Honest John: how can I end my PCP car finance nightmare?

Our consumer champion advises on what to do if you're liable for servicing and an MoT test during the finance term. Plus: a used BMW scam

Skoda Yeti - action
The Skoda Yeti is deservedly popular, but PCP deals of more than three years on any car can leave you liable for maintenance costs before you hand the car back

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

Weird owes

We bought our Skoda Yeti new in November 2017, on a PCP finance plan. It’s a top-spec 2.0 TDI DSG auto. I assumed the PCP would run for three years, up to when the warranty expires and the first MoT is due, but the plan continues until June 2021, by which time the car will be well out of warranty. Reluctantly, we decided to buy it at the end of the lease term then part-exchange it straight away for something else. How can we extricate ourselves from this mess, preferably without financial loss? JB

You signed up for it, so you're going to have to pay for the three-year service and first MoT, even though you may be handing the car back six months later. Whether to do so or not depends on its market value at that point and the scale of the final payment. PCPs can be for weird periods. This one seems to be for 42 months, probably in order to reduce the monthly payment and make it look more attractive.  

Sell fee

I advertised and sold my 2008 BMW 120d privately for £3,200. It was in good condition although I pointed out to the buyer some of the points that might need attention, such as the weeping rocker cover gasket. But the buyer took it to a BMW dealer and told them to compile a list of repairs, sending me a copy of an estimate for £1,800. Unsure of the legal position, I told him to return the car for a full refund. I didn't hear anything for nearly a week and thought he was just trying it on – until he sent me a copy of the receipt for having all of the work done, along with his bank details, demanding to be reimbursed in full. Where do I stand? BS

It's a try-on. He bought a relatively old, cheap used car, which any “reasonable” person could expect to have a few faults. You even made him aware of some of them. He has no right to demand that you subsequently pay for the car to be refurbished to full dealer retail standard. Nor did he have any right to refuse your “reasonable” offer to refund his money. No consumer protection laws apply, unless the car was in a dangerous condition. All he could sue you for is “breach of contract” if you lied or misled him over the car’s condition. It would cost you up to £300 an hour plus VAT to employ a solicitor. I suggest you write back refuting his claims and stating that if the issue costs you any more time or any legal/court costs, you will sue him for them. Send it by Royal Mail Special Delivery, keep a copy and the certificate of posting, use the reference code to check it was delivered and keep copies to prove you attempted to resolve the matter reasonably without going to law. If you can obtain his email address, also send it to him that way and keep a copy of the message.

Bridge of size

Is it feasible to change the battery packs on EVs such as the Polestar 2?

Having read Andrew English’s review of the Polestar 2 electric car, it would be a great idea if battery slabs/packs could be easily removed and re-inserted into cars. Fully charged battery packs could be swapped in dedicated areas, reducing the necessity to stop for charging. What do you think? JP

Renault was going to try this. The idea was that EVs would drive up a ramp into a service station. The battery pack would be lowered out of the car and a fresh battery pack would be inserted from below. One of the snags was the need for standard-sized batteries, around which cars would have to be designed. 

Bill body

My son is experiencing extreme difficulties following a full service and drive belt/knock sensors replacement to his 2001 Maserati 3200 GT. After collecting the car from Nottingham and taking a normal drive back to Somerset, the next day during a short journey he could not rev it beyond 1,000rpm. He managed to creep home and discussions resulted in the garage sending a mechanic to remove the throttle body with a view to sending it to specialists for refurbishment. This work was not done because of Covid problems. Can you advise on acquiring a new throttle body, or a firm that could refurbish the problematic one? PP

You need Mike Roberts at The Maserati Shed. He is a specialist who remanufactures worn 3200GT throttle body potentiometers for about £500: www.maseratished.co.uk.

Buyin’ Munich

I have a 190,000-mile 2002 BMW 320d Touring, which needs bodywork attention. I was told these engines go on forever, so should I consider paying for repairs (the MoT is due soon) and keep going, or find a replacement? I have looked at a 96,000-mile 2010 Peugeot 3008 diesel at £3,900. I always buy used, inexpensive cars and work them hard, so I need something reliable. I’ve enjoyed the BMW’s performance and equipment, so if I replace it I’d want a similar level of quality. Any ideas? JJ

The BMW in the state you describe is worth buttons but, as long as it is reliable and can pass its MoT, it's probably worth patching up until it finally expires. At that point you'll need to find something else and, though the used market is currently very healthy, with high prices being obtained for older cars because the public is scared of catching Covid on public transport, there is one section that is going cheaper. These are the non-EU4 petrol cars and non-EU6 diesel cars that face penalties for being driven in a lot of city centres. 

Flat share

Lockdown and the rise in car electrification have caused me to reflect on the apparently reduced life of a modern car battery. In the past three years my daughter had a replacement battery under warranty in her two-year-old Nissan Qashqai. Then the battery in my wife’s Juke failed after two years, locking us out of the car. The batteries also failed in my  friend’s BMW X4 after two years and in my Land Rover Discovery Sport after five. All batteries had been kept properly charged. In contrast, in two previously owned Jaguars, the original batteries were still going strong after 14 years. What confidence can we have in the longevity of electric car batteries, albeit of different design and technology? ER

There are different types of 12-volt battery. Nissan had a problem with a faulty batch in the Qashqai and Juke. To save fuel, BMWs “Efficient Dynamics” employs regenerating rather than engine-driven alternators, so if the car is not decelerated often enough the battery does not get charged sufficiently. The prices are coming down, but nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries for electric cars cost about £150 per kilowatt hour (£9,600 for a 64kWh battery), which is what makes EVs so expensive. Many are guaranteed to retain 80 per cent capacity for eight years.

Upping the tempo

I drive a Honda Jazz SE i-VTEC auto, having had a bad time with a Skoda Yeti and its DSG gearbox. The Honda is reliable, but sluggish and noisy under revs. I’d like to find a reliable, comfortable automatic with a higher driving position – probably a small SUV. However, I’m bewildered by the various types of automatic transmission and nervous about ending up with the same problem I had with the Yeti. Can you explain? DH

First, try the new Jazz 1.5 hybrid (or Jazz 1.5 Crosstar, which is a bit higher). More power makes them much quicker than the Jazz 1.3 CVT-7. Or the Honda HR-V 1.5 Turbo Sport 182 CVT-7, which is both very versatile inside (like a Jazz) and good to drive. Or the Toyota C-HR 2.0 hybrid, which works well. Alternatively, you could take a chance on the new VW T-Cross, which is a short but tall version of the Polo. It still has the potentially problematic DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG, but with the 1.0 TSI this seems to be a lot more reliable than it had been hitherto. You’ll find the best six- and eight-speed torque converter automatic transmissions in Fords, Citroëns and Peugeots.

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