What do motorists get from the RAC Approved Buysure dealer scheme?

Would you expect a RAC Approved Buysure dealer to sell a £9000 car with significant safety failings?

caroline_mini_1When Caroline bought a £9000 car from a RAC Approved Buysure dealer in 2014 she didn’t expect things to go wrong.

When they did, almost straight away, involving deficient tyres and brakes, she expected the dealer, the RAC or their 6 month warranty scheme to take care of her.

When none of them did, over time, she was understandably angry.

After joining us she asked us to check this scheme out and tell her story so women drivers like her might learn from her expensive experience.

We needed to be cautious here of course. Knowing that Citizens Advice receive more than 80,000 complaints a year about used cars and the RAC is a big business that trades on its reputation for trust, surely their scheme must be one of the best there is?

Maybe Caroline’s experience was a one off? But could there be flaws to the RAC Approved Buysure vehicle preparation standard where unscrupulous car dealers are concerned?

We decided to take on Caroline’s case and find out how the RAC goes about its Buysure approved used car dealer business.

We started by putting her lengthy story to the RAC for our own peace of mind, giving them time to look at this again and see what they could do for us.

Their brief reply (below & inaccurate about the finances and brakes) made their lack of customer concern clear and contained a sentence that worried us. Their Head of Media Relations told me that…

“…the Buysure scheme does not replace the buyer’s obligation to ensure the car is bought as advertised and they are satisfied about its condition at the time of sale.”

This, in a nutshell remains the essence of Caroline’s predicament. If an RAC Approved Buysure dealer doesn’t have to check that a car is sold as advertised and is satisfied with its condition at the time of sale, how does the RAC police the quality standards it promotes to motorists otherwise?

Put another way, perhaps motorists might be better off paying for a used car check to verify the financial and mechanical state of the car in question? And saving the equivalent of any warranty payment to go towards the cost of repairing any future failings themselves?

In Caroline’s case, she bought her dream £9000 car via the Auto Trader website because it was advertised by a RAC Approved Buysure dealer who confirmed the car had a MOT and had been serviced. On the strength of this she travelled 90 miles there and back to complete a big, important and complicated car transaction on her own (she’s a single Mum). This included Barclays car finance and the part exchange of her much loved 02 Mini before returning to collect her daughter from school. She clearly placed a lot of trust in this dealer and the RAC scheme.

Very soon after she became concerned about the car’s handling and got the Buysure papers out. These included the car’s latest MOT (see below). She then read the service handbook to see the dealer had added the cheapest possible service, simply an oil and filter change. In fact the car hadn’t had a proper service during its life – a fact which the garage in question would have known when they bought this car, cheaply for sure.

So how could any RAC Approved Buysure garage have ticked the 82 point checklist without drawing Caroline’s attention to serious safety deficiencies?

Or better still, without addressing these and having the car re-MOT tested pre-sale?

If Caroline (or any other innocent motorist) had known the £9000 car had these failings and hadn’t been regularly serviced she (and any warranty company surely) would realise that expensive bills lurked around the corner. And go elsewhere.

The RAC Approved Buysure dealer website

The RAC website says

“The RAC Approved Dealer Network has been developed to give motorists confidence and peace of mind.”

“You can purchase your next car with confidence and peace of mind”

But nowhere does the RAC accept responsibility for approved car dealer failings? Which seems odd in an unregulated industry where the actions of a few bad dealers can affect the good reputation of the many?

We then looked at the Buysure Vehicle Preparation standard which seems to a non techie like me to be as thorough as one could be.

Other than the fact this it does not have to list any MOT advisories or that a car has been regularly serviced.

But anyone can write a car check list and badge it accordingly – surely the important thing is that it is policed in some way?

How does the RAC approve their Buysure Dealer network?

We wanted to know how the RAC vet and then police their RAC Approved Buysure dealers, especially the smaller ones. This is what they say.

‘We visit our Approved Dealers at least 6 times a year to check their vehicles are prepared to our standard’

This leaves a lot of room for leeway it seems to me. Some 350 days a year, which is worrying if you are an unscrupulous car dealer using the RAC Approved Buysure scheme as a sign of quality, to lure in unsuspecting motorists like Caroline?

We then looked at the vehicle preparation checklist and documentation. Maybe this was computerised so the RAC could look out for any comments/exceptions that might raise concern? No, these are handwritten forms and we doubt that the RAC sees all of them.

Perhaps it should put a simple system in place to identify exceptions?

Perhaps they should adopt a name and shame policy – or ask us to help here?

Presumably they monitor motorist feedback too? Strangely this didn’t happen re Caroline?

Caroline’s experience of the RAC Approved Buysure scheme

Here is Caroline’s story.

In April 2014 Caroline, a mum with two daughters and living in Norwich, found her dream Mini automatic convertible when car shopping at the Auto Trader website. The car was being sold by RAC Approved Dealer (no longer on their network), Whinbush Garage in Letchworth Garden City.

Caroline was happy because an RAC Approved Dealer was reputable and the car was part of the RAC BuySure scheme including a six month warranty, presumably based on the 82 point vehicle preparation checklist? She raised the car finance she needed from Barclays to complete the £9000 purchase price for her new and shiny silver Mini Convertible automatic.

The salesman had confirmed the car had a recent MOT and had been serviced by them so she felt sufficiently confident about things.

caroline_MOTJust two weeks later she was unhappy about the Mini’s tyre grip in a local car park. At that stage she dug out the paperwork Whinbush had supplied. This contained the scanned MOT certificate stating sdvisories on it. All tyres were clearly in a poor condition and were close to the legal limit. One had a nail in it. (The BuySure Checklist said ‘normal wear’).

She then saw for the first time that Whinbush had indeed ‘serviced’ the car but this was the cheapest variety, namely an oil and filter change. Looking through the service handbook she saw the car had not had a full service at any stage of its history. Undoubtedly Whinbush knew this but failed to tell her.

Caroline got the car checked locally in Norwich to be told the tyres were no longer legal/safe. She bought a complete set of new like-for-like Pirelli runflats for £662. There was no longer any sign of the stated nail. Had the tyre been repaired?

The car was also ‘juddering’ and this was finally identified as the brakes yet Whinbush had ticked ‘Particular attention to the operation of clutch, transmission, steering, suspension and brakes including ABS’ on the Buysure checklist? This bill came to £190.36.

When asked about all this, Whinbush offered to replace the tyres at Caroline’s cost with a cheap Wanly brand she had never heard of. They dismissed the brakes invoice as wear and tear (as did the warranty company) but shouldn’t the RAC Buysure Scheme require safety items to be rectified and re-MOT’d pre sale?

All this time the car had been within a 6 month RAC Warranty, presumably secured because of the RAC certificate confirming the car had been prepared to the RAC 82-point approved preparation standard. We believe Caroline would have been within her reasonable rights to challenge the dealer within the Sale Of Goods Act if only to rectify the safety shortcomings and get a new MOT.

But she didn’t know of this, she was on her own and she trusted and expected the RAC to do the honourable thing by her.

To cut a long story short, Caroline involved as many parties as possible to help her get the car restored to the condition she expected it to be in, for the price she paid.

She wanted the RAC to inspect it, service it and pay for the tyres and brake repair.

The RAC accepted no responsibility despite their Buysure vehicle preparation scheme being a contributory factor here. They simply referred her to their Warranty scheme (operated by The Warranty Group) for the brakes claim knowing this would be dismissed due to their wear and tear terms.

Caroline was able to negotiate a goodwill gesture of £150 from Barclays which they deducted from Whinbush. She also received an ex gratia payment of £150 from a sympathetic lady at The Warranty Group who confirmed they were removing Whinbush from their warranty scheme.

Persevering with the RAC’s unsympathetic Head of Customer Care she was eventually offered a further £362 ‘in full and final settlement’ of any future claim against them. She would then have had the tyres paid for.

But she wanted the RAC to inspect and service her car instead, to give her the peace of mind she expected when she bought the car in the first place. They refused to do this, she felt a nuisance in her dealings with them and this matter is still unresolved.

The costs

Caroline has incurred costs of more than £10300 for the Mini that continues to let her down.

She received a total of £300 in compensation (from Barclays and The Warranty Group) but did not accept the £362 the RAC offered her because she still wants them to inspect and fully service her car instead.

These costs are
+ £9000 for a car that did not meet RAC BuySure vehicle preparation standards.
+ £662 for safety related new runflat tyres
+ £190 for safety-related brake repairs
+ a growing 50 hours of her (and our) time

Caroline has involved Citizens Advice, Trading Standards, the ASA, the Used Car Guy and finally FOXY Lady Drivers Club.

The RAC’s Buysure reply

“The RAC’s BuySure scheme aims to give buyers greater confidence in purchasing cars from RAC approved dealers as vehicles are prepared to the BuySure 82-point standard and come with at least three months’ RAC breakdown and RAC Warranty cover.

As the independent dealer Caroline bought her car from failed to meet its obligations under the BuySure scheme and then did not resolve her issues despite our requests, the RAC terminated its relationship.

However, it is important to understand that the BuySure scheme does not replace the buyer’s obligation to ensure the car is bought as advertised and they are satisfied about its condition at the time of sale.

The law in this kind of situation is clear that a buyer’s recourse is with the dealer who sold the car. Despite this the RAC made a £662 gesture of goodwill over and above its responsibilities to cover the cost of the new tyres. We are therefore very confident that we have done everything that could be reasonably expected of us to help Caroline.

As this still appears to have fallen short of her expectations the remaining options are to engage the government-backed Motor Codes organisation as an independent arbiter or to take action directly against the dealer. In the latter instance, the RAC would be happy to provide supportive evidence to help Caroline’s case.

The brake issue highlighted was declined as an RAC Warranty claim due to the fact it related to wear and tear of brake pads and discs, which are not covered under the terms of the product as they are classed as consumables. This was noticed six months after purchase meaning the wear and tear may have occurred in that time and not been evident to the dealer at the time of sale.

Simon Williams
Media Relations Manager

Our thoughts about the RAC Buysure scheme

1/ As things stand, even if the car is sold by a RAC Approved Buysure dealer, clearly the motorist is expected to check

+ the latest MOT for any serious/safety-related advisories
+ has a service history

If any used car doesn’t have a service history (and we’re talking about a £9000 car here remember) our advice is to WALK AWAY. It doesn’t matter how nice and shiny it is, it will let you down in time and any warranty company will claim a legitimate ‘wear and tear amendment.

The failing in this system is surely that a used car dealer who buys cars without service histories is able to sell them cheap without any innocent motorist realising what this means.

2/ I feel sorry for the many good RAC Approved Buysure dealers who use this marketing scheme in good faith.

If the RAC only audits Approved Dealers c6 times a year they are placing a tremendous trust on their fast growing network of used car dealers to do the right thing by their Buysure scheme during the remaining 350 days a year.

Presumably this is why Simon says ‘a buyer’s recourse is with the dealer who sold the car’ not the RAC?

This is a disappointing caveat emptor attitude for motorists to hear ie when things go wrong, you’re on your own.

In this case the dealer knew the car hadn’t been regularly serviced and failed to draw this to Caroline’s attention. She didn’t know she couldn’t rely on the Buysure scheme here.

Motorists should be able to buy a dream Mini for £9000 and expect reasonable value for money. Let’s remember, that’s all Caroline expected.

3/ Whinbush garage was clearly at fault. They didn’t just infringe the RAC Buysure standards but probably the Sale of Goods Act too.

4/ Warranty companies know that a poorly serviced car equals mechanical claims it will reject under cover of ‘wear and tear’. Maybe regular servicing should be a minimum standard for the cars they underwrite?

5/ Clearly the RAC MUST look at their Buysure scheme again to make sure other motorists don’t fall between the scheme’s cracks like Caroline.

I’d like to think they’d look at their invitation to inspect and service her car again.

Why wouldn’t they do this to give her the ‘confidence and peace of mind’ she expected, as promised, from a RAC Approved Buysure dealer?

And so I could add this as a happy ending to this sad story?

FOXY Steph

PS: If you’d like to comment here, please email me on steph@foxyladydrivers.com first.

PPS: I shall be following this story up via YouTube later this month.

PPPS: Simon William’s statement that the RAC made a £662 gesture isn’t accurate. £150 came from Whinbush via Barclays and £150 came from The Warranty Group. Caroline did not accept the £362 from the RAC because she wanted them to inspect and service her car as she’d expected them to have done at the time of handover. And even if she had accepted £662 that merely pays for the tyres she needed to replace the illegal ones. Nor is his statement about Whinbush not knowing the condition of the brakes at sale time – that’s clearly not the case if he’d checked the MOT advisories here.

Always choose the best accident repairer

FOXY Lady APPROVED ARC

During its reign (it closed in April 2014) the Office of Fair of Trading told us ‘it’s your choice’ when it comes to choosing an accident repairer for your car. But it never was, really, because at least two of the big insurers charge motorists a supplement of £200 to use one outside their ‘approved’ network.

And because the cost of insurance, the speed of a repair and access to courtesy cars are of the essence, it’s fair to say that the welcome a customer gets, should they ever need to go to an accident repairer, is not at the top of any insurer’s list.

It’s Your Female Choice

So how should a lady driver set about finding one of the best and most female friendly bodyshop repairers for herself when she wants to sort out a small car repair?

One where she feels welcome, sees a female face perhaps, finds clean and comfortable reception facilities and not in some highly off-putting industrial estates…

She wants to sort out the likes of small bodywork, alloy and interior car damage without troubling her insurer, for fear of losing any no claims bonus or seeing her premium rise even when she’s paid her excess.

Our advice is for her to do her homework re quality standards first. To look for the Kitemark in vehicle repairs, staff listed on the IMI’s Professional Register, membership of VBRA perhaps (the only scheme operated by Trading Standards Institute) or a manufacturer approved repairer.

Or join FOXY Lady Drivers Club to tell you where best to go…

Then I’d look for one that is actively courting female business by making women feel welcome (many women are highly sensitive here, wary of being criticised by men). These repairers will likely be listed at the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly bodyshop network.

Finally I’d look for businesses that have won recent accolades in Bodyshop Awards, showing that they are proud of their work and at the top of their game.

2015 British Bodyshop Award winners

Aldershot, Carl Batt – UKAARC Aldershot
Ayrshire, Bridgend Accident Repair Centre, Ayrshire
Bath, Emily Monk, Platinum Accident Repair Centre
Bishop’s Stortford, Rye Street Group
Bristol, ARC Group
Bury St Edmunds, Premier Bodyworks
Crawley, Mick Pini, UKAARC
Croydon, Jemca
Cwmbran Ford
Dagenham, Victor Silva, Fix Auto Dagenham
Dover, Jenkins & Pain*
Grantham, Emma Wilson, Just Car Clinics*
Hartlepool, K & P Anderson Brothers
Heathrow, ARC Coachworks
High Wycombe, Motorbelle,
Hull, Taylors Vehicle Repair Centre
Manchester, Scott Howarth, UKAARC Manchester
Newbury, Adrian Brown – NCR Bodyshops*
Newbury, Woodlands Bodyshop
North of England/Scotland, Pamela McIntyre/Peter Foy, L&I Eaton Group
Northern Ireland, Wrights Accident Repair Centres
South West, Paul Lousteau, Westover Group
Sunderland, Lancaster Wearside Body Repair Centre
Swindon, Just Car Clinic*
Tyne, C&C Coachworks (Tyne Tees Vehicle Repair Group)
UK – Fix Auto
Wakefield, Brian Kendrew – UKAARC Wakefield
West Lothian, AJM Spraying Services
Weybridge, DWS Bodyworks Group

*members of the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly network

Club members can always ask us for specific advice about the best accident repairer to use in their area. It’s what we’re good at remember.

FOXY Steph

Know any young drivers with disabilities?

Mobility_Roadshow_femaleGet Going Live! is a fantastic test-driving opportunity for young and novice drivers with disabilities to try out the best specialist vehicles on offer.

This is part of the Mobility Roadshow being held at Donington Park in Derbyshire between 25 to 27 June 2015.

I didn’t know that young drivers with a disability can get their driving license a year earlier than most ie at the age of 16.

Which is why Get Going Live! concentrates on those from the age of 15 and over that are keen to get behind the wheel of an accessible or adapted car.

All young visitors are invited to attend the show with their families to find out the latest advice, specialist driving tuition and specialist vehicles on offer.

Whether individuals use wheelchairs or not, Get Going Live! offers the opportunity to test drive vehicles around the historic and exciting Donington Park Motorsport circuit for free. This track is the location for the British Motorcycle Grand Prix and British Touring Car Championship so this is always a really exciting experience for young attendees.

Specialist professionals in dual-control vehicles will accompany every young driver, so they stay safe during each test drive.

Leading motor manufacturers include Ford, Vauxhall and Hyundai with their range of specialist vehicles on display in the exhibition hall and on the test track.

We recommend you pre-register for a test drive and get further information from www.mobilityroadshow.co.uk

How to deal with overtaking lorries on motorways

blindspot_graphic_700On a recent M40 journey I watched an overseas lorry in front of me pull into the centre lane of the motorway at the same time as a young driver in a Golf was overtaking it, whilst already in the centre lane. The car was lightly side-swiped; luckily the lorry driver reacted in time and the VW driver held his course but it was a VERY close run thing. I overtook both then pulled into the next service station expecting the VW driver to do the same, when I could have helped him check the car for any damage and confirm that this wasn’t his fault, but he didn’t.

So today’s driving advice from the IAM is a useful reminder that overseas drivers mightn’t be able to see us. I’m not saying that it’s good enough to accept things as they are (surely trucks should be designed with visibility in mind/they should have more/better mirrors to give them that overtaking confidence/vision?) but with advance knowledge of this and some careful planning, motorway driving and how you deal with overtaking lorries needn’t be the problem we might otherwise envisage.

Here are some tips from the IAM that I recommend you take the time to read and consider…

1/ Be aware that all lorries based within the EU are restricted to driving at 56mph so their speed is relatively predictable.

2/ If you are driving at 50mph in a lane to the right of a truck, bear in mind that the driver may need to keep to a tight delivery schedule and want to drive at 56mph. So don’t hang about or sit there.

3/ Be VERY careful when overtaking left-hand-drive lorries on UK roads as they will have very little visibility of you to their right ie where you are. Their blind spot can be quite big so again, don’t hang about and keep your wits about you throughout the manouevre.

4/ One of the ways to identify a foreign truck is if the registration plate of a lorry ahead of you is anything other than our familiar amber-coloured UK plate. Another way is to look at the pattern of mirrors on a lorry – left-hand-drive lorries will usually have a mirror pointing downwards on the right-hand side which means you can identify them more easily (UK trucks have this mirror on the left for obvious reasons.)

5/ If you can, try to see the driver’s face before you overtake them. If you cannot see it, chances are the driver will be unable to see you either.

6/ Where you can (and I am sure the Golf driver I saw on the M40 will do this for a long while), you should allow an additional lane when passing lorries (eg. go into the third lane and not just the second lane.) This means you will be less likely to be “side swiped” by a truck driver who didn’t see you. Trucks tend to create a lot of wind effect in front of and behind them causing passing vehicles to be blown around and this avoids that problem as well.

7/ Avoid making last minute manoeuvres and leave plenty of room between you and the lorry. Remember, trucks cannot react in the same way as a car can – give them space.

8/ Finally, always drive to anticipate the reactions of other motorists. If it’s taken a lorry driver ages to get up to 56mph and they are gaining on a lorry doing less they will want to overtake – I’ve seen many pull out leaving the bare minimum space between them and the next vehicle. But perhaps the vehicle behind should have seen this coming…

In short, learn to expect the unexpected when driving on motorways – this works wonders for concentration levels.

Let’s end with some wise advice from IAM’s Head of Driver Standards Peter Rodger:

“There is no reason why dealing with lorries should be a cause for worry. What would make matters a lot easier for everyone is allowing space and time for the truck driver to react and do their thing. They will appreciate it if you show them this courtesy, and make your motorway journey a far sweeter experience. Happy motoring!”

FOXY Steph

How to enjoy motoring and save money

ack: Figaro Owners Club
ack: Figaro Owners Club

We were asked to write a blog for the worthy Money Advice Service about motoring savings their readers can make.

I am more than happy to oblige as saving money with women drivers in mind is a subject dear to our hearts.

My experience is that some rich people treat cars like designer fashion. When something stops looking new or the height of fashion, they want it replaced pronto.

You don’t want to buy a car from people like this for fear they’ve neglected the car, knowing this won’t be their problem come MOT time. This is why c40% of cars and a shocking 50% of vans fail their first MOT (safety check) after just three years.

And why you really don’t want to buy one of these vehicles even if they’re cheap at the time…

However, if you buy the right car in the first place ie a value for money car that’s clearly been maintained, serviced and cared for it’ll be more reliable for longer than one with a scant service history suggesting a car that’s about to get VERY expensive to run. We call these cars lemons as they always leave a bitter taste in the mouth – and motoring memory!

But if you continue to look after your car once it moves into its mellow MOT years, it’ll last you much longer and make motoring more affordable and enjoyable into the bargain.

Tips how to cherish a family car

A cherished car is safe and reliable for longer. Here are a few money-saving tips to help women economise on motoring bills.

1 If you are the main driver, get an insurance quote from a company that specialises in female drivers and excludes boy racers. There are big savings to be made for many women.

2 If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, it still makes sense to have your car serviced once a year (because professionals can spot what’s likely to become expensive before it does) but you’ll save money, depending on the age of your car, by making do with an oil and filter change one year (cheapest formula), an interim service the next (medium cost) and a full service (the expensive one) every three years. And if you do this at the same time as the MOT ask for a half price one (saving c£27)…

3 Put a small amount of money away a month towards annual car servicing and unexpected car repair bills. You can’t run an older car without unexpected bills but if you have a ring-fenced motoring reserve to dip into this will ease the inevitable financial pain.

4 By all means shop around at MOT time but be canny. Garages aren’t regulated and mechanics don’t have to be licensed so some unscrupulous back street garages advertise MOTs for less than the cost of doing this to then rip you off. For example, a half price MOT brings in c£27 for the hour this takes. That’s not a lot to pay someone and contribute to overheads. Instead, check the garage is listed at Motor Codes or the IMI Professional Register – then you know the business has invested in being better than the rest and is unlikely to rip you off.

5 Check your tyres regularly. Illegal ones carry a fine of £2500 and 3 penalty points EACH. Choose a businesses listed at the female friendly Tyre Services Register because they’ve signed a promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell you tyres you don’t need.’ They’ll also advise you about the best buys at the time. Never buy part worn tyres – yes they’re cheap but a false economy as you don’t know where they’ve been.

6 Shop around for local fuel. Supermarkets aren’t always the cheapest/nearest and if you sign up to the PetrolPrices website they’ll tell you where your best local deals are.

I hope this helps you save money on your bills. Here’s to happy motoring for less in future.

FOXY Steph

FOXY Lady Drivers Club

A blog for women about motoring