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Wed, 03/15/2017 - 09:27 -- sdukbewiser

How can you check that the nearly-new car you are buying isn’t a second-hand hire car?

Wed, 15/03/2017
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How can you check that the nearly-new car you are buying isn’t a second-hand hire car?

Understanding the details of a vehicle before committing to a purchase is must. But what if your potential new set of wheels was a previous hire car? Would that swing your decision?

Rob Hull, The Mail Online, report:

Buying a nearly-new car is a tempting proposition for many, with big savings on the cost of a showroom fresh vehicle - but what if that one previous owner wasn't just a single driver but a series of hire car customers?

That was the case with the story of Ashley Rumbold this week, who found out his second-hand Alfa Romeo bought from an approved dealer was formerly a Hertz hire car, probably driven by numerous people with little concern for its mechanical well-being.

While consumer protection laws stipulate that used car dealers cannot create 'a misleading impression about the previous usage of a vehicle', retailers are still failing to highlight if a car was previously used by a hire firm, or for fleet purposes, as this case demonstrated.

Rumbold's complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency has triggered the possibility of a government inquiry into the transparency of the used-car market. But what can you do to avoid being faced with the same problem when buying second-hand?

Rob Hull, of This is Money, says: The inherent risk of buying any second-hand car is that you never really know the full story behind it.

Has it been in an accident, poorly maintained or thrashed by a former keeper? There are ways of finding some of these answers through various checks and plenty of scrutiny of documentations, but you're very unlikely to ever know if a car has been treated with a genuine gentle touch or driven by people with concrete feet.

Some see 'nearly new' cars as one way of limiting the issue of an unknown history.

Usually sold as having 'one previous owner', they're under a year old, have usually covered less than 10,000 miles and are much cheaper than buying new. Less risk, you might think.

But these are the ones likely to have a hidden past as a hire car or fleet model the salesman is reluctant to tell you about.

On paper, a nearly new car with one registered keeper sounds like a great deal, especially when you compare it to one that's slightly older and has more previous owners listed.  

However, many of these 'one previous owner' cars haven't been driven by an individual motorist; a good proportion of vehicles listed as 'nearly new' are in fact ex-hire cars or former business fleet vehicles that have come to the end of their lease agreements, as Mr Rumbold found out with his Alfa Romeo.

These lease contracts tend to be based on strict age and mileage restrictions - usually terminating after seven to nine months for hire cars, according to Auto Trader. 

Once a model reaches a predetermined limit at the hands of holidaymakers and company car drivers they bow out of duty to be re-sold on the second-hand market.

Some are offered as part of manufacturer's approved schemes while others are snapped up by large used-car supermarkets offering them at discounted rates.  

How do I check who owned the car before?

There's very little you can do to avoid this, other than checking the V5 registration document, which will list the former keeper's details on the log book.

Before making any commitment to purchase, ask to see the V5 document to check the validity of the 'one previous owner' claim and the name of the registered keeper or business.

If it's the latter and you don't recognise the name, do your research and try to identify the company to check if it has links to hire firms or fleet operations.

We spoke to the DVLA to find out if there is any other way of checking for previous owners, with a spokesman telling us that a V5C document was the sole method of checking former keepers.

The DVLA does have the capacity to check a vehicle's former owners, but only based on 'reasonable cause', which includes finding out who was involved in an accident or to trace an abandoned car - certainly not to check if it was once a hire vehicle.

Nearly new isn't all bad, but do some checks

One bit of peace of mind is that all hire and fleet cars would almost certainly have been maintained by a franchised dealer and have a water-tight service record as part of their lease agreement.

That means any replacement parts will be genuine manufacturer-recommended items fitted by qualified mechanics, with service intervals strictly adhered to that should ensure there are no significant mechanical issues.

Check the consumables on the car, such as the tyres and brakes pads and discs - these should all have signs of life left in them or been replaced at the end of the lease term.

If you are buying used approved, the dealer should have done a full condition report and replaced anything that needs doing. Ask to see this and check it carefully.

One other think that you should inspect closely on any nearly new car is the paint - many leased vehicles and hire cars would have been through car washes on a regular basis, which can have an impact on the longevity of the paintwork.

Panels are likely to have been replaced if someone's had a scrape in the vehicle too, so make sure you look for any signs of fading and check the plastic bumpers match the colour of the other panels.

Although there are plenty of positives when it comes to considering a buying a ex-hire car, it’s worth noting the negatives too. Unfortunately, drivers tend to take less care when driving hire cars compared their own, meaning it’s a good idea to be cautious!

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