Used car shock: Buyers ignore test drives; sellers dread selling

Used car buying

One in 10 car buyers don’t drive their new car until they’ve actually bought it

Used car buying can be a stressful business while selling can be equally nerve-wracking. It’s probably hardly surprising that the majority of us dread getting rid of our existing cars. And nearly a million car buyers don’t even bother test driving the car that they do buy.

According to a new survey of 1000 car owners, 10 per cent of used car buyers had handed over their money without even starting their new car’s engine, let alone driving it. And slightly more than 10 per cent of new car buyers didn’t bother test driving their new wheels. With 9.8 million cars sold in the UK in 2015, that’s around 980,000 drivers whose first acquaintance with their new car was on the drive home after handing over the money.

Why is a road test important?

The government’s Money Advice Service says: “A car should be test driven and inspected before purchase. And this is doubly important for a used car, particularly if you’re buying privately.” Starting the engine and then driving a car can uncover a multitude of sins. At the most basic level, it will tell you that all the dashboard warning lights go out when they’re supposed to. You also need to know that the engine starts and runs properly without blowing out the sort of smoke that indicates an impending expensive and possibly terminal failure.

A test drive is your chance to check the brakes and make sure they stop the car smartly without pulling to one side. And taking to the road in a car gives you the opportunity to reassure yourself that there aren’t any unexpected clanks or rattles that will either reveal something’s about to break, irritate you beyond belief, or both.

The research was carried out by which found that one in three buyers weren’t confident that they would know what to look for, even if they did take a test drive. Only 15 per cent of those asked took a friend or family member on a test drive while only seven per cent took someone who knew about cars and less than five per cent took an expert. Rich Evans, head of technical services for, said: “There are some simple checks everyone should make which could save them money in the long run.”

Find out how to test drive a used car

Why do people find used car buying stressful?

According to new research nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of drivers ‘dread’ selling their car. More than a third fear they’ll be ripped off. The reason is there is little consistency over the price paid by dealers for cars. Al Taylor, CEO of online sales platform Tootle, said: “The prices offered by dealers on a car can vary dramatically depending how desirable that particular model is to their customer base and it’s this inconsistency in pricing that can make consumers feel like they’re being ripped off.

“Our research also suggests that sellers get a below market price from car buying services or part-exchanging with a single dealer because the car will end up being put through auction – the cost of which is deducted from the offer price.”

The Tootle study of 1000 people found that 68 per cent of women dreaded the thought of selling their car, compared to 53 per cent of men. It claims 40 per cent of women fear being ripped off compared to 28 per cent of men.

Follow our expert tips to ensure you know exactly what your used car is worth

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