Beware small car ads jargon
As someone who has worked in the car industry for a number of decades, I get asked for a lot of advice on buying and selling cars, whether it's recommendations for a new model, which manufacturer makes the most reliable cars (Honda in my view, with Skoda as an outside bet) or how I should go about buying a used car.
This last question is the most tricky to answer as there are so many variables that can catch out people with little knowledge of cars. Both dealers and private sellers will use small ads to shift cars - both will likely use a number of terms that may not be familiar, some of which you need to be wary of.
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I find a lot of people asking me to look at small car adverts, often because they can't understand the various acronyms and phrases used.
It's of vital importance that you know what a small ad is telling you if you're thinking of parting with cash - especially as an alarming number of small ads can feature cars that have been written off or disown any responsibility for the car's condition post-sale.
With that in mind I've collected a few words and phrases I keep seeing in small ads - along with a few that people have asked me about - to explain exactly what they mean. If you're thinking of buying a car from the back of a magazine or listings website you need your wits about you.
There are some absolute bargains to be had, but choose the wrong car and you're putting your bank balance - and your safety - at risk.
Small ads phrases explained
Trade sale no warranty given or implied
This is illegal if offered by any sort of car trader. Every trader - from the smallest dealership to the largest franchised group - is required by law to give at least a three-month warranty with every car you buy.
However, private dealers are not obliged to give any warranty on a car - if it's a legitimate private seller there is almost zero recourse if a car developes a fault after you've bought it - so buy wisely.
Sold as seen
Private dealers are most likely to use the term 'sold as seen', which means if you buy it and there is a major engine failure of some sort, you can't do anything about it because "you bought it as you saw it". Private dealers have no obligation to give three month warranty or tell you if the car has anything wrong with it either, unless you ask.
You need to be careful of dealers who pose as private sellers, so that they can eliminate the three-month warranty legislation when they want to get rid of a faulty car.
Parts & labour warranty included with this vehicle
On the surface this sounds great, but you should always read the small print. Such an offer will probably only cover some areas of maintenance or repair. Find out exactly what is covered.
Full 12 months mot & oil change included in the screen price
Again, this sounds good on paper but check exactly what is included in the offer. Be careful to check your car after an oil change and ask for a log of any MOT information.
If complete, a car's service history is pure gold. Some dealers will advertise a car with 'Service History' or 'Full Service History included', but this doesn't mean anything. Some may just come with a few documents.
Firstly, you may want to consider whether it is worth having in relation to what you want the car for. If you are only going to spend £1,000 on a runaround it may not be worth being so pedantic over its service history. However, if you are looking to spend a large chunk of money, then a full service history is definitely recommended.
A service history is only worth having if it includes everything. This includes the log book with the relevant stamps and invoices. Be wary of dealers who will get any old stamp and fill the logbook with it, just to make it look like it's worth something.
A good way of checking a service history is to check the car's mileage against the dates it had an MOT. If it there are irregularities, then someone's trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
New price for quick sale/ Part exchange to clear/ Reluctant sale
These are, for want of a better word, buzz words. They don't actually mean anything. 'New price for quick sale' - there is no proving that the price has been lowered. 'Reluctant sale' - why are you selling it then?
With 'Part exchange to clear' dealers are suggesting that they are selling the car on as it was part of a part exchange deal. In other words, buy it quick because it is a one off.
This usually suggests that you should have a consultant come in and examine the car. This means asking someone from a car maintenance company, like the AA, to give the car an inspection.
If something along the lines of 'Inspections welcome' is labelled with a model, then definitely have it checked by someone as the seller is pretty much saying the car is in bad shape.
Non runner / Car does not start
These are scrap, simple as. The cars don't run, so the only thing you can use them for is spare parts. Avoid if you need a working car, even if you've got a Haynes manual and fancy yourself as a bit handy with a spanner.
Ex demo car
Ex demo cars are just test track models for new cars that are soon to be released. As this is the case, demo cars are only three to six months old, meaning there in good condition.
However, bear in mind that there will have probably been over a hundred people test driving it that don't particularly care about its condition.
Four little letters, but this phrase should start alarm bells ringing if you see it in a small ad. Keep your eyes open for it, it may appear amid a list of features like this: 'digital radio, electric front windows, CAT C, adjustable front seats...'.
A CAT C car is an insurance write off. The CAT C refers to insurance Category C, which means the car has been heavily damaged in a collision, with an insurance company deeming it too damaged to be salvageable. CAT C damage can also labelled as 'uneconomical repair major' - so keep an eye out for this too.
Insurance groups relating to damage range from CAT A to CAT F, with A and B being the worst and requiring a car to be crushed, and D being the least severe and requiring minor repairs. Group F is fire damage. CAT C models may be perfectly safe to drive, but this classification would realistically half a car's value. It is not illegal to sell a CAT C or CAT D cars.
Dealers will do anything to avoid telling you a car is CAT C. When talking to your dealer you should ask him if the car has been in a collision, vandalised or stolen and ask for a yes or no answer. Get it in writing, and then ask him to sign it as proof.
Other ways of telling if a car is a CAT C is by looking at things like its paint job. If a car has a spotless paint job but is six years old and has 50,000 miles on the clock, then there is something up. Another sign of an old car being a write off is if it has new number plates.
Keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you and you should not have too many problems using the car mags and websites to buy a used car. There are bargains out there. Just make sure they're not too good to be true.