Deciding which used car is the best one for you takes time and effort. Whether you buy from an official dealer, local independent garage, a used car supermarket or even from a private individual, asking the right questions and doing a bit of research will help you to make the right choice.
If you’re searching for a car that’s a few years old with a great specification, a reasonable mileage and in a good overall condition, you’ll probably check your favourite models at the local franchised main-dealer used car forecourt. It’s here you’re most likely to find vehicles that have previously been leased through the Motability Scheme. But should you consider buying a second-hand vehicle that has previously been a Motability Scheme car? And if you do, what sort of things do you need to look out for? Michelle Breffitt looks at the pros and cons of buying an ex-Motability Scheme car or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV).
Motability Operations are the largest vehicle fleet operator in the UK, managing a huge stock of just over 600,000 cars and WAVs for drivers with a disability and carers who lease a vehicle through the Motability Scheme. The size of their fleet means that every year roughly 200,000 of these ex-Motability cars hit the used car market as they reach three years old.
At the end of their three-year Motability lease agreement, Motability customers are given a couple of options:
Most people choose to lease another vehicle, so when the old Motability car gets to three years old it’s usually handed back to Motability when the customer picks up the new one. But what happens to the vehicle next?
Well, if you’re looking to buy a used car, you're likely to come across the term ‘ex-Motability’ when talking to dealers, as it’s often used to describe cars that have been returned by Motability drivers when their lease has come to an end.
The main dealer that the vehicle is returned to usually gets the first option to buy it, and if the car has been priced competitively by Motability, has a low mileage and has been returned in a good condition, they'll quickly snap it up if they believe that it's 'prime stock' that they can sell quickly on the used car forecourt. Due to the 2021 and 2022 used car shortages (driven by the new car supply issues following the pandemic) many UK dealerships are choosing to buy these cars for stock straight away, or may even have customers already lined up to buy them.
However, if the dealer doesn't want the vehicle for whatever reason, the car will be collected by Motability, refurbished, photographed, and then added to a special online database that other Motability dealers can buy these ex-Motability vehicles through.
Any vehicles that haven't been bought by the dealership or sold via their online system are eventually sent by Motability to a regional or online car auction (usually run by BCA) where exclusive Motability sales are held every week. Here, the remaining vehicles can be bid on and bought by everyone else, including independent traders and members of the public with a MyBCA Silver card (or higher).
On average, one in every ten brand new cars registered here in the UK is a Motability car (bought by Motability Operations and then leased to a Motability customer), so it’s likely you’ll come across one of these vehicles if you’re searching for a used car that’s over three years old.
The pros and cons of buying a used car are pretty much the same no matter where you are looking to purchase your next car from. Knowing the history of a used car will certainly give you, as the potential buyer, the confidence that you’re making the right choice and could help to avoid costly repairs and unexpected car troubles down the line.
Bearing that in mind, it’s worth knowing that if the car you’re looking to buy was previously registered as a Motability car, the sales executive handling your enquiry should be able to easily confirm the vehicle history for you.
Throughout the lease of a Motability Scheme vehicle Motability retains the V5c (as the vehicle owner) while the registered keeper is recorded as the Motability customer.
The Motability Scheme offers its customers the best all-round car leasing package available in the UK. Motability want to ensure that the scheme is as ‘worry-free’ as possible for all their disabled customers, so every car leased through the scheme includes their comprehensive, all-inclusive motoring package. All vehicles come with insurance for up to three drivers, servicing and maintenance, full RAC breakdown assistance, replacement tyres, replacement windscreen cover and a 60,000-mile allowance over the term of the three-year lease.
With servicing, maintenance and repairs all included as a part of the package, why wouldn’t a Motability customer make sure that all the necessary work is done, and that the vehicle is returned in the best possible condition?
There’s also an additional Good Condition Bonus (worth £600 - £900) payable to customers who hand their cars back in an excellent condition. When the vehicle is returned in a great condition repair costs are lower, making it quicker and more cost effective for Motability to sell the vehicle on.
All recall work, recommended manufacturer servicing and oil changes should be stamped clearly by a main dealer in the service book or recorded on the digital record. If you buy an ex-Motability car just double check to make sure that the last service has been completed correctly and on time by the dealer you buy the car from, as you don’t want any unexpected bills a few months after the vehicle has been handed over to you.
The mileage of an ex-Motability car is often much lower than the average you would expect for a similar vehicle at three years old. Many second-hand ex-Motability cars have not been driven very much at all by their Motability driver. Motability do add a mileage allowance to their lease agreements, but very few vehicles will ever get close to the 20,000 miles per year limit on its return. It’s not uncommon to find ex-Motability cars for sale that have less than five thousand miles on the clock, which can be a massive selling point.
If you are considering a 'click and collect' purchase without a physical inspection of the car, you should be aware that the vehicle could have been smoked in or may have transported family pets (as it’s classed as private use while on lease). Many non-smokers or non-pet owners are weary of this when buying a used car - usually because it can be hard to remove the smell and often affects the value of the vehicle - so always ask the question as a part of your research if it’s important to you.
One major benefit of buying an ex-Motability car is that it is likely to have had only one driver and been used by one family. Motability customers are now allowed to name up to three drivers on the insurance policy, but even if more than one person has been driving the vehicle it will not be like buying a second-hand ex-daily rental or a company pool car, which will have had lots of different people driving it (with varying levels of consideration for the cars condition).
Most ex-Motability cars will have been ordered with metallic or pearlescent paint. Most car manufacturers have made metallic or pearlescent paint a free of charge option for Motability customers, which helps to improve the future re-sale value of the vehicle. In the past only solid colours were available as a no cost option but that's changed, and as a result you'll find that there is a wide selection of popular colour choices available for most makes and models returned from the scheme.
Make sure you check for items that can often get lost when a vehicle is being leased, such as the spare keys, manuals, locking wheel nuts and any satellite navigation SD cards or spare wheel tools. Replacements can be costly and sometimes difficult to source.
Only a small percentage of the cars registered on a Motability lease have been specially adapted in some way for the driver or a passenger. These adaptations will have been added to help the Motability customer access the vehicle or to drive safely and more comfortably, but these will usually be removed before the vehicle is offered for sale as a used car. Check carefully for any holes or interior damage that may have been left behind when the adaptations were removed.
If the car you are looking to buy is located far away or you cannot travel for a viewing first it’s worth asking for a video demonstration, including close ups of the vehicle’s interior so you can inspect the car in more detail too.
The standard term of the Motability Scheme lease agreement for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) is longer than it is for cars. Most WAVs are returned to Motability after five years. Spreading the lease out over five years makes them more affordable, as significant changes must be made to the vehicle to allow the wheelchair user comfortable and easy access, and to ensure that they can travel safely and securely. If you want to buy one of these second-hand WAVs there are many specialist WAV dealers up and down the country who sell, service and maintain them. Many also stock used WAVs that are under five years old, which they have bought directly from Motability when a WAV has been returned before the end of the five-year lease.
Just like Motability cars, WAVs have normally been very well looked after throughout their lease, which also includes regular servicing for the conversion and any additional adaptations attached to the vehicle (including specialist features like the rear wheelchair ramp and winch).
At the end of the lease, or if a Motability customer has their qualifying Mobility Allowance stopped part way through their agreement, many customers enquire about the possibility of buying the vehicle that they or their carer have been driving.
If you’re currently leasing a vehicle through Motability, it is possible to buy the car directly from them under certain circumstances. If you get in touch and ask, Motability should be able to provide you with a personalised quote for you to purchase the vehicle from them.
Alternatively, it’s something you could speak to the dealer you originally ordered the car from about, as they will also be able to help you to buy the vehicle. At the end of the three-year car lease, the dealership you ordered the vehicle from normally gets ‘first refusal’ to buy the vehicle for used car stock. If the price is acceptable, they could agree to buy it and then sell it straight on to you.
If you are in the final few months of your lease agreement, give the Motability Specialist at your local dealership a call to see if Motability have published a purchase price for your vehicle yet.