CCPC research identifies trends in consumer behaviour when buying a car

July 14, 2016


  • Background checks prior to purchase vary significantly; with 17% of consumers doing no checks at all
  • Mechanical reliability and price are the primary factors in choice
  • Car buyers checklist published to help consumers ask the right questions


The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (‘the CCPC’) has today released research analysing key consumer experiences and behaviour when buying a car. The research identifies the main considerations for consumers in choosing a car; shows there are wide variations in the checks carried out by consumers before a purchasing car and highlights that many consumers are unaware that consumer protection legislation does not apply if buying from a private seller.

Four key insights from this research are:


  • Insight One: Choosing a car

When choosing a car two-thirds (63%) of respondents visited garage forecourts with 53% considering this their most important source of information. Although 48% conducted research online, just 34% of respondents identified it as their primary source of information. Mechanical reliability (70%) and price (68%) are the two most important factors when purchasing a car, while 42% rated C02 emissions as highly important when deciding on a car.


  • Insight Two: Buying from a trader versus a private seller

63% of respondents to the survey purchased a car from an authorised dealer or independent garage while 34% purchased from a private seller. It is important to note that, although cars purchased from a private seller may be cheaper, they do not fall under consumer protection law, which means consumers do not have the same protection if something goes wrong. For example, if a car is faulty a consumer who has purchased from a private seller does not have the statutory rights of repair, replacement or refund. Significantly, 42% of respondents to the survey did not know that there was a difference in those rights when purchasing from a private seller versus purchasing from a trader.


  • Insight Three: Checks made prior to purchasing

There are a number of checks the CCPC encourages consumers to make to determine the condition of a second hand car prior to purchasing. 49% of consumers have engaged the services of a mechanic to check the car. 34% asked whether a car had previously been crashed and 23%, asked whether the odometer reading was genuine. Just 18% of respondents surveyed checked if there was outstanding finance on the car. If a car has outstanding finance owed, the legal owner of the car is the bank or finance company that provided the finance and therefore it could be repossessed. Finally, 17 % of respondents who had bought a second hand car in the past five years did no checks at all prior to purchasing.


  • Insight Four: Financing a car

From paying cash, to getting a personal loan or buying a car on finance, there are many ways to finance a car. 54% of respondents to the survey planned how much they were going to spend and how they would finance their car prior to choosing their last car, while 46% chose the car first. 56% of respondents used their own resources to fully pay for their last car, while 16% used a credit union loan to pay for the full amount. In reviewing finance options, 61% of respondents compared interest rates while 45% compared the total cost of finance and 39% compared the monthly repayment figures.

In 2015, the CCPC received just over 3,500 contacts in relation to car buying. When a consumer buys a new or second hand car from a trader, they have rights under consumer law. This means that the car should be of reasonable, acceptable quality given the age, cost and history of the car; it should also be fit for the purpose intended and roadworthy. In addition, it should match the description of the car given verbally or in the advertisement. Even though consumer protection legislation places these requirements on traders, consumers should also ensure that they seek the relevant information and do the necessary checks to ensure they are getting what they pay for. This research highlights that there is a relatively high level of awareness of checking the documentation/service history of a car, however, questions relating to whether the car had previously been crashed, enquiring whether the mileage is correct and checking if there is any outstanding finance on the car do not feature as highly.

The publication of today’s research coincides with the commencement of a dedicated car checks campaign run by the CCPC. The campaign reminds consumers to make sure that they do the necessary checks prior to buying a car. The most important check is to find out about the condition and history of the car, so questions such as; whether the car has been crashed, whether the mileage is accurate, is there any outstanding finance on the vehicle and has there been any major mechanical work been done, are all very important. To help consumers the CCPC has produced a dedicated car buyer’s checklist providing all of the important questions to ask.


Research Methodology

This research was conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes (B&A) in April 2016 on behalf on the CCPC through the B&A face-to- face barometer survey of 1,008 adults and through online surveys of 350 adults who had purchased a car in the past 5 years. Respondents were questioned on the considerations they took into account and the checks they carried out prior to buying their last car.


Return to News

Join our mailing list

Sign up for the latest CCPC news:

Read our privacy statement

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?