Citizens Advice South Hams shares top advice tips to help motorists steer clear of problems

As 3.5 million people look to buy a used car Citizens Advice South Hams shares top advice tips to help motorists steer clear of problems

  •       Problems with used cars are consistently the top complaint made to Citizens Advice’s national Consumer Service
  •       The charity is offering top advice tips as it reveals reveals 3.5 million people nationally are currently looking to buy a used car

New data from Citizens Advice reveals last year the charity’s national Consumer Service received a complaint about a used car every three minutes.

The majority of these (66%) complaints were about defective goods, while 13% concerned safety issues.

With 3.5 million people across the country currently looking to buy a used car, Citizens Advice South Hams is sharing its top tips with motorists.

This advice also marks the start of the charity’s Consumer Awareness campaign (Monday 20th May – Sunday 2 June). The annual campaign is run by Citizens Advice in collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP), which includes Trading Standards and the Department for Business and Trade.

Janie Moor, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice South Hams, said:

“Unexpected car problems can cost us more than just money, they can leave people missing  work or unable to drop their kids off at school.

“But all too often we hear from motorists who’ve had used cars mis-sold to them and have had to shell out hard-earned cash to fix surprise issues.

“Many of us across the South Hams are feeling the pinch right now, so it’s vital to make sure you’re steering clear of surprise problems and are getting exactly what you paid for when buying a used car. Before making a big purchase like a used car, don’t forget to brake, and make all the right checks before you buy.”

Citizens Advice South Hams offers their top tips to help put a stop to unexpected issues motorists might face when buying a used car:

  1. Check the trader

If you’re buying from a trader you should:

  •       Look for an established firm with a good reputation. Look for a garage that is a member of the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, this means you can act through the Code Sponsor if something goes wrong

If you’re buying from an individual seller:

  •       You’re entitled to expect that the vehicle is roadworthy, unless you and the seller clearly agree it is bought for scrap or for spares and repair


2. Check the car’s history 

You’ll need the seller’s permission to have the vehicle inspected. Make sure to keep a copy of all inspections or checks, either by taking a screenshot or downloading the information.

  1. Check the car’s details with the DVLA using their free online vehicle checker and check the MOT history on GOV.UK
  2. Get a private history check. This might cost up to £20, but will give you valuable information about serious problems the car might have. If you’re still not sure – get an independent report. This will give you detailed information about the car’s condition and will cost around £120 to £250
  3. Inspect the car and take a test drive. You should arrange to view the car in daylight, preferably when it’s dry – it’s harder to spot damage to the car if it’s wet


  1. Paying for a used car

Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything in the small print. Remember you can stop the deal if you feel like you’re being pressured into paying too much or buying additional features. And make sure you get the original (not a photocopy) of the log book (the V5C registration certificate) and the valid MOT test document. Never buy a car without the log book.

The way you pay will affect what rights you might have if something goes wrong:

  •       If you pay by cash, there are no extra fees or interest but if something goes wrong with the car you won’t have the protection that you have if you buy using a card or on finance. 
  •       If you use a debit card you might have protection from problems from your provider’s chargeback scheme. And if you use a credit card, you’re protected as long as you paid more than £100 and no more than £30,000, even if you only paid for a small part of the cost on a credit card (this is called ‘section 75’ protection).
  •       If you pay using finance arranged by a trader, you might have extra protection if there’s a problem later, because you can take action against the finance company as well as the trader (or instead of the trader).


You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you have an unresolved complaint and have paid by debit card, credit card or using finance.

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 if you need more help – a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone.


They are a very friendly and helpful team in Totnes, I got results the next day on something I have been trying to sort out for half a year.

Sarah – December 2023

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