Second hand car concerns

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LETTER OF THE DAY: HGV battle is won. Pity PCC didn’t tell us

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I’ve seen a car advertised for sale and it’s the model I want at the price that suits me. It’s described as being in excellent condition and the seller says everything is in working order. Do I have any protection or redress if I buy privately and then find there is something wrong?

NM (email)

A No. You are buying entirely at your own risk.

As the car has been described as being in ‘excellent condition’ it should at least be roadworthy, but everything else can be a lie.

You didn’t say how much you were thinking of paying for the car. Buying a used car is not like buying a new one. When you buy a used car its condition only has to be compatible with age and mileage.

In practice that means if the clutch or some other major component fails within even weeks of purchase, you could be left to foot an expensive bill. Keep this in mind before you shell out too much money on the initial purchase.

Are there ways to give you added protection? Yes, but both will cost more money.

You might be able to approach one of the extended warranty companies and lash out on a policy if the car meets the age limitations for this type of insurance. It’s likely to be eye-wateringly expensive if you want to cover failure of most of the car’s major wear and tear components.

Much cheaper is to have it inspected for major defects by a specialist mechanic from one of the motoring organisations so you know in advance whether you’re buying a pig in a poke.

Expect to pay around £200. For another £20 or so you can obtain proof of ownership, mileage, and whether there is any unpaid finance outstanding.

Q Can I ask if you are able to advise on the best pet insurance for my dog please?

KH (email)

A This is a highly complex area, as you might expect. What is best for one owner may not be for another. As usual it all depends on just what you are prepared to spend, and what cover you require.

If you are to cover most vet bills, you’ll need to have very deep pockets.

The price goes up with the age of the pet, not all medical conditions are covered, and policies are typically riddled with exclusions.

All I can suggest is that you first decide on what cover you want for your pet (most people are concerned about serious accidents or long-term illness) and decide what you can afford. The internet is the best source of comparing policies and prices.

Sorry I can’t be more specific.

Q Is there anything to stop me selling my own home privately and am I legally obliged to go through an estate agent?

GH (email)

A No, and you don’t have a legal obligation to use an estate agent if you don’t want to.

You might be able to make considerable savings, but the down side is you’ll have to do all your own advertising and promotion, comply with the law of descriptions and energy ratings as if you were an estate agent, and be prepared to show prospective buyers around at the drop of a hat.

A bit of a tall order unless you’re retired and have some time on your hands.

Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.