Buying a Used Car Privately Akin to ‘Motoring Roulette’

Nearly half of motorists (45%) who have ever bought a used car privately believe they were deceived in some way by the person who sold it to them – highlighting a worrying lack of trust in the used car buying process.

Of the drivers who feel they have been misled, more than two thirds (67%) think they were sold a faulty car and more than a fifth (21%) think they paid too much for what they ended up driving away, according to a study of more than 2,300 motorists conducted by the RAC*.

Buying a Used Car Privately Akin to ‘Motoring Roulette

With two in five used cars being sold privately**, the process of buying a second-hand car can clearly be daunting with consumers confronted with a range of fears including buying a car that may be prone to breaking down, has outstanding finance on it or may have significant unknown costs just around the corner.

Half of those surveyed (50%) said they buy privately to get the best value for money, but the research carried out for the launch of RAC Car Passport revealed that for many it actually proves to be a financial gamble. With some 2.7m cars bought and sold privately out of the 6.7m used cars that change hands in the UK each year**, it appears ‘being economic with the truth’ is commonplace and confidence in making such an important purchase is being undermined.

Drivers’ top three concerns when it comes to private sales are buying a car that already has a mechanical fault (29%), purchasing a stolen vehicle (24%), and choosing a car that has been written off (13%). Other common worries include acquiring a car that is still being paid for on finance by someone else, costs more in maintenance than expected, or is worth less than the buyer ends up paying.

Yet future buyers are putting in the legwork when it comes to purchasing their next motor – nearly half (43%) spend upwards of 10 hours researching their purchase, and a third (34%) invite a friend or family member to help them inspect the vehicle. When it comes to whether or not to buy, more than one in three people (35%) rely on a friend with motoring knowledge to help make the final decision for them.

Robert Diamond, managing director at RAC Data Services, said: “Buying a car privately can work out cheaper than going through a dealer and is therefore a popular choice in the UK. But clearly many drivers don’t have a lot of trust either in the person they’re buying from, or in the car they end up driving away with. Sadly, motorists are telling us that buying a car privately appears to resemble something akin to motoring roulette.

“What’s more, buying privately doesn’t afford the same levels of consumer protection as buying through a dealership – putting more pressure on making the right purchase of a vehicle.

“Happily, this doesn’t need to be the case and there are now a range of services available to help ensure that private buyers needn’t spend hours researching their next car only to be let down at the very end.”

To help people buy more confidently, the RAC has launched the Car Passport, the most comprehensive car check available in the UK. Buyers can get quick, online access to a wide range of information about their next vehicle including a personalised valuation to verify the seller is charging a fair price; information on a car’s history such as common reasons for that particular make, model and year of car to break down; and symptoms to look out for in a test drive. The Buyer’s Report, priced at £14.99, also includes a checklist of important checks on the vehicle in question, advice on how to negotiate with a seller, and comes with £30,000 insurance cover to protect the buyer against suffering a financial loss as result of incorrect vehicle alert information***.

A Seller’s Report is also available (£24.99), to help private vendors achieve the best price for their vehicle and give potential buyers confidence in what they are looking at.

“While there are many good vehicles out there for sale, there is always the fear of buying a dud,” said Diamond. “Motorists don’t want nasty surprises. With our new Car Passport buyers can get peace of mind about what they are looking to purchase. Armed with the best possible insight, it allows them make a better, smarter purchasing decision.”

For added peace of mind when buying a new vehicle, the RAC also offers a Vehicle Inspection service that includes both a visual check-up and road test.

For more information about the RAC Car Passport, visit

For more information about RAC Vehicle Inspections, visit

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