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Buying a Used Car: Your Rights

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 27 May 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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[Add a Comment]
I bought my car 7 months ago from a dealer,it's been back once in the 1st 3 months. Ive just had a service and gkt told I need new brakes and discs all round and a new tyre what do I do
Loulou lolly - 27-May-18 @ 7:23 AM
Bought a car from a well known dealer 4 months ago which I paid £12,000 have £6,000 on finance 6 weeks ago had to have timing chain fitted and water pump and has never been driving right since been misfiring coolant low been to the garage I use many times to rectify problem and now been yesterday and head gasket is leaking what are my rights if I take it back to the garage where I bought it
Hollymilly - 24-May-18 @ 9:45 PM
Hi i purchased a used audi from vw doncaster dealers on 29th march 2018 mileage was 71,500, the clutch is now slipping at 74,500. I was given a 3 month AA star plus warranty but they are saying it is a wear and tear part so would not be covered. The car did have a AA report done before it was sold to me and nothing came up about the clutch slipping. What rights do i have
Waseem - 23-May-18 @ 1:56 PM
Zeb - Your Question:
I bought a car a week ago just found out the valve has blown the dealer said car was fine it just shakes due to it been a 3 cylinder what are my rights

Our Response:
How much did you pay? What aws the mileage? Sales description? etc. Without knowing more information it's difficult for us to say but please read the part of the above article entitledWhat Steps Can I Take? 3
ConsumerRightsExpert - 23-May-18 @ 12:44 PM
I bought a car a week ago just found out the valve has blown the dealer said car was fine it just shakes due to it been a 3 cylinder what are my rights
Zeb - 21-May-18 @ 3:56 PM
Woo - Your Question:
My daughter bought a 2nd hand car 3 months ago from a 2nd hand car dealers and since purchasing we have had to replace the battery, brake pads without having any knowledge that this may need doing.In the last week it started making a strange noise & the temperature light came on. Had a local garage check it over & now they are saying that the head gasket has gone which will cost a considerable sum.Where does she stand on getting anything back from the dealer for the repairs or even returning the vehicle for a refund. Thanks

Our Response:
You haven't said how much she paid? How many miles the car had done? Its age? The description of the vehicle given by the dealer at the time of sale?
ConsumerRightsExpert - 21-May-18 @ 10:28 AM
Hi, I’ve bought a van off a dealer on finance through Santander. The van broke down 28days later. I’ve paid £460.00 to get the van back to the dealer, they have had the van for nearly 4 weeks now my costs are mounting up. They have said the egr valve was leaking coolant. But it’s my fault the van was broke down on the motorway as I drove it to destruction, the van was driven without coolant and I should of noticed this and seen the signs. The van is fitted with a limiter at 70mph, so I keep the speed at 65mph max the van lost power To 30 mph and then smoke entered the cab, when it was save I pulled over to the hard shoulder where the smoke was still coming out from under the bonnet. The van came with a 3 month warranty but they have said they cannot have a successful claim as I drove it to destruction. I’ve now had a cost from them at £3,915.00 I need my van back and I don’t know how to resolve this. any help would be appreciated thanks Russ
Russ - 18-May-18 @ 9:42 PM
My daughter bought a 2nd hand car 3 months ago from a 2nd hand car dealers and since purchasing we have had to replace the battery, brake pads without having any knowledge that this may need doing. In the last week it started making a strange noise & the temperature light came on.Had a local garage check it over & now they are saying that the head gasket has gone which will cost a considerable sum. Where does she stand on getting anything back from the dealer for the repairs or even returning the vehicle for a refund. Thanks
Woo - 18-May-18 @ 2:32 PM
Smith1 - Your Question:
I have just put a £500 deposit down on a car only for my finance company to reject my finance loan as they do not trust the dealership enough to make the payment, they basically think I’m going to be ripped off if I buy the car. On my deposit receipt it says “deposit refundable subject to finance”. The dealership are refusing to give me my deposit back. What shall I do?

Our Response:
Firstly ask the finance company if they can help. If you have it in writing that the deposit is refundable subject to finance, they must return it to you. Court action may be your last resort.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 16-May-18 @ 2:42 PM
I bought an 63 plate Audi TT in January 2018 . The paint on the rear bumper is peeling off .. I didn’t take out the extended warranty .. not sure where I stand .. the dealership weren’t very helpful when I took the car back in January as I notice some smalldenting to the drivers side rear wheel arch, they eventualy repaired the wheel arch .. the peeling on the rear bumper I have only notice this week.. any advice would be appreciated .
Cooperwoman1 - 15-May-18 @ 11:12 AM
I have just put a £500 deposit down on a car only for my finance company to reject my finance loan as they do not trust the dealership enough to make the payment, they basically think I’m going to be ripped off if I buy the car. On my deposit receipt it says “deposit refundable subject to finance”. The dealership are refusing to give me my deposit back. What shall i do?
Smith1 - 15-May-18 @ 6:08 AM
The1SilverShadow - Your Question:
Hi there, bought a Renault megane convertible 2008 model £1500 3rd May 2018, a week into driving the vehicle I smell a rubber burning type smell which I know to be clutch ware. Took the car back to the car dealers just over a week from purchase date (14th may to be precise) to be told the owner is not in atm and a discrepancy regarding warranty. I know the car was sold without warranty and on the receipt reads spare or repairs. I took the car to an independent garage; low-and-behold, the clutch is on its way out and fixing it would cost in and around £300.(expletives omitted ) however, I realize its not going to be easy getting the satisfaction as an honest paying customer but, what are my chances of getting a just recompense.thanks in advance

Our Response:
If you bought it as a "spares and repairs" purchase, it's difficult for us to comment on your rights.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 14-May-18 @ 2:53 PM
Hi there, bought a Renault megane convertible 2008 model £1500 3rd May 2018, a week into driving the vehicle i smell a rubber burning type smell which i know to be clutch ware. Took the car backto the car dealers justover a week from purchase date (14th may to be precise) to be told the owner is not in atm and a discrepancy regarding warranty. I know the car was sold without warrantyand on the receipt reads spare or repairs. I took the car to an independent garage; low-and-behold, the clutch is on its way out and fixing it would cost in and around £300......(expletives omitted ) however, i realize its not going to be easy getting the satisfaction as an honest paying customer but, what are my chances of getting a just recompense...thanks in advance
The1SilverShadow - 14-May-18 @ 1:53 PM
Bill - Your Question:
I bought a 2nd hand car from a dealer and subsequently found out that the 3 keys that came with it would not open the doors. The remotes on 2 of them worked ok. I contacted him and he said the lock was 'stiff' due to lack of use. Said I was being 'petty' for looking the lock fixed. Ended up paying over £400 to have a new lock set fitted. Have I any recourse?

Our Response:
If the dealer gave you the additional keys on the basis that they worked, then they should have replaced them. As you've now done the work yourself you may find it difficult to implement your consumer rights, so ask the dealer to reimburse anyway but note that you may have to resort to the small claims courts.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-May-18 @ 12:35 PM
I bought a 2nd hand car from a dealer and subsequently found out that the 3 keys that came with it would not open the doors. The remotes on 2 of them worked ok. I contacted him and he said the lock was 'stiff' due to lack of use. Said I was being 'petty' for looking the lock fixed. Ended up paying over £400 to have a new lock set fitted. Have I any recourse?
Bill - 6-May-18 @ 4:02 AM
Gdgman - Your Question:
I boght a secondhand i20 44hours later whilst overtaking a lorry on the M1complete loss of power. Rac said sensor fault. Took it back to the dealer who was very apologetic and would find fault. Turns out the dealer has told me that it must be a frek accident that a stone or similar has half cut through the sensor wire. He is fixing it. Will I have to pay?

Our Response:
This depends whether the fault was there when you purchased it. If it happened as a result of something hitting the sensor wire while you were driving along, you may have to pay.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 4-May-18 @ 1:57 PM
I boght a secondhand i20 44hours later whilst overtaking a lorry on the M1complete loss of power. Rac said sensor fault. Took it back to the dealer who was very apologetic and would find fault. Turns out the dealer has told me that it must be a frek accident that a stone or similar has half cut through the sensor wire. He is fixing it. Will i have to pay?
Gdgman - 2-May-18 @ 9:15 PM
My boyfriend purchased a Ford Mondeo from a dealer for £770 I think it was mid March and end of April, Head Gasket goes. Leaving him with no car and having to borrow a family friend's spare one and pay out for extra insurance, tax etc. What are his rights? Surely less than 2 months since it was purchased and head gasket going means that he is entitled to return it for a refund as the cost to fix it is over the price it is even worth?
Hollie - 1-May-18 @ 2:04 PM
Roxy28 - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a 2013 Citroen Ds3 in February this, it is 2month into the 3month warranty. A few weeks ago there was a loud noise coming from the engine, I dropped into Citroen they said it sounded like the tensioner but couldnt book me in until 30 April. Last friday it broke down, they have it now saying the tensioner is fine it was the spark plugs. I have no experience with cars and as the car is on 4yr finance I am worried I will be paying for a car that may potentially not work or cost me more than its worth to continually fix. What can I do?

Our Response:
Just because the spark plugs needed replacing does not mean the car is not going to be reliable. Speak to an independent mechanic if you're unsure.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 27-Apr-18 @ 11:22 AM
Hi. We bought a car 4 weeks ago. It broke down with a faulty gear box. The garage we bought it from is 60 miles away. They are willing to repair it but demanding to bring the car to them for repairs as my local garages do not give them quotes. Do I must take it back to them (it will have to be transported as its not safe to drive) for repairs? Thank you
vikshle - 26-Apr-18 @ 2:21 PM
Hi, i bought a 2013 Citroen Ds3 in February this, it is 2month into the 3month warranty. A few weeks ago there was a loud noise coming from the engine, i dropped into Citroen they said it sounded like the tensioner but couldnt book me in until 30 April. Last friday it broke down, they have it now saying the tensioner is fine it was the spark plugs. I have no experience with cars and as the car is on 4yr finance i am worried i will be paying for a car that may potentially not work or cost me more than its worth to continually fix. What can i do?
Roxy28 - 24-Apr-18 @ 4:37 PM
Hi I bought a 2013 Ford Focus from an independent dealer in November 2016. Towards the end of 2017 I noticed rust coming through on the bottom of the drivers door, got in touch with dealer and they sorted it. 5 months later the rust is returning, not only on the drivers door where repaired but also on the rear passengerdoor too. I’ve sent an email to the dealer to ask what we can do to solve this but can anyone give any advice on any right I may have with regards to my problem. I bought the car over 5 years on finance and was hoping to have the car way past when I have finished paying it off but at this rate and the rust problems I’m going to be left with a badly looking car unless I get it sorted privately myself. Thankyou in advance
Martin80 - 20-Apr-18 @ 6:23 PM
StephK - Your Question:
I purchased a Ford Galaxy People Carrier and I have had the car less than 12 monthgs and the head gasket has gone on it

Our Response:
Sorry we can't advise on this as you haven't given any details. Private buy? Dealer purchase? Used or new? Price? Mileage at purchase? Mileage now? Age? Sales description?
ConsumerRightsExpert - 20-Apr-18 @ 2:32 PM
I purchased a Ford Galaxy People Carrier and I have had the car less than 12 monthgs and the head gasket has gone on it
StephK - 18-Apr-18 @ 11:05 AM
Bully- Your Question:
I bought a car from a well known dealer 12 months ago, before I collected the car they removed the bonnet to repair a paint problem. I've now noticed that the bonnet was not refitted correctly at the time. At the top corner of my bonnet it has been rubbing the wing, causing the paint to chip. Is the dealer under any obligation to repair this? Thanks

Our Response:
As long as you can prove the fault is a result of the work done andnot natural wear then you can discuss this with the dealer.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 10-Apr-18 @ 10:05 AM
Bmw1 - Your Question:
The car is from 2013, I have paid £9800, 52500 miles. BMW service carried out full diagnostic on car last week plus test drive. I was advised to not drive until car is fixed as clutch is damaged very badlyThe dealer ask me, every time I contact him, to give him a couple of hours to ring me back, but he never does.

Our Response:
Did you have a mechanic check it when you bought it though? Did you test drive it? A clutch worn this badly might have been noticeable at the time of purchase. We can't say whether a dealer would have to cover a clutch under Consumer Rights in this circumstances but can tell you that dealers aren’t required to rectify any component that fails due to ‘fair wear and tear’, such as tyres or brake discs that wear out due to normal use. This also applies to any specific fault that a dealer told you about prior to purchase. If you and the dealer disagree, you may have to consider legal action.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 9-Apr-18 @ 12:55 PM
The car is from 2013, I have paid £9800, 52500 miles. BMW service carried out full diagnostic on car last week plus test drive. I was advised to not drive until car is fixed as clutch is damaged very badly The dealer ask me, every time I contact him, to give him a couple of hours to ring me back, but he never does.
Bmw1 - 9-Apr-18 @ 7:45 AM
I bought a car from a well known dealer 12 months ago, before I collected the car they removed the bonnet to repair a paint problem. I've now noticed that the bonnet was not refitted correctly at the time. At the top corner of my bonnet it has been rubbing the wing, causing the paint to chip. Is the dealer under any obligation to repair this? Thanks
Bully - 9-Apr-18 @ 2:41 AM
Bmw1 - Your Question:
Hi. I bought BMW 1 series on Feb 8th. I have been told that there is 3 month guarantee on it. A week ago I had an fault on screen saying that there is a problem with drivetrain. Rang the dealer and have been told to take a crazy to diagnostic. Which I did and there is: excessive clutch slip, clutch overheating, dpf flexi joint badly worn. The dealer (private) told me that these parts aren't under guarantee. I am a female, had a car only 6 weeks, the car its on finance. What shall I do?

Our Response:
It's difficult for us to comment really as we don't know how much you paid, what the description of the vehicle was, how old/what mileage etc. Also what kind of inspection was carried out by you or an expert at the time of purchase.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:17 PM
Hi. I bought BMW 1 series on Feb 8th. I have been told that there is 3 month guarantee on it. A week ago I had an fault on screen saying that there is a problem with drivetrain. Rang the dealer and have been told to take a crazy to diagnostic. Which I did and there is: excessive clutch slip, clutch overheating, dpf flexi joint badly worn. The dealer (private) told me that these parts aren't under guarantee. I am a female, had a car only 6 weeks, the car its on finance. What shall I do?
Bmw1 - 5-Apr-18 @ 2:34 PM
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Latest Comments
  • Loulou lolly
    Re: Buying a Used Car: Your Rights
    I bought my car 7 months ago from a dealer, it's been back once in the 1st 3 months. Ive just had a service and gkt told I need…
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    Re: Buying a Used Car: Your Rights
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    Re: Buying a Used Car: Your Rights
    Hi i purchased a used audi from vw doncaster dealers on 29th march 2018 mileage was 71,500, the clutch is now slipping at…
    23 May 2018
  • ConsumerRightsExpert
    Re: Buying a Used Car: Your Rights
    Zeb - Your Question:I bought a car a week ago just found out the valve has blown the dealer said car was fine it just shakes due…
    23 May 2018
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