SCOTS motorists are spending more than £600,000 a week on faulty used cars, according to new figures released by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
It also claims that nearly 100 people a week contact the consumer body seeking help after being ripped off by irresponsible used car dealers, with one in ten of these cases involving a car that is unsafe to drive.
The figures are part of the UK-wide Check It, Don’t Regret It campaign launched today by the CAB service for National Consumer Week.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s chief executive Margaret Lynch said that used cars are “one of the biggest areas” of consumer exploitation.
“At a time when many Scots are struggling financially and looking for ways to save money, rogue car dealers are cynically ripping them off by selling them vehicles they know are duds. Every industry has its rogues, and it’s only fair to say that many used car dealers operate fairly.
“But the minority in this industry who exploit their customers are not only ripping them off, but in many cases are putting lives in danger by letting cars on the road that are not safe to drive.”
Citizens Advice Scotland said they dealt with 4,774 complaints about used cars between October 2012 and September 2013, compared with 70,556 cases UK-wide.
Describing the figures as “shocking”, Ms Lynch said it was likely that the reality was worse, as many cases were either reported to other authorities or went unreported completely.
“Many people feel that when they buy a used car they don’t have the same rights and guarantees that they have if they buy a new one from a garage.”
She said that this was not true and that CAS would help people stand up for those rights.
The CAS said that an analysis of 190 calls made to them concerning used cars during the first two weeks of September showed that the total value of the vehicles was £1,211,059.
In more than two-thirds of the cases – 69 per cent – the car developed a fault within the first three months.
One in ten of the cars was actually unsafe to drive and could have caused an accident if taken on to the road.
A further 12 per cent of callers said that their car was unusable, and 59 per cent reported that repairs were needed.
CAS said that the average age of the cars in question at the time they were bought was five years, with an average mileage of 38,500.
John Cleland, a former British Touring Car champion who now runs his own car dealership, gave his backing to the campaign: “Buying a car can be one of the biggest purchases anybody makes and it’s important that you get a fair deal.
“There are a number of quick and easy steps people can take to make sure they are buying a decent motor.
“Taking the car for a test drive can really help you decide if the car is right for you. Watch out for things like frayed seat-belts, signs of big accident damage or heavily worn tyres that should be a red light to buyers.”
CAS say that any second hand car must match the description given by the seller.
It must be of satisfactory quality and in reasonable condition given its age, make, past history and the price paid.
It must be fit for purpose and roadworthy.
If the car fails the latter condition, then selling it is a criminal offence.
UK government’s consumer minister Jo Swinson MP also gave her backing to the campaign.
She said: “Last year over seven million used cars were sold in the UK. As Citizens Advice Scotland figures highlight, too many consumers end up footing the bill when their car needs repairs or, worse still, is unsafe to drive just weeks after purchase.”
Anyone who has a complaint about a used car dealer can get specific advice by calling CAS’s special Consumer Advice Helpline on 08454 040506.