The festive season is a period when consumers splash out on presents for friends and family, and a time when some look to treat themselves or others to a new car. The Motor Ombudsman, the automotive dispute resolution provider, is therefore providing consumers with the following top tips to help steer them in the right direction.
Look out for accreditation to a recognised Code of Practice
It’s not only essential to do your research about the car, but it’s equally as important to do your homework as to where to buy it. Choosing a retailer that is accredited to a recognised Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Motor Industry Code of Practice for Vehicle Sales, such as one of the thousands that are listed on The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder (TheMotorOmbudsman.org/garage-finder), means that the business has committed to higher standards of service and workmanship beyond those required by law. Should you have an issue during a purchase and beyond, you will be able to go through the process of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) rather than having to pursue more costly and time-consuming legal action.
Beware of going private
You may get a cheaper deal when buying a car from an individual rather than a business, but it’s worth bearing in mind that your rights against a private seller are much more limited than if you had bought the vehicle from an independent garage or dealer. Additionally, private purchases fall outside of the remit of The Motor Ombudsman or any other ADR provider, meaning you would have to take legal action if something goes wrong.
Keeping your distance
In today’s digital era, you can buy a car without ever stepping foot in a showroom during the entire purchase process, from choosing your specification through to delivery. If you buy your car online, by phone or by email, and the whole deal, including signing the forms and paying your deposit or the price of the car, takes place without you visiting the business, this is called a distance contract by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. These regulations are in addition to your other consumer rights, and give you 14 days to return the car from the date of delivery for a full refund without having to give the retailer a reason. Remember that this only applies to sales done at a distance. If you have bought the vehicle from the business’ premises, you can’t return it unless it is faulty or not as described.
Read, read and read again
Before handing over a deposit or any form of payment, read the order form or contract of sale thoroughly to make sure that all details are correct, that the price and specification match the information advertised by the retailer or the options that you have chosen, and that you are aware of any additional fees on top of the cost of the vehicle. Furthermore, always read any small print or terms and conditions so that you know what you are committing to. If buying a used car, look through any paperwork provided (e.g. the logbook, the service history, MOT certificates and vehicle provenance check) so that you are fully aware of its history.
Put everything in writing
For anything that’s agreed with a business in relation to a vehicle purchase, it should be written down in a formal document, letter or e-mail. That way, if a dispute arises, you have proof of everything that was discussed. Without this, even if the garage or dealer is accredited to The Motor Ombudsman, it may be very difficult to deliver an adjudication outcome in anyone’s favour, as it is ultimately your word against that of the business, with neither party having any evidence to support their case.
Fuel for thought
What you plan to use the car for, and the mileage that you will be looking to cover each year, will help to determine whether you opt for a traditional petrol or diesel-engined vehicle, or a hybrid/plug-in hybrid or fully electric model. For the latter, find out what the charging cost and range is, whether it’s possible to have a charging socket installed where you live, or how far away the nearest point is, so that you know how practical it would be to own and run the vehicle in line with your lifestyle.
It warrants knowing your warranty
New cars come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which covers the cost of repairing any manufacturing defects which arise during the warranty period – this is usually for a set number of years or miles. Once this expires, it’s possible to take out an extended warranty agreement for an additional cost. Before buying one, it’s important to know what is and what isn’t covered by the agreement in the event of a claim and what you need to do in order to keep the policy valid, even when making payments. This includes following the recommended servicing schedule for your car.
Figure out how much you can afford
Car buyers have lots of different ways to finance a vehicle, so it’s important that you choose an agreement which is right for you and your circumstances. Make sure to read the agreement in full before signing on the dotted line to understand whether the deposit, the monthly instalments and the interest rate that you will be paying meet your budget, plus any obligations from your side, like staying within an agreed mileage limit. At the end of the agreement, you could have a few options such as giving the car back to the finance company, paying a final payment so you become the owner, or using it in part-exchange. With other agreements, such as Personal Contract Hire, you may not have the option of purchasing the vehicle at the end, so always check to make sure the finance product you choose is suitable for your needs.
Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman, said: “It’s easy to get caught up in the festive spirit and to act on impulse if you find what looks like a good deal. However, when it comes to buying a car, which is known to be a significant purchase, it’s important, regardless of the time of year, that motorists take the opportunity to do the necessary due diligence. It will ultimately give them the peace of mind that they have ticked the crucial boxes and that their money has been well spent.”