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Buying a Used Car: Your Rights

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Sep 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]
We bought a used car from an approved dealer 5 weeks ago, two days ago we had it looked at by a mechanic due to a cooling system leak / failure. It looks like the head gasket and that there has been a fault for a while because the mechanic found signs of ceramic behind the coolant pump and lengthened tubing on the pump outlet, not something an everyday person would see. After calling and searching, it turns out that the dealer conveniently shut shop and disappeared two weeks ago and we are sat with a vehicle needing £1000 + repairs. What do we do?
KS - 15-Sep-18 @ 2:57 PM
I brought a 2013 Ford Focus ecoboost on the 21 June after 2 months the head gasket failed. The dealer is saying the 3 month warranty only covers up to a £500 claim. So a shortfall would occur. What would be my next step?
Andy - 10-Sep-18 @ 10:40 AM
I brought a Ford Focus eco boost 2012. My warranty ran out 2 weeks ago and I have now just been told after breaking down yesterday that I need a new engine as it's completely dead. Is there any way to make a claim as two weeks difference is unbelievable and they are saying they won't help
Mandy3936 - 7-Sep-18 @ 4:41 PM
I also bought a used car from an approved dealer , an AA approved dealer it was a Porsche Boxster I asked about the mileage as concerned about the timing belt but was told that it was chain driven so thought no more of it when I decided to sell it 8 months later i was told that there was a mileage discrepancy on it of 1000 miles so the asking price dropped , the dealer claims innocence and so does the AA, the Motor , Financial and Consumer Ombudsman say cannot help the Trading Standards are investigating but my Consumer Rights 2015 have been violated and they have got away with it .
Gordon - 2-Sep-18 @ 6:31 PM
I bought my car 6months ago and it just died on me.3 months ago I took it to the dealers garage and they told me the transmission was going bad and I needed a new one. Can I demand a replacement?
Anna - 24-Aug-18 @ 7:05 PM
Vina - Your Question:
What can I do, I brought a Renault espace 2006 just over 7 months ago now, when I brought the car in December 2017 after two weeks had a injection fault, so the retailer came and took the car to repair, but this had failed. After the first couple of times the battery had gone flat and couldn't use the car. He has since had the car more than 4 times to repair but had failed to fix it! But also failed to come and collect the car again the 5th to repair which has made the warranty expire due to them not coming to collect which I was told. Now I don't know what to do as now the car will not turn over and the battery has gone flat?

Our Response:
As it's not 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. Get an independent mechanic to take a look. If the problem is related to the one found at the time of purchase, the dealer should repair it.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 13-Aug-18 @ 11:15 AM
What can I do, I brought a Renault espace 2006 just over 7 months ago now, when I brought the car in December 2017 after two weeks had a injection fault, so the retailer came and took the car to repair, but this had failed. After the first couple of times the battery had gone flat and couldn't use the car. He has since had the car more than 4 times to repair but had failed to fix it! But also failed to come and collect the car again the 5th to repair which has made the warranty expire due to them not coming to collect which I was told. Now I don't know what to do as now the car will not turn over and the battery has gone flat?
Vina - 11-Aug-18 @ 10:23 AM
Mick - Your Question:
Hi I've had my used car for about 5 months brought from a dealer. However I'm not really happy as it looks like it's had a spray job. It's a good spray job only just noticed little signs of it during washing my car. Like a small lip of paint in the door jamb and by the bumper. What can I do ? Or my rights there's no way I would have brought a sprayed car if I noticed at the time. Thanks

Our Response:
Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you'd be expected to spot when taking delivery of the vehicle and whether there was anything in the sale description that said it had never been sprayed etc. This makes it very difficult for us to advise on.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 7-Aug-18 @ 3:00 PM
Hi I've had my used car for about 5 months brought from a dealer. However I'm not really happy as it looks like it's had a spray job. It's a good spray job only just noticed little signs of it during washing my car. Like a small lip of paint in the door jamb and by the bumper. What can I do ? Or my rights there's no way I would have brought a sprayed car if I noticed at the time. Thanks
Mick - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:51 AM
I bought a insignia in December 7000 started going in to limp mode about 2 month ago but started getting worse losing power and engine management light came on took it to garage and they said there were 9 history faults so it looks like just before I've collected the car the 've put it on diagnostics machine and cleared them I know why 2000 for repairs I have 4 years left to pay I've had to park the car up I can't get it repaired and I can't get shot as it's on finance is there anything I can do
Bezza - 28-Jul-18 @ 4:40 PM
Hi guys a little help needed i brought a vauxhall vivaro about 3 and half months ago from vauxhall dealership used one but has no got a fault with gear box which i the slave cylinder has gone so went back to dealer and he said i only had 60 warranty on it and it will now cost me close to £1000 that i would have to pay from reading what is on this website regarding 0-6 months of owing it i would not say it was down to ware and tyre and so they should cover the cost any help would be appreciated cheer s
Aki2238 - 17-Jul-18 @ 4:49 PM
Hello My partner and I just purchased a used jaguar xtype 54 reg with 70k miles on 3rd July that appeared aesthetically in immaculate condition. There was only part service history but the dealer had good reviews and was local so my partner test drove the car and subsequently bought it a few days later. We asked the dealer to put 12 months MOT at his 'guy's garage - that also has good reviews online.. the mot included the change of a balding tyre and break pads which we thought was great. On Sunday 15th my partner was driving down a duel carriageway to his Mums house - a 15 min drive, when the clutch just deflated and he had to pull into a lay-by. He called the guy we bought it off as we had a 12 months warranty and he got his 'guy' to pick it up and take it to his garage and said that he couldnt image it would be the clutch but perhaps the hydraulics or the wire connecting it. Two days later and he has called to say that someone was riding the clutch and that was the cause.... baring in mind we had a used VW Bora for 3 years with no issues at any of the services, no advisories at all and both been driving over 10 years so very careful. I rarely drive and only drove this car once to the supermarket down the road and my partner only drives to work and back 3 times a week which is 6 mins away and once to his Mums. Where do we stand in this instance? how can the clutch wear after less than two weeks when we havent even used the car everyday? he is saying we will have to pay for a new one as it is not a fault and blaming us when it could have been worn before we bought it and our small usage just topped it off? m
M - 17-Jul-18 @ 11:24 AM
I bought a ford connect 12 plate 3 months ago from a commercial van dealer. After 2 weeks exhaust fumes in the cab were unbearable and van went into limp mode. The van went back to them and a week later I got van back and all seemed well. 2 months later and the fumes started building up Ithe cab againand now cam belt has gone and engine has seized. Dealer says warranty does not cover this. Where do I stand?? Please help
Antmcc - 25-Jun-18 @ 11:47 PM
I bought a 2012 Nissan Note 2 weeks ago but needs work which it had and drove it away 4 days ago to only realise the clutch is sitting high but not slipping , will the garage be liable for the repair as I deem that to be unroad worthy considering work was carried out days before driving the car away for its MOT
Oli - 22-Jun-18 @ 12:42 AM
I bought an 07 plate car 123k miles on clock even tho it said 93k on details....paid cash and within 30 days i noticed a problem with the steering all loose and shaky....took it to them and they returned it not giving me any details on what they did if anything and problem has got worse ive since had a service and quick inspection (full one to follow) and i have a problem with steering rack, tie rods and drop link along with fuel and oil leak and i had to replace 2 tyres that were worn! Ive had it 4 months now.....ive contacted them again but no response!
Nic1980 - 15-Jun-18 @ 3:55 PM
Illy - Your Question:
I bought a jaguar stype on finance only had it 8 weeks I turned it over and let it run for a couple of minutes then when I turned off a couple of minutes later it burst into flames and ended up toast! What do I do?

Our Response:
Was it bought from a dealer? What was the cause of the fire? What was the description of the car when you bought it? How old/mileage? There's not really much we can go on here. We suggest you first contact the finance company and tell them about - ask them what they would like you to do.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 11-Jun-18 @ 3:18 PM
I bought a jaguar stype on finance only had it 8 weeks I turned it over and let it run for a couple of minutes then when I turned off a couple of minutes later it burst into flames and ended up toast! What do I do?
Illy - 8-Jun-18 @ 5:43 PM
Rutty - Your Question:
Hi I bought my car from a dealer in January 2018 with 3 months warranty and in late may I now have a broken car with potentially £1000 of repairs. I bought this car in good faith to have a reliable car to get to work and right now I can't get to work. What can I do please help.

Our Response:
What has the dealer said? How has it broken? More information please!
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-Jun-18 @ 2:12 PM
Hi I bought my car from a dealer in January 2018 with 3 months warranty and in late may I now have a broken car with potentially £1000 of repairs. I bought this car in good faith to have a reliable car to get to work and right now I can't get to work. What can I do please help.
Rutty - 6-Jun-18 @ 10:06 PM
Bought a 10yr old used car, average mileage of an RAC dealer for 4k just over 2wks ago? Car has since, broken a front spring and is leaking oil under the engine? Dealer is refusing to answer my msgs or to answer the phone?? I would like to keep the car but do I take it to my garage, get it repaired and would he be liable for the bill? Help as I'm at a loss with this ??
Pablo - 2-Jun-18 @ 11:13 PM
I bought a 2009 Jaguar XF for £7950.00, mileage 98,164. with a full 12 months MOT. I purchased the car on the 13/3/2018. On the 30/3/2018 it went into "limp mode" with a restricted performance warning on the dash. Contacted the dealer he collected the car on the 18/4/2018 returning on the 25/4/2018 repaired at no expense to myself. However within 2 days the car developed another fault "faulty fuel gauge" informed the dealer and he asked me to persevere with it as it might rectify itself, it did not and another fault appeared "faulty sat nav system" He has offered to go 50/50 on the cost of these repairs but I would like to know is he responsible for the full cost.
Glassman - 30-May-18 @ 8:26 PM
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
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