Revealed: the reasons why no one wants to buy your car

Revealed: the reasons why no one wants to buy your car

Got a used car that you’re struggling to shift? That could be because of the one time you forgot to get it serviced – or even because it smells – according to a survey by the AA.

Out of the 18,741 AA members questioned, nearly a quarter (24%) have backed out of buying a secondhand car because it pongs of wet dog fur, children’s sick or stale cigarettes – while 38% were put off by the car’s history. This could be a missed service or receipts suggesting regular costly repairs.

Interestingly, the survey also discovered the people in Wales are fussier over things like bodywork than those in London, with 41% of respondents in Wales being put off by bodywork compared to 33% in London – presumably because those of us in the capital are more likely to experience the occasional scrape.

Managing Director of AA Cars, Paul Yates, said: “Buying a used car shouldn’t mean buying a bad car but there are simple checks you can do, whether you’re buying through a dealer or privately.

“Ask to see the service history, and if it’s incomplete or shows lots of repair work, that could be a warning sign. A history check will also rule out insurance write-offs and stolen cars.

“If you’re unsure if a car is in good mechanical condition or not, it’s worth having an independent inspection carried out through a reputable company such as the AA, or buy through a dealer who has independently inspected cars. From our experience, an independent inspection allays most fears and ensures complete transparency when buying from a dealer.”


I’ve been there – on several occasions. Spotted a car for sale on eBay, thought it looked perfect, travelled to take a look at it (often with cash in my pocket) and discovered the pictures were hiding a ghastly smell or the seller’s definition of ‘full service history’ differed from mine.

The last car I bought, an old Toyota RAV4, absolutely reeked when I first looked at it. The old fella who owned it had clearly used it as a vehicle for taking his dogs out. Normally I’d be put off by a nasty smell, but I was really keen on the car, so I persevered.

On the journey home, I thought I’d made a mistake. Even with all the windows open, the smell was strong enough to make me feel sick. It was awful. But it’s amazingly easy to get rid of a nasty smell in cars. A decent hoover (using shake-and-vac – yes, it still exists) along with a spray of Oust and, finally, an ‘air-con bomb’ bought off the internet worked wonders. The latter worked amazingly – I’d noticed the smell got worse with the heater on, but £10 and 10 minutes invested on an air-con bomb really got rid of the smell.

The result? I got a good deal on a car no one else wanted because it stunk – so if you’re buying, use it as a negotiating point. If you’re selling, it’s really easy to get rid of smells and well worth the money on a few cleaning products. Don’t be naive – even if you can’t smell it, if you’ve been carrying animals in the car or smoking in it, potential buyers will notice.

Andrew Brady

The survey also found that more than a third (34%) of respondents in the East Midlands have been put off by an interior in poor condition – but Londoners aren’t as picky, with 28% citing this as a reason why they’ve missed out on a used car.

Web editor at Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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