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.
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.