Today sees the publication of the RAC Report on Motoring 2001 'Motoring choices - pressure or preference?' which records the changing habits and opinions of the UK motorist from the way they drive to what they drive and their views on road transport in general.
Alongside the data on car safety measures, public transport, congestion and the environment, topics touched on include those central to the concerns to the motor retailing market.
Here AM online brings together the main points from the report relating to the new and used car markets and servicing.
Just under half (47%) of all regular motorists had bought a new or used car in the past two years, consistent with the average ownership of 4.7 years. Of these, 34% were bought new and 66% used. Most bought one new (19%) or one used car (46%) while 13% bought one new and one used car.
The total number of used cars sold is 6m, averaged over the last two years. Most are purchased from used car dealers, while a friend or relative is the second favourite source.
Greatest concerns about buying a used car
The greatest concern of buyers of cars aged up to two years was wether the vehicle had been involved in an accident (19%). But of greater relevance to the industry was the 18% who were worried about mileage, possibly because this is the typical age for company cars to come onto the market.
As the car become older, reliability become a greater concern (17%), as does the condition of the bodywork (11%). When a car is bought from a used car dealer there is often concern about the availability of a service history (5%).
19% of those who bought a used car from a dealer took out an extended warranty (over six months).
Only 10% of buyers of a used car have it independently inspected or tested – 15% when the car is bought privately and 7% when the car is bought from a dealer. 4% of buyers of cars up to four years old and 12% of buyers of olders cars get an independent test.
Drivers are most likely to get their car checked by a friend or relative (48%) especially if they buy their car privately or buy an older car. After they have had the car inspected, 80% go on to buy the car and the remainder used the opportunity to renegotiate the price or have remedial work done.
Who inspected the car?
Friend or relative: 48%
Local mechanic: 14%
Other garage: 10%
Cash remains the most likely way to pay for a car with over half of buyer choosing this method (42% new cars, 68% used). More than two thirds of used cars are financed this way.
For cars costing up to £3,000, 85% of buyers pay outright by cash. Cash is also a major source of funding when purchasing cars costing between £3,000 and £20,000, although this is more likely to be backed by a loan (14% new cars, 8% used).
Companies are the main purchasers of cars over £20,000 and the proportion of cars bought on contract hire rises to 14%.
Impact of proposed change to VED
The changes to VED are beginning to have an affect on drivers' purchasing behaviour – 6% have changed and a further 15% are considering a change, mainly to smaller or more fuel efficient cars. A small number have switched or are planning to switch fuel (5%), either gas or to or from diesel.
However the low awareness of the move to base tax on CO2 emissions means the proposed change has probably not yet had any significant impact on drivers' behaviour.
Only 5% of drivers had considered buying a car which runs on alternative fuel when they were making their last car purchase.
DIY car safety checks
Drivers are not very conscientious in making checks on the tyres, oil level, lights or water level. Most manufacturers recommend that these simple checks should be done weekly or at least each time the car is refuelled, but only one in five drivers follows this recommendation. A similar number make the checks when they feel they are necessary, while one in 20 never check the tyres, oil or water.
One in six – equivalent to more than 4m – never checks their lights.
Disabled drivers, with a greater dependency on their cars, are more conscientious and are more likely to check these items every week.
For 92% of new car owners the timing of the service is determined by schedules: time, mileage or by the manufacturer. Used car owners are more pragmatic, relying on their feeling that something is needed (20%), the MoT test is due (14%) or waiting till something goes wrong (8%).
Reflecting motorists' high dependence on their cars, the main reason for servicing is to maintain the car's reliability, ensuring that it always works first time and does not break down (64%).
This reason becomes more important as the car gets older. Safety is important for one in four drivers, whatever the age of the car.
Drivers of newer cars are more concerned about maintaining the value of their car, conforming to manufacturers' recommendations and maintaining their warranty cover.
Where the car is serviced
As cars get more complex and subject to greater legislation on safety and pollution, there is a steady trend towards using a dealer, whether franchised or not, at the expense of relying on a friend or acquintance or do it yourself.
Service by main dealer: 36%
Serviced by garage/workshop: 33%
Service centre: 2%
Mobile service unit: 3%
Main dealer for different make: 2%
The average number of services and repairs appears to be falling – this year it is 1.26 services (compared with 1.35 last year) and 0.67 repairs (compared with 0.69). This reflects improved reliability and manufacturers' longer servicing schedules.
The annual number of services rises in the first three years when the car does relatively high mileages, then falls to four to six year age group as the car's second owner tends to do less mileage. It then rises again for older cars where the benefits of longer service intervals have not yet worked their way through and the car becomes less reliable.
Satisfaction with servicing remains high, with a slightly higher net satisfaction among motorists who use a non-franchised workshop compared with those using a franchised dealer.
Drivers of new cars are concerned about the connection between servicing outside the franchised dealer network and the use of manufacturers' parts. Two-thirds of new car drivers (69%) say it is important to fit manufacturers'. Only half (47%) of used car drivers and a quarter (28%) of drivers who use service centres share that concern.
Drivers of all ages and types of cars agreed that cars should be checked regularly for harmful exhaust emissions, with 85% agreeing and only 7% disagreeing. The tests should preferably be done at a garage (77%)or special emission centre (11%).
A third of drivers (34%) think the test should be free and slightly more (37%) are prepared to pay up to £10.
For a full summary of the report visit www.rac.co.uk