Ex-Motability cars: should you buy one?
Some ex-Motability cars can be excellent value, but make sure you do plenty of research before you buy one
An ex-Motability car could be a great option if you’re shopping for a used car and want a real bargain. The Motability Scheme allows disabled people to lease a brand new car using their mobility allowance. After three years, the car is given back to the charity and is then sold on, usually via auction, to dealerships.
If a car you’re thinking of buying was previously leased under the Motability scheme, the dealer should confirm this for you. Alternatively, you can also check the details of the previous owners in the V5C logbook. Motability customers never own the car, so the company will be the registered owner with the DVLA. In most circumstances, you’ll be buying a three-year-old car, as that’s when Motability leases end.
As with any other used car, a thorough examination of the car itself and its service history are essential. Under the Motability scheme, servicing costs are included, so all services should have been carried out by a main dealer at the correct mileage or intervals set out in the service book. If they haven’t been carried out, be sure to find out why and be prepared to walk away if you don’t like the answer; there’ll still be plenty of alternatives out there.
Don’t be put off by cars that have previously been leased under the Motability scheme. They usually represent great value, as most are cheaper than identical cars that were not leased by Motability customers. Although the scheme gives a yearly mileage allowance of up to 20,000 miles, most Motability drivers don’t get anywhere near this figure, with most cars having been driven very few miles in the three-year lease period.
In some cases, low mileage can be a double-edged sword. It’ll mean that the vehicle has been unused for long periods of time, or that it’s only been driven regularly for shorter journeys. This can damage components or cause them to wear out quicker in some cases. Depreciation might also be steeper than a non-Motability car (it might be worth less when you sell it on again), but that’s essentially factored into the lower price you’ll have paid.
You also need to think about how the car might’ve been used in its previous life. While we’re sure many Motability customers will take care of the car as if it’s their own, it's also very likely that some customers will treat the car differently because it’s not technically theirs. You’re also allowed to smoke in a Motability vehicle because it’s classified as private use, so look out for lingering smells or burns on the upholstery.
As should always be the rule when buying a used car, go over everything carefully or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, ask someone who knows what they're looking at to inspect the vehicle. Organisations such as the AA and RAC also offer a professional inspection service for a fee. Things to look for include any scratches or repairs to the paint or bodywork, as this can be an indication that the car may not have been cherished. Once any adaptations are removed, you could be left with holes or stress points in the interior, so make sure you check the interior panels, dashboard controls and switches are in good working order.
We’ve heard reports of missing service histories and lots of repairs being needed. However, this also stands for any other used car that you’re looking at, as condition and service history will be different on every vehicle. It’s not the end of the world if the service book is missing; if you know which main dealership the car was serviced at, they can find out when it was serviced by looking at their online records. Many will also be able to send you a replacement service book with the right date stamps in it.
Should you buy one?
Our advice is to carry out all the research you can on a car you’re interested in. Make sure you take it for a test-drive, see it in the daylight and don’t rush into anything. For extra peace of mind, you may decide to have it inspected by a professional - reputable sellers will allow you to do this no problem.
If you find an ex-Motability car that ticks all the boxes and seems to have been looked after, there’s no reason not to choose it over any other vehicle. In fact, you could save yourself quite a lot of money and still get a brilliant car.