Second hand cars: do you know the full story?

What would your reaction be if you found out something you’d spent a substantial amount of money on, wasn’t all it appeared?

This month, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer will appear on the BBC program ‘Inside Out: North West’ which will feature a short story about vehicle write offs, and the risks drivers are unwittingly taking when purchasing second hand vehicles.

Modern day cars have to be efficient and lightweight. In order to achieve this, manufacturers had to step away from using mild steel − which could be repaired using skills honed from the time the first coaches were constructed − to high strength metals. These developments mean that new techniques, materials and skills are required when repairing structural damage.

Seemingly cars that were once classed as vehicle write offs have been given a second lease of life and are finding their way back onto our roads. Unless these vehicles have been repaired by an approved body shop, the chance that they are structurally safe is brought into question. This is due to the fact that the four categories used to class a vehicle as a write off, is part of a voluntary code and can be interpreted in different ways.

John said: “I discovered that many structurally damaged vehicles were being repaired by people who didn’t possess the necessary skills, materials or equipment to carry out these repairs.

“Currently, there are four categories of vehicle write offs. If a car is classed as a category A or B, it should be crushed, category C and D cars can be repaired and returned to our roads. I think that if a car is structurally damaged it should either be a write off or not, but Category B cars can be found on many online auction sites and sold second hand. The process should be that simple. If it is a write off, the car should be crushed so it can never see the light of day. If it’s not a write off, it should be repaired by a British Standard PAS125 approved body shop and nowhere else.”

“A car or any other type of vehicle helps many of us get from A to B. We rely on them to get us there safely, and hope that if we are involved in a collision the vehicle acts as it’s meant to in order to protect its passengers.”

“I urge people to check the history of the cars they are buying. For instance, in some circumstances sellers are putting the cars up for sale specifying they’re vehicle write offs. If you see these markers please ensure they have been appropriately repaired by a qualified body shop. The British Standard PAS125 is a good indicator of this.”


“I hope the program that’s aired on the BBC gives everyone food for thought when it comes to buying second hand cars.”


BBC Inside Out: North West airs on BBC One at 7.30pm on 2 February.

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