By Ian Lewis
Citizens Advice is being inundated with requests for help from motorists experiencing problems with "dodgy" used motors, new figures reveal.
The organisation, which is launching a new drive to steer people away from buying substandard second-hand cars, said it has been alerted to 84,000 such problems over the last 12 months - making this the most complained about issue dealt with by its consumer service.
The first fortnight of September alone saw 2,519 complaints to Citizens Advice about used cars, with the vast majority (83 per cent) of gripes concerning faults such as corroded brake pipes, broken clutches and smoky engines.
Some 139 of the cars complained about were fit only for the scrapheap while four-fifths of them required essential repairs.
The charity says motorists have forked out a total £363 million on dodgy vehicles with more than half (53 per cent) of the cars complained about in September having developed a problem within just a month of being purchased.
Now Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland have joined forces with the National Trading Standards Institute to launch a new campaign aimed at putting the brakes on the problem.
Extra pressure on family finances
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "People are spending, on average, over £5,000 on a second-hand car with many drivers saving for months on end or taking out expensive finance packages in order to afford it.
"With rising day-to-day costs putting extra pressure on already tight finances, people cannot afford for such pricey purchases to go wrong.
"Not only could it cost families money but it can mean their car is off the road because it is unsafe.
"The second-hand car industry needs to put the brakes on malfunctioning motors by making sure the cars they sell are in good working order."
Important to have right knowledge
Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said: "Last year over seven million used cars were sold in the UK.
"As Citizens Advice's figures highlight, too many consumers end up footing the bill when their car needs repairs or, worse still, ends up on the scrapheap just weeks after purchase."
Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said: "In this age of austerity, it is important for consumers to have the right knowledge when buying a used car."