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Buyer's Guide: Are sellers playing by the rules?
By Jack Biddle • 24/10/2015
Beware - there are fishhooks everywhere
Fair Go ran a story recently warning about buying a vehicle privately with an outstanding debt still registered against it. Apparently, the number of vehicles being sold with money owing is on the rise, along with the number of vehicle repossessions taking place as a result.
The biggest losers are the unsuspecting new owners who find out they don’t own the vehicle when the repossession man comes knocking. There are, as the Fair Go hosts said, a number of options available for potential buyers to check out a vehicle’s history and whether there is money owing.
All up, great advice and the programme concluded by saying it was one of many fishhooks when purchasing privately. A licensed vehicle trader (dealer) legally must declare such things by way of a customer information notice. Buying privately, it’s “buyer beware”.
But not all dealers play by the rules. On the money owing issue, they have no option but to be upfront with potential buyers, but what about some of the other legal and ethical requirements they are supposedly bound by?
I walked on to a used car yard recently to check out a vehicle and asked what the warranty was. The answer was: “There is no warranty at all but I could purchase a policy if I wanted.”
Next question: “Does the vehicle have some sort of past service history that I could see?” Answer: “No, but because it has been checked out by the AA by way of a vehicle appraisal then it will be fine.” Not the answers I was expecting.
Buyers are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act which means a vehicle must be fit for purpose at time of sale. It can get a little grey over time, but initially a new owner is covered if there is a major mechanical failure a short time after purchase through no fault of their own.
The salesperson should have explained that. To say a flat no to my warranty question (repeated several times) was misleading.
The service history answer was another sidestep. The AA appraisal is a check for roadworthiness only and is in no way connected to a general service. Potential buyers would be wise to forget the appraisal altogether and ask for a full AA pre-purchase inspection in its place if they are keen on buying. That would at least give some idea of the general mechanical condition including any potential service requirements.
Okay then, move on, maybe better luck with the next dealer.
This time it was a phone call after viewing a particular vehicle on the website. Problem was the vehicle description didn’t match the photo. The description was for a Nissan and the photo was for a Mazda. “Mix-up with the photos,” I was told, “but no worries as both vehicles are exactly the same,” according to the salesperson.
Really? A Mazda and a Nissan being exactly the same was news to me. But even if that was true, shouldn’t the photo and the description match? Not according to this chap. It was a great vehicle and it wasn’t going to last long at the advertised price were his departing words.
So what’s the message here? Be careful who you purchase from. There are potential fishhooks everywhere.
Get your checks
Vehicle history and money-owing checks are available from: