Third of used-car buyers have ‘bought a lemon’ AA Cars research shows


  • Quarter say their car suffered mechanical problems
  • 11% of used cars have been in a crash

A third (30%) of buyers say they have been misled about past problems with a used car they have bought, according to new research* among AA members, in the latest ‘State of the Nation’s Cars’ report by AA Cars.

Nearly a quarter (23%) say they suspected their car had mechanical or other faults about which they were misled at the time of the sale.

In addition, another 11% of buyers suspect that their car had been involved in an accident during an earlier ownership, according to the AA/Populus research among over 19,000 car-buying respondents.

David Bruce, director of AA Cars says: “It’s startling that so many people believe they have bought a ‘lemon’ of a used car.

“Earlier research conducted by AA Cars has shown that a third of people find buying a car a stressful experience and not knowing the history of the car you’re buying will certainly contribute to that stress.”

Other problems that buyers have discovered after buying their car include ‘clocking’ – 5% say that they found the mileage of their car was greater than that indicated on the odometer while an unfortunate 1% discovered that that the car still had outstanding finance.

“These are potentially serious issues,” Mr Bruce points out. “Car buyers need certainty that their car doesn’t have a hidden history.

“If a car has been involved in a crash and not well repaired there could be safety implications. If there’s money still owed on the car, the finance company could claim it back, leaving the buyer with nothing but a large hole in his or her bank account.”

Ever since used cars have been sold previous owners have often tried to cover up history that might affect the value of the vehicle. But that is becoming more difficult following Office of Fair Trading recommendations into selling of used cars.*

“Buying a used car today needn’t be stressful,” says Mr Bruce.

“AA Cars has just launched an online car buying platform that aims to take out the stress and is supported by a 26-point car history check on listed cars.

“Users of AA Cars also get a discount on a full AA vehicle inspection which covers mechanical and electrical systems, body repairs and a host of safety-critical issues.

“The last thing a car buyer wants is a sour taste left once they get their new car home.”

Key findings of the research

In response to the question: Have you ever bought a used car which you later suspected had any of the following?





Mechanical or other faults about which you had been misled at the time of the sale




Been involved in an accident




Been ‘clocked’ (ie mileage wound back)




Had finance outstanding


* AA/Populus carried out research between 11-18 July 2013 and 19,949 AA members responded.  Of those, 30% (5,916) had bought a used car which they suspected of having at least one of the above problems.  66% (13,160) have bought a used car with no problems. The balance (873) had not bought a used car.



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  1. I had a terrible experience buying a used car. I had no-one with experience who could come with me, however I did have a friend who worked at a VW dealership who was available on the phone (I was buying a VW Beetle) He was able to check the vehicle’s past on the computer and he told me it didn’t quite add up. He did an HPI check and said it had been listed as a Cat D – i.e. a write off. When I asked the woman at the garage she denied it.

    I was told by my friend to do a basic check around all of the glass on the windows to see if it was original VW glass and if the year the glass was made matches up to the year the car was made. The car was an ’05 plate – the glass was 2012, on all 4 windows and the windscreen. Proof it had been written off.

    Needless to say I stayed well away, but I could’ve ended up with a lemon. I’m so glad I didn’t. Beware!