or retail sale. And try and track the previous owners down, if you can, and ask them for their opinion on the car. Look for service history stamps or any evidence of a garage that’s looked after the car. Pick up the phone and make the call; don’t be sucked in by something that you feel is a bargain and you have to buy today. Leave a small deposit, and come back 24 hours later when you’ve done all your research and I’d say you’re going to avoid 90 per cent of the risks.”
Most popular used cars January 2013
Private car sales in January, and the number sold.
1 Ford Focus 2000 (183)
2 Fiat Punto 2000 (180)
3 Volkswagen Golf 2000 (144)
4 Volkswagen Passat 2001 (144)
5 Volkswagen Golf 1999 (143)
6 Opel Astra 2000 (142)
7 Opel Astra 1999 (130)
8 Toyota Corolla 2000 (126)
9 Toyota Corolla 1999 (126)
10 Volkswagen Passat 2002 (126)
Figures from Motorcheck.ie