Beware the hidden dangers of these 'great' deals

Eddie Cunningham

When it comes to buying a used car privately, so many people put so much trust in strangers that it beggars belief. We accept their word for it that a potential killing machine (a car) will do what it says on the tin. If you are buying from a private seller, you are putting yourself at risk. That is not to denigrate genuine people who are selling a car for perfectly legitimate reasons. But it is to highlight what's figures are showing: a high percentage of cars are dodgy. If you buy from an established dealer, especially one approved by the likes of the SIMI, you have a comeback. You will also get a decent length of warranty. You also have greater legal backing. We are all trying to save expenditure but sometimes we can be foolhardy for the sake of a few hundred euro.

If in any doubt just walk away.

Here's a few really simple tips that may trigger your suspicions before you get the car properly checked and tested by experts (always worth doing):

• Insist on meeting the seller in (not at, because they can pretend) their home or premises.

• Check the service record closely. Are there breaks in it? Ask if you can talk to one or more of the previous owners. A good dealership would be delighted to facilitate; a chancy private seller will try to bluff you and put it off.

• Just use your common sense to tell you if the wear and tear around the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals is consistent with the claimed mileage?

• What about the wear and tear around the door sills, carpets, boot lid, the boot itself, the corners of seats (always lift the covers)? Is that consistent with the mileage?

• Has stuff been replaced? Does any part of the car's interior or exterior look too new to be true? Does it jar with the rest of the car's condition?

My advice to you is that if you have the slightest suspicion, the chances are you are correct in having doubts. So walk away. Do not hesitate. Do not gamble. Better to lose a bargain than buy a headache. You can not be careful enough.


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