I notice that that the government-funded advice service Consumer Direct reckons it received 24,672 complaints about secondhand cars bought from independent dealers in the first half of 2009, up more than 1.22 per cent on the previous year.

So let’s all get very, very scared of the nasty man in the sheepskin jacket.

As with all stats, it’s what they don’t tell you that’s more fascinating.

Now, there are certainly some less than brilliant used car dealers out there, but on the whole I’d say they do their best and the majority are not actively trying to rip everyone off. There really isn’t any point.

The real problem is the fundamentally unreasonable expectations of today’s consumers.

No-one allows for the fact that a car more than a few hours old will be quite used. That means the odd stone chip, worn seat bolster and chip in the windscreen are the very least you should expect.

I mean, if you spent £200 on a very used Fiesta and it lasted a year, you would be happy, wouldn’t you?

Actually, it seems not, as a purveyor of sub £500 cheapies a few years ago told me that punters would keep on coming back about all the niggly stuff he had pointed out in the first place. The final straw was someone bringing back a Fiesta that had been run into the ground and asking for a replacement engine.

At the higher end there is nothing to worry about at all.

An Autocar reader emailed me the other week about the £20k BMW he’d bought recently. He was unhappy with certain aspects of the car, so I told him to take it back. He did and they gave him his money back. Simple.

If it had been some chancer on Ebay, or a low life in the classifieds misrepresenting what he has got for sale, then it would be a problem that Consumer Direct never heard about.

So has this been your experience with independent dealers?

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