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Lee Wolstenholme's blog: Addressing the so-called ex-fleet used car scandal

Date: 19 January 2018

The media is widely reporting on private used car buyers standing a good chance of being refunded potentially up to their vehicle's full sale price, if it's identified that the one previous owner was a rental firm, finance company or organisation running it as a company car. A used car dealer having knowingly misled customers is at the core of the issue.

Following a case involving FCA and Alfa Romeo, the ASA has ruled that retailers must provide full details in their vehicle inventories and other communications, leaving prospective buyers under no illusions that multiple drivers may have been behind the wheel of a certain car or van.

While full transparency is something to be embraced in the automotive and any other industry, arguments can be made against the ASA's assertion that such vehicles are more likely to have been subjected to wear and tear.

In the case of company vehicles leased on contract hire, the BVRLA sets out clear guidelines on the condition in which they are to be returned at the end of their contracts to avoid the lessor facing sometimes quite punitive de-hire damage charges. Particularly when it comes to cars, even minor blemishes are deemed unacceptable by some funders, so a growing number of organisations stress responsible behaviour and care in their fleet policies.

Former lease vehicles will have been serviced in accordance with their manufacturers' stipulations, recalls will have been effected and fleet managers will in many cases have ensured that other problems or damage will have been addressed promptly. After all, they have a duty of care over their drivers.

A large percentage of lease deals are set with annual mileage limits of 5,000 or 8,000 miles, reassuring potential buyers that clocking or intergalactic distances simply aren't matters for concern. Furthermore, contract hire agreements typically span three years, meaning that many former company cars and vans will still be under their manufacturers' warranties, affording additional peace of mind.

Ex-rental vehicles are admittedly slightly different in that hundreds of different people could potentially have driven them, and firms have historically had much less robust control over how such cars and vans are driven. The days of customers enjoying abusing rental vehicles by driving them irresponsibly are coming to an end, though, partly because of the increased use of telematics.

By fitting black boxes to their cars and vans, rental firms are able to observe in real-time how their vehicles are being driven, from speed, time of day and geographical area to acceleration and braking behaviour and other variables.

It's also not uncommon for rental firm staff to be remunerated partly based on the condition the vehicles under their remit are kept in, incentivising them to ensure that customers and colleagues alike show a responsible attitude.

Although many people lead busy lives, used car buyers should do as much homework and possible and not be afraid to ask to see detailed documentation. Complete transparency being enforced via the ASA's ruling is entirely positive and ex-fleet cars represent well-maintained bargains in many cases, so hopefully the coming months will see some balance naturally resulting from this scandal.

Lee Wolstenholme is managing director of Vehicle Consulting



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