Car Owning Advice

Government Car Owning Advice

The goverment publishes information advising you about buying new and second hand cars in the UK, as well as information that you need to know about owning a car. The following information is supplied by the government-run site Consumer Gateway (all material below is copyrighted)
Driving a car is something that millions of us do on a daily basis without giving it a second thought but the whole process of owning, running, buying and selling cars is far from simple and there are several pitfalls ready to swallow up the unwary car owner.

Buying new from a dealer can be less hazardous than, for example, buying second hand at auction but it is always worth shopping around and making sure you know what you are looking for. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) website and the Automobile Association (AA) website both have advice and guidance for anyone buying a new car.

The TSI publishes a series of consumer advice leaflets which you can also get hold of through the Internet. These include a guide to guarantees and extended warranties. You'll also find help on the OFT site about what to look for if you're offered an extended warranty.

Buying a used car

Buying a second-hand car can be more risky than buying new, particularly for people who don't know very much about cars. The OFT site explains the key differences between buying a second-hand car from a dealer, a private seller or at an auction.

The OFT and RAC sites all have guides to buying used cars which take you through the whole process and include checklists on what to look for. The AA offers a vehicle inspection service and the RAC offers a vehicle examination service.

Citizens Advice and the TSI have sites which tell you what your rights are when you buy a second-hand car and where to go for help if something goes wrong.

Cars that have been 'clocked', 'cut and shut', written-off or stolen

Selling a car with a false mileage reading (known as 'clocking') is fraudulent and 'cutting and shutting' is when two damaged cars are welded together to make one, almost certainly dangerous, car.

If the car you are hoping to buy has ever been written off by an insurance company, belongs to a finance company or has been stolen, you might lose your money.

The OFT and Citizens Advice all have information on their sites to help you spot whether the car you are hoping to buy has been stolen, written off or tampered with. If you are concerned, the AA can run a used-car data check for you for a fee and the RAC can run a vehicle status check.

Car safety

The AA website has information on the European New Car Assessment Programme. The programme carries out a series of tests on cars simulating accidents which result in serious injury or death. You can view the results for superminis, small-family and family cars and executive cars.

The Department for Transport website has advice on the precautions you should take to ensure that the tyres on your vehicle are safe.

The website for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), includes a factsheet on seatbelts and child restraints.

Disabled car drivers

The Mobility Advice and Vehicle Information Service runs a centre providing practical advice on driving, adapting a car or choosing a suitable vehicle for drivers and passengers with restricted mobility, like the elderly or people with disabilities. The information is free but fees are charged for assessments. You can contact the centre through their website for up-to-date details of the charges.

The Car pages of the Citizens Advice website provide information on driving tests for candidates with special needs and the voluntary organisation the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) has a site where you can find all sorts of disability-related driving information, including details of the Orange Badge scheme and where you might be able to get help with the cost of buying your car.

Importing a car 

If you're thinking of importing a car into the UK from abroad, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website can tell you all you need to know, for example what papers you need and how and where to apply for vehicle registration.

Insuring your car

The Association of British Insurers is the trade association for insurance companies and represents virtually the whole of the UK insurance company market. The information on the Association's website tells you what to look for when you are insuring your car either for use at home or for driving overseas.

There are a large number of car insurers out there, so it is worth shopping around to try to get he best price. Some suggestions are:

Direct Line

Eagle Star

Owning and driving a car

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has a Drivers' Homepage which covers all the aspects of getting and having a licence, including what penalty points mean, what the medical rules are, how much your licence will cost and learning to drive.

The Driving Standards Agency website has information on learning to drive safely and passing your driving test. The car pages of the Citizens Advice website has advice on who to get in touch with if you are not happy with the way your driving test was conducted.

Renting a car

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) represents about 80% of firms which rent or lease vehicles and will investigate any complaints about one of its members. The Association also offers a conciliation service if you are unable to settle a dispute with a rental agency. Contact details are given on their website.

Servicing and car repairs

Citizens Advice and the TSI both give advice and guidance on their websites on the kind of problems you are likely to encounter when you are getting your car serviced or repaired and what to do if something goes wrong.

The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) has a national conciliation service which can help you if you have an unresolved dispute with one of their member garages.

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