Independent used car dealers attract 4,000 complaints a month
Second-hand cars bought from an independent dealership are the most complained about purchases from consumers, according to a new helpline launched to register consumer complaints in the UK.
Used vehicles beat other consumer gripes such as mobile phone contracts, building work and problems with upholstered furniture by a sizeable margin.
Over 4,000 people every month call Citizens Advice, who opened a new helpline in April, to complain about second-hand cars. The helpline received more than 150,000 calls in its first three months. Eight per cent of those in total were complaints about used cars that buyers had got from a dealership.
Second-hand cars brought from independent dealerships was the main bugbear of those calling in. 75 per cent of the complaints were from people purchasing a car from an independent dealership. The rest is made up of private sellers and franchised dealerships.
It's worrying news for independent dealerships, especially considering that used car prices have skyrocketed over the past few years. Research by the quarterly Auto Trader Owners' Guide released in July shows that prices for used small cars are on the rise due to the effects of the recent double-dip recession.
Latest figures from British Car Auctions (BCA) show the average age of a used car is seven years as people choose to hang on to their older cars during tough economic times. This has led to lower quality stock at used car dealerships and could be a factor in the used car complaints.
Tony Gannon, BCA Communications Director said when the report was published: "This latest edition of the BCA Used Car Market Report paints a picture of a used car industry evolving to deal with the changing economic landscape.
"With an ageing parc of vehicles and limited supplies of younger cars available, both dealers and motorists will have to get used to a marketplace where the typical used car is both older and higher mileage than has been the norm in previous years. "
However, the worrying figures could also highlight the struggles facing independent dealerships in the wake of difficult industry conditions and higher overheads. Independent dealerships are also having to compete against technological advancements.
Audi, for example, has recently opened Audi City in London, which gives potential car owners a digital look at the manufacturer's entire range on a 1:1 scale. In contrast, independent dealerships only have a small amount of forecourt space to showcase their range of models, limiting potential stock and hitting profits.
The value of the cars sold equates to approximately £55million according to Citizens Advice. Other factors buyers weren't happy with were poor advice and service from independent dealers.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "If you're not a motor head, stepping onto a used car dealer's forecourt can feel like entering a lion's den."
"But there are things consumers can do to protect themselves, like looking out for unusually low mileage on an old car, which could mean it's been tampered with."
If you've been affected by a used car dealership, check out our Buying a used car - What are your rights? guide.
Written by John Meadowcroft