Inspect to Protect: Ageing cars leave punters out of pocket

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RAC Inspection data*** shows that 48% of vehicles inspected during 2009 displayed MOT-related defects.

The pre-budget report is set to have a significant impact on the used car market with VAT expected to return to 17.5% in January and the impending conclusion of the scrappage scheme. With costs set to rise, RAC is recommending that motorists take care when purchasing a used vehicle to avoid being stung by hidden costs.

The average used car now costs £6,021, an increase of £1,278 (27%) over the past year according to British Car Auction statistics*. This year-on-year increase has also been mirrored in commercial vehicles which now costs on average £7,616, over 30.5% (£1,749) more than in 2008.

Despite slight price decreases over September and October, the used car marketplace is still unsettled with several upcoming Government announcements likely to have an impact. Recent research from RAC** also demonstrates that the maintenance costs for second hand cars can be up to 115% higher than new vehicles so its now more important than ever for consumers to do their homework before purchasing a used vehicle.

With cars becoming increasingly complex, RAC recommends would-be buyers seek an expert opinion through a professional inspection to safeguard their investment.

RAC Inspection data*** shows that 48% of vehicles inspected during 2009 displayed MOT-related defects. Specifically:

  •     34% had lighting defects
  •     46% had brake defect
  •     22% had steering/suspension defects
  •     54% had engine defects eg oil leaks, coolant leaks

Commenting on the issue Adrian McCarthy, RAC head of technical service said: The used car market is fairly unusual at present with prices having fluctuated over recent months. Finding a good quality and reliable second hand car can be a challenge. It's vital that would-be buyers carry out a thorough inspection of any vehicle before purchasing to avoid ending up out of pocket through any unforeseen technical hitches.

While customers are often capable of checking the basics, cars are becoming more technologically advanced so an expert opinion is always recommended. At RAC we offer a comprehensive inspection service conducted by a qualified engineer to help determine if a car is roadworthy and safe to drive. We also offer a full data check service which allows consumers to find out as much as they can about their car's history and safety record.

RAC's data check can tell if the vehicle:

  •     Is stolen
  •     Is an insurance write-off
  •     Has outstanding finance
  •     Has had previous plates
  •     Has a mileage discrepancy

RAC recommends the following checks when purchasing a used car:
o    Always view the car in daylight, at the sellers address. Make sure you check that the address, engine number and chassis number match the V5 documentation provided as well as the MOT certificate.
o    Look under the bonnet for signs of undue wear and tear. Check whether anything is leaking and that the fluid levels are correct.
o    Check for signs of wear on the seats, pedals or steering wheel. Make sure the tyres aren't balding and have an adequate amount of tread.
o    Look for signs of tampering with the mileage counter. Clocking is a common practice so make sure the condition of the car matches the mileage.
o    Examine the bodywork for signs of rust or general corrosion.
o    Take the car for a test drive on a variety of road types. Look out for smoke when starting the engine and listen for any odd noises from the engine and suspension.
o    Get an RAC vehicle inspection, which can help to identify potentially expensive problems and signs of major accident repair.
o    Check the history and status of the car with an RAC car data check to reveal whether the car has any outstanding finance against it, has been written off or reported stolen to the police.

Top tips for buying a car at auction:

  •     When you arrive at the auction, make sure you obtain a catalogue which lists all the vehicles entered in the sale.
  •     View the vehicle that you are interested in bidding for before the auction. Arrive with plenty of time to spare in order to have a look around and check the vehicle details.
  •     Examine the bodywork of the car look along its lines and check for dents or misaligned body panels it could have been in an accident, been repaired or at worst have been a car insurance write-off.
  •     Stick to your budget! Don't get caught up in the action and remember that there are buyers fees in addition to whatever you bid.        
  •     Listen to the Auctioneer carefully. He will include vehicle details such as whether the car has V5 documentation, service history, road tax and if the mileage is warranted.
  •     Remember to take along your photo ID and proof of address.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact:

Vicki Burn, RAC: 07800 692909, vicki.burn (at) (dot) uk
Lucy Haughey, RAC: 07800 690149, lucy.haughey (at) (dot) uk
Nick Woods, Hill & Knowlton: 0207 413 3515, nick.woods (at) hillandknowlton (dot) com

*According to British Car Auction October figures released 10th November 2009

** Research on the Cost of Motoring Index 2009 was conducted by CAP Motor Research, Innovation Motorconsult and Aviva. The data was analysed and compiled by Go-Motoring, who also consulted What Car, Drive the Deal, UK Car Discount and for research figures

*** Based on 50 random sample Vehicle Inspection reports completed in 2009

For full details of RAC Car Data Checks (0800 975 5867) and Vehicle Inspections (0800 085 2529) visit

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's breakdown cover, roadside assistance, insurance, vehicle inspections and checks, legal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and was the top named service organisation in the July 2009 UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Aviva UK Insurance. Aviva is the UK's largest insurer with a market share of around 15 per cent.

RAC is part of Aviva, the world's fifth largest insurance group which operates in 28 countries.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at


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