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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Used car dealers top Consumerline complaints list in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland trading standards service

As used car traders again top the Consumerline complaints list, the Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS) shares top advice tips to help motorists steer clear of problems.

Problems with used cars are consistently the top complaint made to Consumerline, the Trading Standards Service’s consumer advice helpline.

New data reveals that in 2023 Consumerline received over 1,600 complaints from consumers relating to the purchase of a used car.

The majority of these complaints (72%) were about faults with the vehicles. Other areas of complaint related to misdescribed cars, accident damaged cars, mileage discrepancies and the failure of traders to honour their legal obligations. There was also a rise in complaints about car traders who were posing as private sellers, thus restricting the rights of consumers.

Damien Doherty, Chief Inspector of TSS, 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 consumers 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.”

Consumerline are offering the following top advice tips when looking to buy a used car:

1 - Check the trader

Buying a car through a dealership is generally considered the safer option because you have protections under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

When buying from a used car 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 such as the Motor Ombudsman if something goes wrong.

2 - If you’re buying from a private seller

  • You don’t get the same protection when you’re buying from a private seller, but the car must still match the description in the advert, or what the seller has told you. If it doesn’t, you could have a claim under the Misrepresentation Act.

  • 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.

3 - 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.

  • Check the car’s details with the DVLA using their free online vehicle checker and check the MOT history on GOV.UK at

  • 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.

  • Inspect the car and take a test drive. This should always be done from the seller’s premises or their home; never let the person meet you halfway. 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.

  • Always ask for the service history of the vehicle.

4 - 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) logbook (the V5C registration certificate) and the valid MOT test document. Never buy a car without the logbook. 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 Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 if you need more help - a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone.


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