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Buying a Used Car: Your Rights

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 16 Jan 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Consumer Rights Used Cars Dealer Auction

Buying a used car is always a tricky proposition. It doesn't matter if it's last year's model or an old banger with plenty of miles on the clock; it's always a bit of a gamble. That makes it especially important to know your rights when you buy a used vehicle.

Buying From a Dealer

Buying a used car that you've seen advertised for sale outside someone's house can be extremely risky; it may not have any service history and you probably don't know anything about the owner.

Which Dealer?

Buying a used car from a dealer is safer, but of course not all dealers are 100% honest. When considering where to buy your used car, look for:
  • An established dealer
  • With a good reputation
  • One that is a member a recognised trade association

The best place to start will often be to ask family and friends, and have a look on the internet for any reviews. Associations such as The Retail Motor Industry Federation or The Scottish Motor Trade Association will also be able to provide a list of their members.

History?

A good car dealer will be able to provide you with the V5 document (log book) for each car. This will list how many owners the car has had, the mileage and the age of the vehicle. Obviously this doesn't tell you about how well the owner has treated the car (e.g did they smoke in it), but will give you a picture of how "used" the used car actually is.

Some kind of service history is also extremely useful. If a vehicle has been regularly serviced it is more likely to remain reliable for longer. A service history could be in a book provided by the original manufacturer; the service provider will stamp the book and date it each time a service is carried out. An alternative to a service booklet could simply be a collection of the invoices for each service, these show the car's registration number, mileage and details of the work that was undertaken.

It is also important to check that the car is not stolen. You can easily check this by texting 'CAR' and the number plate to 83600 (www.CarTextCheck.co.uk) for a small fee; other firms carry out similar services. This is particularly important as the police can seize a stolen car and return it to the original owner. In that situation, you would have to make a civil claim against the dealer for your money back (which is not guaranteed, particularly if the dealer has disappeared, or has little money and has been imprisoned for theft).

Condition?

Most people wouldn't buy a house without assessing its condition; the same should therefore apply to purchasing a used car.

In order to properly assess the condition of a car, most people will need expert assistance in the form of a mechanic's report. Many car dealers will have their cars tested and provide you with an inspection report. If not, don't be afraid to ask for it.

Once you have the mechanic's inspection report, read it carefully. Is it from a reputable independent mechanic? Has the mechanic flagged any problems?

(Note: Used cars may pass as road worthy, but the mechanic should still flag if there are any worn parts that are likely to require replacement soon. You can then factor in the cost of this when negotiating the sale price.)

'I brought a 2004 plate Peugeot 307 last week and half way home once the car had warmed up oil pressure insufficient warning came up - on the dashboard a stop flashed up together with the oil sign. This didn't happen when we test drove it because the car hadn't had long enough to warm up. The dealer never mentioned anything about this fault.'

If the dealer does not arrange inspections, you could ask a local mechanic to carry out an inspection for you for a small charge to avoid situations such as the above. However if it subsequently turns out that your mechanic missed something in the report which later required repairing, your claim would be against your mechanic (for negligence / breach of contract) rather than against the dealer.

Protection if it all goes wrong

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 which came into force in October 2015 gives you protection when buying a used car.

The Act imposes a number of strict requirements on all goods sold:

  • The goods must be of satisfactory quality (taking into account that it is used)
  • The goods must be fit for purpose (i.e the car must be roadworthy and driveable unless described otherwise) including any purpose that you specify to the dealer
  • The goods must match the description given at the time of purchase

'I have just bought a Nissan Qashqai+2 (61 plate) and was told it had 12 months MOT. It broke down today and I called RAC who informed me that the cambelt has gone. Not only that but they told me it had no MOT. What can I do?'

This would be a breach of the Act requirements, as the vehicle does not match the description given at the time of purchase.

Any warranties or guarantees don't affect these rights.

'I was asked by a dealer to write and then sign to say I was happy to take car without a warranty. Is this a legal way for the dealer to get out of honouring a warranty if it is needed? I just feel I may have been conned and made a massive mistake.'

Dealers cannot dis-apply statutory rights given by The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so you will still have rights to recourse even if you do not have a warranty.

(Note: the Courts do allow agreements that disputes will be referred to mediation or arbitration.)

What Steps Can I Take?

0 - 30 days since purchase

If you bought a product less than 30 days ago is unfit for purpose, faulty or not as described, you have the right to return the product and receive a full refund.

30 days - 6 months since purchase

If a fault is discovered after the first 30 days but within 6 months of the date of purchase, the fault is presumed to have been there at purchase. It is for the retailer to prove that this was not the case, and not for you to try to prove that it was.

If it has been over 30 days since you purchased the product, you can choose for the retailer to either:

  1. Repair the product, or
  2. Replace the product

The retailer may however refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared to the alternative.

'We bought a 2011 Ford Focus estate 4 months ago from just over 8 grand from a dealer. In our 4 month of ownership it's been in the dealerships garage twice in two weeks! They said it's a fault with the fuel ejectors, and sent it home "fixed". A few days later it broke down again. What can we do?'

You will be entitled to a full refund if repair or replacement is not possible, or is unsuccessful. You have to give the dealership a reasonable opportunity to try to fix the fault. However if they have tried to repair the vehicle more than once unsuccessfully, this requirement will have been fulfilled.

Over 6 months since purchase

If a fault is discovered over 6 months after the date of purchase, it will be for you to prove that the fault was there at the time of purchase. It is likely that an expert report would be needed to prove this.

Buying a used car could potentially be quite high risk. However as set out above, you can take steps to reduce this risk. The law will also provide you some protection and the new Consumer Rights Act helpfully sets out your rights in the event that something goes wrong.

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Hi, June 2017 bought van from dealer....Renault trafic 2011, 77k mileage. Within first 3 months had issue with air con which they paid to have fixed but 7 months later at only 83k mileage the engine has seized and I appear to have lost the £4700 I paid out! Do I have any rights as would assume diesel van 2011 at 83k should not be at the end of its life!! Thanks
Chance - 16-Jan-18 @ 11:47 PM
Hi,I bought a car today for£1925.having got home I went out to the car an hour later to find the windows all steamed up,on checking it seems the sunroof is broken and not closing properly,the sales person and the advert on line both said,3months warranty,but the salesman told me the warranty only covered engine and gearbox,please advice me how I stand with the sunroof issue,it was to late to call them as they were closed thanks Barrie.
barriebus - 16-Jan-18 @ 8:25 PM
Bought a second hand Mazda CX 7 from a car dealership (2009, £8000 17000 miles on the clock). It had a petrol engine and LPG conversion. Lots of problems with it from the outset, mainly to do with the gas. Finally suffered terminal engine failure 15 months after purchase ( at 30 000 miles). An initial engine inspection revealed that the engine number isn't the same as the one on the VC5 document, i.e. a replacement engine. I wasn't aware of this at the point of purchase. Does this constitute a breach of contract in itself? I certainly wouldn't have paid what I did for it if I'd known it had a replacement engine ? Cheers Kevin
Kevin A - 16-Jan-18 @ 3:17 PM
MK - Your Question:
I bought a car from a dealer on July 2017. The car has a 2014 plate.The dealer gave me one year warranty.Since then I have been going back with it for different issues five times in five months.The last time I went to see them for a wheel bearing issue, he asked me to take myself the car to a garage and get it fixed. I didn't take it for repair but got it checked by a mechanic. He confirmed my diagnostic and advised me to return the car to the seller.Is it the right thing to do?I called the dealer and informed him that I am returning the car.What can I expect from the dealer? Does he has to give me a full refund ?

Our Response:
You haven't said what kind of issues you've had (with the exception of the wheelbearing) but it seems the dealer has so far dealt with them fairly. You don't have an automatic right to reject a vehicle after 30 days. It it's still within 6 months since purchase you can ask the dealer to repair or replace it but it's up to the dealer to choose from these options. How many miles have you done in the vehicle? Was it a high mileage vehicle when you bought it? Have you covered alot of miles while it's been in your possession? If it's now more than 6 months since purchase it's up to you to prove that the fault (wheel bearing) was there at the time of purchase. If you consider the vehicle not fit for purpose etc, you may have to take the dealer to court for compensation if it's more than 6 months since you bought it.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-Jan-18 @ 12:10 PM
Macs - Your Question:
I bought a vw golf from a dealer 9 weeks ago the battery has packed up should they replace it I was given 6 months warranty when I bought it

Our Response:
How old was the vehicle, how much did you pay for it? How many miles had it done? What kind of description of the vehicle was given when you bought it? Sorry you need to supply more information. A warranty wouldn't normally cover a battery, but consumer rights legislation could.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-Jan-18 @ 10:33 AM
i am about to buy a car from a big car dealer. that was advertised as 1.6 turbo (180bhp)with 20" alloys 2017 plate 5000 miles. went to see it and relised it was only 18".i still decided to go through with it, paid the deposit and waiting on finance getting back to me. had all the paper work for finance saying how much and ehat the car is, 1.6 turbo etc. never heard anything the next day (thursday) on the friday i checked on the website to show my friend the car i was hoping to buyand realised it had changed to a 1.4 turbo, it was same car and same reg plate as i car i was buying. confused i phoned and querried this and they said admin error it was 1.4 turbo, the finance hadnt gone through yet. they said there is nothing i can do apart from get my deposit back or take the car. is that correctsurely thats false advertising and surely i should have been told as soon as the noticed the admin error.
lenagh - 6-Jan-18 @ 2:42 AM
I bought a car from a dealer on July 2017. The car has a 2014 plate.The dealer gave me one year warranty. Since then I have been going back with it for different issues five times in five months. The last time I went to see them for a wheel bearing issue, he asked me to take myself the car to a garage and get it fixed. I didn't take it for repair but got it checked by a mechanic. He confirmed my diagnostic and advised me to return the car to the seller. Is it the right thing to do? I called the dealer and informed him that I am returning thecar. What can I expect from the dealer? Does he has to give me a full refund ?
MK - 5-Jan-18 @ 1:51 PM
Vic - Your Question:
I bought a car 8 weeks ago I have taken it back on two separate occasions.First was on Wednesday 27th November 2017 just over two weeks after I purchased the car as it was not even road worthy to drive I had to get it brought in by breakdown cover.The second time was Monday 11th December 2017 I complained about the breaks and handbrake. I received the car back and nothing more was said.I had a service of my car it was bought to my attention that the car had poor brake concern. Upon inspection it was found the caliper had completely seized, the brake discs disorted and front brake pads low. At the back the pads were very poor condition.The condition of this was not caused within 3 weeks of it apparently being corrected. My mechanic wouldn't even let me leave the garage and replaced them where do I stand

Our Response:
Discuss it with the dealer, ask them if they will compensate you for the repairs...they may not be willling to do much as you have let someone else undertake the repairs without showing the dealer first.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 5-Jan-18 @ 12:05 PM
I bought a vw golf from a dealer 9 weeks ago the battery has packed up should they replace it I was given 6 months warranty when I bought it
Macs - 5-Jan-18 @ 8:35 AM
I bought a car 8 weeks ago i have taken it back on two separate occasions. First was on Wednesday 27th November 2017 just over two weeks after I purchased the car as it was not even road worthy to drive I had to get it brought in by breakdown cover. The second time was Monday 11th December 2017 I complained about the breaks and handbrake. I received the car back and nothing more was said. I had a service of my car it was bought to my attention that the car had poor brake concern. Upon inspection it was found the caliper had completely seized, the brake discs disorted and front brake pads low. At the back the pads were very poor condition. The condition of this was not caused within 3 weeks of it apparently being corrected. My mechanic wouldn't even let me leave the garage and replaced them where do I stand
Vic - 2-Jan-18 @ 9:57 PM
Looking to buy a fiat 500 pop 2011 plate. 2 previous mot had the same advisories, not garage has done said no advisories and nothing recorded on GOV website for this. Garage said previous owner must have repaired them. I asked for previous owner details to contact them to check garage said couldn't provide them due to data protection. I said they should be on the log book anyway. Do I go ahead a buy the car?
Liz - 29-Dec-17 @ 5:43 PM
I bought a car from dealer WITHOUT WARANTY in 19 dec and in 23 dec the timing chain snaped.i called the dealer and he refused to do anything because is no waranty on car.anything what i can do?thx
Alex - 29-Dec-17 @ 2:31 PM
I bought a used car from a private seller although he was a mechanic that was April this year all seemed fine until I needed to use the heaters in October I took the car to my usual garage only to find out that there had been head gasket sealer put in the system and that the head gasket had now gone and I can no longer use the car as he sold me a car knowing full well that the car was not going to last very long is there anything that I can do to get him to repair the car or compensate me
spice - 28-Dec-17 @ 12:51 AM
Hi I bought a car about 6 months ago and I've just noticed that the skirt underneath the passenger front door has a huge dent in it. I checked back on the photos of the vehicle the day I bought it and you can see it was already there! Is there anyway I can present this to the dealer and ask them to repair it?
Phil294 - 8-Dec-17 @ 6:33 PM
Jess38wales - Your Question:
Hi I brought a car 4 months ago on finance, this weekend the steering went on me, I was towed home and took it to the garage, the garage has found that the steering rack needs replacing. I have been quoted £1500 inc labour & parts. Would the garage I brought the vehicle from be liable to repair or replace the steering rack?

Our Response:
Please see the section in the above article entitled "30 days to 6 months since purchase" which states:
If a fault is discovered after the first 30 days but within 6 months of the date of purchase, the fault is presumed to have been there at purchase. It is for the retailer to prove that this was not the case, and not for you to try to prove that it was.
If it has been over 30 days since you purchased the product, you can choose for the retailer to either:
Repair the product, or
Replace the product
The retailer may however refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared to the alternative.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:25 PM
Hi I brought a car 4 months ago on finance, this weekend the steering went on me, I was towed home and took it to the garage, the garage has found that the steering rack needs replacing. I have been quoted£1500 inc labour & parts. Would the garage I brought the vehicle from be liable to repair or replace the steering rack?
Jess38wales - 27-Nov-17 @ 9:36 PM
I buy a car on April from dealer finance but they give mee a car with mwny problems and the dealer dosen t fix the car fisrt time and also secand time is 6months already and my car break down in 25 september and also the Finance dosent fix my problem what should i do thank you
Mihai - 26-Nov-17 @ 3:21 PM
Rach - Your Question:
Bought a 57 plate Mazda 3 100 miles later and only 3 days the engine management light is on. After taking it to my local garage they popped it on machine and I have 2 fault codes 2002 and 0234. I didn’t quite understand the codes but been advised to keep using car In case there old fault codes that haven’t been cleared properly, and make the garage aware of the issue where I purchased it from. And I was told it the lights came back on to go back to where I purchased the car and give it them back. Is this possible? Even if I have a 6 month warranty on the car.

Our Response:
Yes tell the orignal dealer about this anyway so they are aware of it. If the warning lights signify a genuine fault they should come back on again and you should take it back to the original retailer (dealer where you bought the car).
ConsumerRightsExpert - 22-Nov-17 @ 3:49 PM
CeeBee - Your Question:
I purchased a 2003 Mini Cooper for my daughter from a car dealer 3 weeks ago for £1550. They advertised it on autotrader for £1595. It said on autotrader that all cars came with a 3 month warranty but when I agreed to buy it they said it was a 'trade' sale as they had it on their forecourt for £1995 and because they needed the space they had reduced it. To cut long story short, the gears have 'seized' so it is not possible to drive it. We've had it less than a month and probably done only about 300 miles. Do I have any rights?

Our Response:
If it is not "fit for purpose" you may be able to take it back. We're not sure of the severity of the problem or the terms of your sale.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 20-Nov-17 @ 11:22 AM
I purchased a 2003 Mini Cooper for my daughter from a car dealer 3 weeks ago for £1550. They advertised it on autotrader for £1595. It said on autotrader that all cars came with a 3 month warranty but when I agreed to buy it they said it was a 'trade' sale as they had it on their forecourt for £1995 and because they needed the space they had reduced it. To cut long story short, the gears have 'seized' so it is not possible to drive it. We've had it less than a month and probably done only about 300 miles. Do I have any rights?
CeeBee - 19-Nov-17 @ 8:58 AM
Bought a 57 plate Mazda 3 100 mileslater and only 3 days the engine management light is on. After taking it to my local garage they popped it on machine and I have 2 fault codes 2002 and 0234. I didn’t quite understand the codes but been advised to keep using car In case there old fault codes that haven’t been cleared properly, and make the garage aware of the issue where I purchased it from. And I was told it the lights came back on to go back to where I purchased the car and give it them back. Is this possible? Even if I have a 6 month warranty on the car.
Rach - 18-Nov-17 @ 7:50 PM
Daphyd - Your Question:
Purchased a brand new car and collected it from the showroom late after work on a Thursday November 2017 and On the following Saturday noticed ligher marks in the paintwork all over the car so took photos and followed it up with a visit to the selling garage the marks are all over the car and can not be buffed out Mazda are trying to say why didn’t I notice them while in the showroom and are how did it pass pdi How do I stand Thanks David

Our Response:
Was it dark when you collected it? Did you inspect the car in the daylight the following day? Could the lighter marks have been caused by anything in the interim? If not, the dealer should accept responsibility.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 17-Nov-17 @ 3:14 PM
Dave - Your Question:
Sorry I put a comment about a 59 plate insignia and was meant to ask what can I do about this ?

Our Response:
Go back to the original dealer first of all and ask them what they can do. The above article tells you what you can do/are entitled to at various stages following purchase (you didn't tell us how long you'd owned the vehicle).
ConsumerRightsExpert - 17-Nov-17 @ 11:11 AM
Purchased a brand new car and collected it from the showroom late after work on a Thursday November 2017 and On the following Saturday noticed ligher marks in the paintwork all over the car so took photos and followed it up with a visit to the selling garage the marks are all over the car and can not be buffed out Mazda are trying to say why didn’t I notice them while in the showroom and are how did it pass pdi How do I stand Thanks David
Daphyd - 16-Nov-17 @ 7:26 PM
Sorry I put a comment about a 59 plate insignia and was meant to ask what can I do about this ?
Dave - 16-Nov-17 @ 11:34 AM
I bought a 59 plate insignia from a dealer, he had it advertised with no faults, great runner etc for £2995. I phoned the number on his site and he told me over the phone that it had a few scratches so would sell to me for £2500. I bought car and only had it for 2days and had to take it to a garage to be checked over, and for a service if needed. Mechanic advised me to take it to Vauxhall he didn’t charge me for looking at car. I took car to Vauxhall and it’s been there for a week so far I have a bill of £1500 for repairs a list as long as my arm and had another phone call from Vauxhall saying it might cost another £2000 for a new turbo. My wife suffers depression and this has really gave her a massive knock and she not dealing with this very well. This car should never have been advertised for sale in this condition
Dave - 16-Nov-17 @ 11:14 AM
Nay - Your Question:
I bought a second hand car in March (£1,500), I had a MOT done 13/11/17 and it came back with a load of problems mounting to just under £800 worth of repairs. The mechanic said that I should go back to the dealership and complain as it was not in a good condition when sold. some of the works include:both front coil springs broken nearside front/offside (one snapped off as it was so rusty) (now marked as dangerous)Tyre has ply or cords exposed nearside front inner (dangerous)Brake disc in such condition that it is seriously weakened nearside front innerAnti-roll bar linkage has excessive play in a pin/bush offside frontI just checked the previous MOT (before I bought it) advisory information - Brake pads wearing thin front Suspension arm ball joint dust cover deteriorated but preventing the ingress of dirt offside front lower.Is the mechanic right should I take it back to the dealership? advice would be greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
As it's more than 6 months after the date of purchase, it will be for you to prove that the fault was there at the time of purchase. It is likely that an expert report would be needed to prove this. If the mechanic is willing to provide a report saying that the vehicle would not have been fit for purpose at the time of purchase, you may be able to take action against the dealer.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 15-Nov-17 @ 12:25 PM
I bought a second hand car in March (£1,500), I had a MOT done 13/11/17and it came back with a load of problems mounting to just under £800 worth of repairs. The mechanic said that I should go back to the dealership and complain as it was not in a good condition when sold. some of the works include: both front coil springs broken nearside front/offside (one snapped off as it was so rusty) (now marked as dangerous) Tyre has ply or cords exposed nearside front inner (dangerous) Brake disc in such condition that it is seriously weakened nearside front inner Anti-roll bar linkage has excessive play in a pin/bush offside front I just checked the previous MOT (before I bought it) advisory information - Brake pads wearing thin front Suspension arm ball joint dust cover deteriorated but preventing the ingress of dirt offside front lower. Is the mechanic right should I take it back to the dealership? advice would be greatly appreciated.
Nay - 14-Nov-17 @ 12:05 PM
I purchased a 2006 corsa for my son (his first car) on Aug 17th this year. Last week it broke down on the motorway. The mechanic has informed me the head gaskett has gone and the 3rd piston and it is irrepairable. I have been back to the car sales and stated it was not saisfactory/fit for purpose. He was not very helpful, he did offer a small amount of money to help with the repairs, I expalined that under the Consumer act he should either pay for the repairs in full or replace the car, he declined and stated that he had a warrenty for the car that could prove it was in good condition. I again stated the Act and what I expected , did also say that my son had driven less than a 1000 miles , he made a comment that that would go in his favour. Anyone have any idea why he said this? And would there of been anytail tail signs if there where issues with the head gaskett etc. Many thanks
Harley - 11-Nov-17 @ 12:52 PM
Plip8080 - Your Question:
Purchased a 65 plate Kia Rio from a dealer in Liverpool, sold as having 1 owner. Just got the log book back and have discovered it’s an ex lease/hire vehicle. Can we ask for some money back as we wouldn’t have purchased has we known. We were also told it had a full service history and when we got home we discovered it was overdue for a service. We called the dealer and they did pay for our local garage to undertake the service. I think they should have told us.

Our Response:
Has it had two owners then? Sorry it's not clear. The dealer has rectified the issue with the service.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 10-Nov-17 @ 3:12 PM
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