Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

Hi, this is my first post as I'm new to this forum, and in fact new to buying cars! I hope it's ok to ask for a little advice... basically, should we be worried about a few small 'warning signs' below?

My wife and I narrowed down our options to a Toyota Avensis, we hired a car and viewed a few yesterday. I don't drive (eyesight), she was previously driving abroad and now has a UK licence. Without any mechanical knowledge between us I'm mostly going on impressions of the seller and car. I'm planning to get RAC inspections done on the best two, but that costs over £300 for two and takes nearly a week.

Prices are from around £6,500 to £8,500. Here's what I found:

Car A - dealer didn't seem in any hurry to sell. Appreciate the lack of pressure but almost rude at times. Car looks very good and well cared for superficially. My wife not sure about the colour but I'll overrule that if it's in the best condition. We only did a short test drive (5-10 minutes) because we weren't sure what's a reasonable length. Small garage but in a nice village. Does saying little mean something to hide, or just confident cars will speak for themselves? 6 month warranty. Dealer accepted RAC inspection without question.

Car B - dealer more helpful, made a fuss of cleaning the windscreen but then oh dear, the car wouldn't start. Battery issues, they got it jump started but do they not check these things first? (I'd phoned in advance). After that there was a warning light on the dashboard which refused to go out (sorry not sure which one now, long day), so the dealer took us out for a short spin to prove that it's safe, then encouraged us to do a longer test drive. After that the warning light was still on although driving seemed fine to the untrained eyes/ears. It's a year older than the other two, has a plastic catch broken inside the boot and a small scatch on the front, nothing we can't live with. All cars had a disclaimer about the mileage "nothing to worry about, trading standards have asked us to do it". Over 60,000 miles anyway so seems about right for 7 years. Potential bargain, or trouble? 1 month warranty then two months 'go halves'. Dealer had a lot to say about RAC inspections as apparently they haven't had one for years; agreed to it but said it's not necessary.

Car C - dealer helpful but for the test drive asked us to stick to a very tiny back street (not enough fuel), so we couldn't go above 20mph. Afterwards I realised they hadn't attached the extra dealer reg plates so I'm now wondering if there were any legal issues around that. Service history with Toyota stamps, explained that they get cars around 120 miles away from Toyota dealers who no longer re-sell them as too old (6 years in this case). Inside and out looked very good, mileage a bit over 30,000 but there was loads of scuffing immediately inside the boot lip despite the boot floor carpet being immaculate. Same catch broken as car B though! Typres looked quite new. Could it have been used as a taxi and tarted up (including a 'refresh' of the odometer)? Nothing apart from the boot seemed untoward though. 3 month warranty. Agreed to RAC inspection but told me it was a waste of money, despite being on the AA Cars site where dealers are supposed ot welcome inspections.

In short, are some of the above 'red flags' more serious than others?

(Note, leaving out some details so as not to identify the dealers but sorry for the length anyway).

Edited by MrLJ on 26/03/2017 at 12:55

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MGspannerman

Clearly you are inexperienced at buying cars and therefore something of an easy target for sellers. Both my wife and I (and our daughter) drive Toyotas and they have all proved remarkably problem free, in fact we are on our seventh. Given your lack of experience I would suggest that it might be worth visiting a Toyota main dealer. They have an outstanding reputation for service, not all of course and it depends where you live. However I can personally recommend Sims in Northampton and Snows further south towards the coast. Yes, you might pay a bit more than a conventional secondhand car dealer but then you will have an excellent Toyota backed warranty and wont need to spend out on an RAC inspection or similar. Their cars are invariably well prepared so no warning lights, flat batteries, scratches etc and should anything go wrong you have the reassurance of knowing that they stadn by their vehicles. In any event always look for service history and preferably receipts rather than stamps in the book and check the MOT history which gives some insight into how the car has been looked after. The latter can be done here

Clearly I dont know your needs but an Avensis is a very large car and not the most popular in the range. The Auris, particularly in hybrid and estate form is a very sound and more economical proposition for example and Toyota's other smaller cars also do well.

I do have a trade card for BCA car auctions and regularly visit and buy cars on behalf of a client I work with. You would be amazed and horrified at some of the vehicles that go through the auctions and what can be done to "improve" them for sale. If you dont have a knowledgeable friend or experience of your own to rely on then you need to be more than cautious. I would not consider anything that I could not sensibly test drive or has warning lights, damaged body or paintwork. You can check retail prices on Autotrader to gauge the value of the car on offer and dont be seduced by so called warranties that are not worth the paper they are written.

Good luck!

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - elekie&a/c doctor

Avensis models are good workhorses ,but at the age,mileage and budget you are looking at ,it has to be a petrol engine .Avoid the diesel .

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - gordonbennet

However I can personally recommend Sims in Northampton

Good luck!

So would i, but its no longer Sims and i didn't recognise any familar faces when i visited under the new ownership, but they did the work i wanted at a very fair price so have every reason to suspect the usual good service to carry on.

Agree completely that if its a Toyota you want and without necessary knowledge to search out others then the main dealer and it's second to none back up is where i would be heading.

The three cars you list i would either be avoiding the cars or the sellers, apart from A which might be worth a follow up, remember the dealer is automatically sensibly not nit pickingly warranting a used car (in this price range) themselevs for a full 6 months, so the comedian who says 1 month and 50/50 the next 2 months i'd be away from quicker than an olympic sprinter.

Edited by gordonbennet on 26/03/2017 at 14:38

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

Thanks all, lots of really good advice there.

Actually I had a preference for the Toyota main dealers for peace of mind, but we ended up being quite specific about what we want - petrol automatic saloon (and colour rules out about 30%!) - and the Toyota dealers have limited supply in our budget (£10,000 max, £8,000 preferred). Probably don't need an Avensis strictly speaking but between the two of us we ruled out most options except maybe the Mazda 6 but they're also quite rare for this price/spec. I'm 6'4" so don't want a small car.

Sims in Northampton seems to have become Steven Eagell now. I should have mentioned our location is Sussex so not ideal, but doable. I'm keeping an eye on their stock along with Snows and some other, more local dealers.

The RAC checks "from £99" have balooned to a total of £346 for two basic checks (weasel wording on their website) and now I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth the money. Possible scenarios: nothing serious wrong with car; something wrong spotted by RAC saving us a packet; something wrong missed so we still pay to fix it; nothing wrong but we miss out on buying car because RAC take too long (the 'usually 48 hours' on their website has turned into 5 days). Only the second of those scenarios actually helps.

I'm tempted to go back to car A for a longer test drive, as my gut instinct suggets the car and dealer are ok, and it's the only one with no advisories on any of the MOTs (found that check thanks to another topic on here). I'm prepared for the possibility of £1,000-2,000 in repairs in the first year and wondering if an RAC check really reduces that risk, or if a main dealer won't just charge £1,000-2,000 more anyway.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - Andrew-T

You've had advice from experts, so here's some from an amateur. Whenever possible, buy your cars near home base, as it can be a hassle if problems develop requiring the original seller to rectify. On the other hand, prices can vary regionally, so travelling may be worth while if you live in an expensive area.

As a buying novice you should naturally start with franchised or otherwise reputable dealers, but remember that unless your target has been traded-in to the selling dealer, they are unlikely to know a lot about the car's history - which it must have, don't forget. Look elsewhere If it doesn't. As it seems you are buying a car too young for an MoT, the warranty record is all you can check.

A car which won't start may just be an embarassment for the seller. If it has been on his forecourt for a couple of months, perhaps moved a few yards occasionally to get at another vehicle, the electronic gizmos on board may well have flattened the battery.

As we are all conditioned to assume car traders are sharks (not always the case in my experience) it may be that an apparent lack of interest in selling may mean they think the car is a good one and should sell itself. When they get pushy, perhaps the opposite?

Oh, one more thing: it used to be worth buying a used car from a 'different' franchise, as prices were keener like for like, but only good examples would be kept for sale. Maybe the experts can say whether this still applies?

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MGspannerman

Thanks for the info about Sims, Northampton. We moved away a few years ago, but they were outstanding in terms of service. We bought a secondhand 07 Prius there as well as a 59 reg Yaris new via the scrappage scheme. The Yaris is still going strong and fits me nicely, I too am 6'4" as it happens.

Looking on Autotrader for Avensis between £5 and £8.5k there are currently 14 petrol auto saloons. These will have the durable 1.8 engine and the CVT gearbox which works well but can get a little coa*** when accelerating hard. Typically these are very problem free.

There are two vehicles with Toyota dealers. A 2010, 10 reg 64k mile one in Tungsten Blue for £6490 at Snows, Hedge End ( just off the M27 between Portsmouth and Southampton) and a 2011, 61 reg car with 20k miles for £8.5k. This is in Grey and is at Beadles Medway Toyota near Gillingham. Looking at the range of prices on offer these vehicles seem to me to be sensibly priced, and also the benefit of a Toyota warranty and the confidence that comes from buying from a main dealer.

OK so colour might be an issue, but when buying secondhand there are inevitable compromises. Worth a look at least? Add the £1-2k that you are prepared to possibly spend on repairs to car A that would be covered by the Toyota warranty plus the saving of £346 on an RAC inspection and perhaps the main dealer option, albeit with some travelling involved, might look more attractive?

I would suggest that gut instinct is an insufficient level of assurance with regard to a car and I would suggest not to rely on this alone, as another reply suggests not all car dealers are sharks but they are in business. In fact the trade has become increasingly difficult in recent years with more transparent pricing due to the internet, tighter controls (you can get locked up for fiddling mileage these days), a more aggressive stance from the taxman and consumer legislation to cope with.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

Thanks again for the advice - from Andrew-T and also MGspannerman.

I definitely would like to go dealer approved and the 2011 one with Snows looks good, but I ruled it out because it's not on their website. It looks like the Toyota dealers are a bit slow to update AutoTrader. Maybe worth a call in the morning just in case?

Ideally would rather have something newer, annoyingly there was a 2013 example for £9,500 (a stretch, but doable) but we couldn't get out last weekend and it got snapped up quite quickly...

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - SLO76
Most main dealers will hang onto good quality part ex stock rather than trade it so you can be almost guaranteed that anything that ends up at a backstreet small used dealer will have landed there via auction because it had issues. I've spent years hanging around auction halls and it's an eye opener I can tell you. If a car is there from a dealer and it's less than 7yrs old and not killed with miles then there's something amiss.

It's possibly an unpopular model, spec or colour which is often enough to see it refused space on the lot but the only cars of this price range we ever sent through the ring had issues that wouldn't be cost effective to fix properly. Dodgy Joe backstreet dealer then bags it at auction and fixes it on the cheap. This is not where you want to be, especially when you lack the ability to spot the masked problems.

Save yourself a load of woe and go direct to a main Toyota dealer who have the best cars, usually with dealer history which will be properly prepared and will come with a worthwhile warranty unlike many backstreet mobsters who's warranty is often next to worthless.

Looking for a large petrol model like the Avensis with an autobox does limit your options. This isn't a popular fleet combo so few make it through to the used market. To increase your chances I'd try the Auris for size as there are a far greater number of suitable cars in budget. It's a more modern, nicer driving and cheaper car to run. Auto Trader:

The bulk of the cars I'm asked to look at with non-franchised dealers have problems that have seen me unable to recommend it. Ex fleet stuff at larger used supermarkets are an option (though large petrol and auto are unlikely) but they won't be prepped to the same standard as a main dealer.

To further increase your options I'd also look at the Honda Civic if you can find one with an auto box and possibly an Accord 2.0. This Civic looks to have seen some paintwork with the offside front wing a slightly different colour to the rest of the car but these are hard to find. It needs carefully checked over and I'd spend the money on an RAC check here. Wouldn't bother with the main dealer cars. Auto Trader:

Auto Trader:

The Accord is a lovely big car to drive and will run and run if serviced properly but they are hard to find especially in petrol auto spec.

Edited by SLO76 on 26/03/2017 at 21:44

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - bathtub tom
Ex fleet stuff at larger used supermarkets are an option but they won't be prepped to the same standard as a main dealer.

The reverse was true when I bought my 8-month-old Yaris. It was also £2K cheaper.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

Thanks again for such detailed advice.

Actually we rented an Accord in Phuket last month, nice car. The UK model seems to have a weird thing with the rear door handles, so apparently I choose based on aesthetics rather than practicality. ;) I'm sure that will change when the novelty's worn off...

I'm surprised to read that there is such a stark difference between the main dealers and the smaller garages, although I always assumed the main dealers would be better. Good news though, one of the Avensis models that I overlooked because it wasn't on the main dealer's own website (and had no pics on Auto Trader at the time) now definitely exists - amusingly the guy had to go outside into the cold and check it's physically there! So I've put down a holding deposit to secure it - basically on the proviso that it's in excellent condition as described. It's exactly the same spec as the three Avensises (plural?!) that we viewed on Saturday and we're happy with the colour, so as long as there's no hidden nasties we should be fine, and it has the 12 month warranty.

Talking of nasties, I'm not happy with my dealings with the RAC. I had one inspection booked on the first car on the understanding that it'll take a few days to arrange and I can cancel by midday the day before for any reason - but during the weekend they couldn't specify what date. Anyway by the time I'd spoken to the Toyota main dealer and found the better deal I was boarding a flight to Barcelona. At 10.32 the RAC emailed me a booking for Tuesday and by the time I got off the plane, saw the email and called the it was 12.04. Yes, you guessed it, they are sticking rigidly to the cut-off point. Their customer service line was shut down at this time, so I'm guessing this is a regular point of contention. When I eventually got someone I tried to argue that 88 minutes is not a fair time between notification and being able to cancel. Now I don't even know if I'm going to get my money, or an inspection, and it seems like the RAC adds risk to the whole process rather than removing it.

Anyway, we should have a shiny 6-years-new Toyota on Wednesday if all goes to plan. :)

Edited by MrLJ on 27/03/2017 at 23:03

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - SLO76
Hope all works out well. The Avensis is a good robust big car but I'm disappointed by the RAC. Let us know how you get on with them regarding a very justified refund.
Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

So we got the Avensis from Beadles Toyota in Gillingham today and are super happy with it! Really lovely car, actually I think we got a bit lucky even for a main dealer because it had been owned by a lady for the last four years who evidently took great care of it - for the short time she was in it that is, given the 7 or 8K miles she put on (nuduing towards a princely 20K in total). Yeah I hear high mileage cars are often a bagain and very reliable; it wasn't a factor in our purchase, but I'm not going to complain either. Anyway it has all the Toyota service stamps and a 12 month warranty.

I have to say the salesman was really good and looked after us. I asked about the front tyres (only thing that came up on the November MOT as an advisory) and he said he'd get them changed for us while we have lunch. They didn't have them in stock though so unprompted he said he'd knock £150 off the price so we could get it done locally (we live a 75 minute drive away and he knew it wasn't convenient to pop back). After lunch we got a call saying everything's ready - the car had been cleaned and checked over and they even managed to source the tyres elsewhere and fitted them, so asked us to pay the £150 back. Some might say that's a bit cheeky but I was happy with the proactive decision and it meant one less thing for us to do.

Best of all, he didn't try to ram all the gap insurance, painwork protection and other extras down our throats. There was a script where he had to mention all these things but he rattled through them quickly and understood that we didn't need them (I have enough cash in the bank to self-insure on the gap side of things).

Meanwhile the RAC sent an email capitulating on the inspection fee, which is just as well seeing as the inspection never took place. I need to call them to arrange a refund, but apparently 4.30pm was after their closing time (seriously!) so I'll do that tomorrow.

I'm extremely grateful to everyone who gave me advice steering me away from the smaller dealers. Maybe the first one wasn't too bad to be fair to them, but I feel so much more assured from my experience at Beadles Toyota and we landed a real beauty! Seriously guys, thanks a lot. :)

Edited by MrLJ on 29/03/2017 at 22:52

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - SLO76
Well bought, it sounds like a great car and the dealer sounds spot on. I mostly deal with larger dealers and sold for one for many years. To me they generally are worth a little extra outlay both at point of purchase and in maintenance with exception of older cheap runabouts with little value. They have the best stock and know the cars inside out. Not that there's much to worry about on a low mileage Avensis. I hope you have many pain free years of motoring.
Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - bathtub tom
they even managed to source the tyres elsewhere and fitted them,

I'd be very suspicious and suspect they'd either fitted Chinese ditch-finders or wheels off another car. I suggest you look very closely at the wheels and tyres.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - 72 dudes
they even managed to source the tyres elsewhere and fitted them,

I'd be very suspicious and suspect they'd either fitted Chinese ditch-finders or wheels off another car. I suggest you look very closely at the wheels and tyres.

Wouldn't be worth their while or reputation for a Toyota main dealer to switch wheels. I doubt the tyres are a premium brand though.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - Benet

. I'm 6'4" so don't want a small car.

'My son is 6'5" and he gets on quite well with my Toyota Auris. This is a 2010 model, very spacious with ample headroom both for drivers and even rear seat passengers of my son's size. On the outside it's only about Golf/Astra size so easy to park, but exceptionally spacious inside - I believe perhaps more generous than the current Auris. And that reassuring Toyota reliability of course. One day I left my sidelights on all day in the work carpark, but when I came out to drive home, she still started first time!

Edited by Benet on 26/03/2017 at 22:30

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - daveyjp

Do you know the lights were actually on, or did you assume so because the light switch was on sidelights? If the latter chances are the lights were actually off as leaving lights on in a car is now very difficult.

To leave side lights on my car such as when parking briefly I have to turn the engine off then turn the lights back on and even then there is a warning.

Wife's car has a separate parking light system. Leave it on sidelights and the lights turn off with the ignition.

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - RaineMan

I am tall but find there is a vast difference between driving and passengering. Two friends have cars have cars that I physically struggle to drive but have no problems as a passenger as I just tend to recline further. However, the two of you need a decent test drive (15 - 20 miles on a mixture of roads) seated in the front so you are sure you are comfortable. Sitting the dealer in the back can also be less distracting! :)

Toyota Avensis - Used car warning signs - anything to worry about? - MrLJ

That's a good point, but you reminded me of something - in all cases the dealers just let us do the test drive alone. Until Saturday I'd always assumed they'd be getting in the car with us. The exception is the second car when he drove us a bit first after we baulked at the warning light. Actually the third guy didn't even ask for a driving licence... crazy!


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