Organisation: Consumers’ Association
Issue: Rip-off car prices
The Consumers’ Association has been in the vanguard of the fight against
the ’rip-off’ prices paid for new cars in Britain, compared to the rest
As the Government appeared poised last week to respond to pressure by
forcing manufacturers to cut car prices, carbusters.com was launched for
those consumers who aren’t prepared to continue to pay an average of 35
per cent more than their Continental cousins. The association has found
that 70 out of the 77 most popular cars in Europe are more expensive in
the UK than in any other country.
Carbusters imports cars from Europe, delivering them to the buyer’s door
for an administration fee - the CA will not be making a profit on the
venture. Which? subscribers get a cheaper deal on the fee, and the site
gives users the opportunity to join up before buying a car.
The association has trialled the site for three months, during which 83
cars with full UK specifications - no left-hand drives - were
The order, worth more than pounds 1.5 million, saved the buyers around
pounds 270,000 - an average of between pounds 3,000 and pounds 4,000 per
At the moment a limited number of cars are available from a limited
number of manufacturers, mainly at the luxury end of the market. It’s
extremely easy to get a quote - the price shown is an on-the-road price,
including 12 months’ tax and registration. Optional extras can be priced
up after a basic quotation has been accepted, and there is the option to
call sales people directly to talk about the car in more depth.
But the site is much more than a ’pile it high, sell it cheap’
e-commerce vehicle (excuse the pun) - it even points out that it is not
necessarily offering the very cheapest price. There are pages with
detailed answers to ’commonly asked questions’, explaining why the site
was set up, where deposits go, and what happens if there is a
And there are direct links to the Which? on-line site (www.which.net),
where the campaign which sparked the creation of the site, ’The Great
British Car Rip Off’, can be followed. This includes an invitation to
e-mail trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers direct with comments
about the higher prices for cars in the UK, and contact numbers for car
manufacturers to ask ’why they charge you more for your new car’.
The site takes the fear and paperwork out of buying cars direct from
Europe. As its range of cars is expanded more consumers are bound to
come on-line to take advantage of the savings, especially as it looks as
though it will take a while for car prices on this side of the Channel
to come down.