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Buying a Used Car: Your Rights

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Oct 2017 | 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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I bough 11 c4 7 seater 10 months ago paid 13900 he gear box and fly wheel has gone do i have any come back ?
Kellywalsh - 18-Oct-17 @ 9:58 PM
Kelvy - Your Question:
I bought a car from a dealer 9 months ago with two central locking keys and today I received a call from the dealer telling me that the previous owner had another key to the car that I have bought Is that in someway to being illegal or even braking the car purchase aggrement

Our Response:
If the dealer didn't know about the existence of a third key there's probably not much you can do. Has this only just come to light becausethe previous owner has contacted them? Sorry there's not really enought information for us to comment.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 13-Oct-17 @ 3:05 PM
I bought a car from a dealer 9 months ago with two central locking keys and today i received a call from the dealer telling me that the previous owner had another key to the car that I have bought Is that in someway to being illegal or even braking the car purchase aggrement
Kelvy - 12-Oct-17 @ 8:15 PM
I bought a peugeot boxer van from a garage yesterday, i checked the mot history beforehand and there was an advisory of an oil leak. I asked him if this had been sorted, he said it had 1200 spent on it at the beginning of the year and all looks fine underneath so he assumes so.. Im no mechanic this is the first car/van ive ever bought, maybe i was a bit naive to take that as a good enough answer? This morning there is a few drops of oil on my drive from over night.. what can i do? Is he liable to of fixed this? Have i the right to go back and ask him? Or is it down to me to fork out. Advice please
Bex - 11-Oct-17 @ 8:15 AM
My husband bought a second hand car 22nd Sept 2017 from a car dealer.The power steering went on 6th Oct 2017 some two weeks later.My husband contacted dealer and was told to bring the car in so they could have a look.Following them looking at the car he was told the power steering pump had gone and that this was not covered under the 3 month warranty we were given as only engine and gear box were covered under this warranty. My husband says it is a 10 year old car so probably classed as wear and tear whereas I am not too sure.To me I don't expect I car I bought to have problems within 2 weeks.Where do we stand??
ams - 10-Oct-17 @ 7:49 PM
Phil - Your Question:
I bought a used car from a dealer in manchesterI have returned home to find my car gone and it transpires the Police have taken the Car off my drive and compounded it as it was a stolen vehicle from WalesWhen I bought the car I obtained the V5 , service log book and it came with a HPI check results all indicating it came from walesI paid by Debit card and there is nothing I can doAny advice please would help me thanks

Our Response:
You should seek advice on taking legal action against the dealer.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 10-Oct-17 @ 12:15 PM
i bought a used car from a dealer in manchester I have returned home to find my car gone and it transpires the Police have taken the Car off my drive and compounded it as it was a stolen vehicle from Wales When i bought the car i obtained the V5 , service log book and it came with a HPI check results all indicating it came from wales I paid by Debit card and there is nothing i can do Any advice please would help me thanks
Phil - 7-Oct-17 @ 7:00 PM
I bought a used car 3 weeks ago today from a main dealer. It's a 2013 peagot 208' that after driving home today has an engine failure light on. It was a 5 grand car with 50,000 on close ck, I haven't even done an additional 509 miles yet. What are my rights and can I get it checked by a different garage first or will that void my (basic) warranty?!
Megan - 6-Oct-17 @ 8:33 PM
Leven - Your Question:
I bought a second hand car two weeks ago with 39,000 miles. Sold as a good, low mileage car. It's now done 39,525. The clutch is slipping very badly now and above 3000 rpm the car doewsn't accelearet, the rev counter just speeds up. I'm scared to cross a newrby dual carriage-way in case it fails when something is coming at me.The dealer is about 300 miles away from me. Ideally the car would be fixed by a local garageas it seems generally OK apart form this - but what are my options?- Can I ask for my money back, as the car doesn't do what it is supposed to do?- Can I have it fixed by my local (trusted) garage, with the dealer paying for this (or would I be expected to take it back 300 miles to be fixed?).thanks

Our Response:
Contact the dealer first of all and see what they propose. They may want to examine the car themselves or appoint a local dealer that they know to take a look.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 4-Oct-17 @ 2:57 PM
Leanne- Your Question:
My husband brought a car 3 months ago and it broke down last week. It is being seen by a garage today and they have said the alternator needs replacing but that it might have affected other parts of the car so needs an extensive diagnostic test costing nearly £400 on top of any work done probably over £1000. The car is 4 years old with less than 40000 miles. My husband doesn't want to keep the car. Are we within rights for them to replace for another vehicle?

Our Response:
Was it bought from a dealer/trader? One would not expect this from a four year old car with fewer than 40,000 miles. At this stage (3 months since purchase), the dealer should repair or replace.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 4-Oct-17 @ 1:52 PM
I bought a second hand car two weeks ago with 39,000 miles. Sold as a good, low mileage car. It's now done 39,525. The clutch is slipping very badly now and above 3000 rpm the car doewsn't accelearet, the rev counter just speeds up. I'm scared to cross a newrby dual carriage-way in case it fails when something is coming at me. The dealer is about 300 miles away from me. Ideally the car would be fixed by a local garageas it seems generally OK apart form this- but what are my options? - Can I ask for my money back, as the car doesn't do what it is supposed to do? - Can I have it fixed by my local (trusted) garage, with the dealer paying for this (or would I be expected to take it back 300 miles to be fixed?). thanks
Leven - 4-Oct-17 @ 9:01 AM
My husband brought a car 3 months ago and it broke down last week. It is being seen by a garage today and they have saidthe alternator needs replacing but that it might have affected other parts of the car so needs an extensive diagnostic test costing nearly £400 on top of any work done probably over £1000. The car is 4 years old with less than 40000 miles. My husband doesn't want to keep the car. Are we within rights for them to replace for another vehicle?
Leanne - 3-Oct-17 @ 11:14 AM
Jo - Your Question:
My daughter bought her 2010 car from a small independent garage that service Land Rovers but also do Mot's. She bought the car in April for £2800.00 and they did an MOT and Service on the car, they gave her a 3 month warranty but she now has an issue with the car and she has been advised by another garage that the head gasket has gone. They have said that she should go back to the garage and request that they fix this as it is within 6 months of her having it. She contacted them and they have said that they gave her a 3 month warranty and that it is not their problem. Is this now her problem or should she go back to the garage and fight this. Any advise would be very much appreciated. thank you

Our Response:
She should ask them to look at the Consumer rights act - a head gasket may not always be considered as normal wear and tear and as it's within 6 months she should probably expect a repair/replacement.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 3:14 PM
Helen - Your Question:
I bought a new car from a main VW dealer just over 3 years ago and now there is some major electrical fault with it that is going to cost an awful lot to repair. Is this something that the dealer should be responsible for? I wouldnt expect a 3 and a half year old car to have electrical issues already! thanks for any guidance

Our Response:
After the first 3 months, the burden is on the buyer to prove that the fault existed at the time of purchase or that the item is not of "satisfactory quality/fit for purpose etc). If you can get an expert to provide evidence of this you might still be able to get help towards the cost of the repair. While your contract is always with the retailer, it's probably worth contacting the manufacturer to check if this is a known fault and to ask for suggestions etc
ConsumerRightsExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 12:15 PM
FRS - Your Question:
HiI bought a car at the weekend, and noticed in the service paperwork form the previous owner that Mercedes had noted during last service that brake discs were badly corroded. The garage I bought the car from agreed to pay for the parts which was good.But now having had the car checked, the front discs are very worn on one side as well.Do I have any recourse having bought the car 3 days ago, to ask for the front discs to be done as well? Or would it be just the garages discretion to do it, i.e. they're not legally bound to do it? (It's not a mercedes main dealer by the way).Also when on the ramp they found a small oil leak under the engine - they said it was tiny and hard to know where it's from but again, do I have any legal recourse or at garages discretion or otherwise? Thanks, S

Our Response:
This depends on the description they gave you when you bought it. If they told you it had been fully checked over for faults etc, then yes you should take it back.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 12:12 PM
Bossross - Your Question:
I bought a used 2014 Ford Focus ST3 from a ford dealer on the 15th of September I reported to them this Monday that the clutch is smelling really bad under normal use. I took it to the dealer today and they admited they could smell it. They told me I wasn't entitled to a refund they could only check to see if it was wear or tear or not and if it was wear and tear tough. ONLY if they deem it to be a defect they will offer a repair. I have only driven the car 300 miles. I want my money back!

Our Response:
A second-hand car must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and must meet the description you were given of it when you bought it. Usually under the consumer rights act you can return the vehicle for a refund or repair (depending on the timescales) if it doesn't mee the above criteria. You should however, consider the age, price, mileage, description etc. We don't know what how much you paid, what the description was or the car's age and mileage. Please follow the advice in the above article if you feel you have a case. Show the dealer the article if necessary and quote the Consumer Rights Act. If you are unsuccessful and feel you have a genuine case you should then try legal action or contacting the retail ombudsman.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:56 AM
My daughter bought her 2010 car from a small independent garage that service Land Rovers but also do Mot's.She bought the car in April for £2800.00 and they did an MOT and Service on the car,they gave her a 3 month warranty but she now has an issue with the car and she has been advised by another garage that the head gasket has gone. They have said that she should go back to the garage and request that they fix this as it is within 6 months of her having it.She contacted them and they have said that they gave her a 3 month warranty and that it is not their problem.Is this now her problem or should she go back to the garage and fight this.Any advise would be very much appreciated.thankyou
Jo - 28-Sep-17 @ 3:38 PM
I bought a new car from a main VW dealer just over 3 years ago and now there is some major electrical fault with it that is going to cost an awful lot to repair. Is this something that the dealer should be responsible for? I wouldnt expect a 3 and a half year old car to have electrical issues already! thanks for any guidance
Helen - 27-Sep-17 @ 4:15 PM
Hi I bought a car at the weekend, and noticed in the service paperwork form the previous owner that Mercedes had noted during last service that brake discs were badly corroded.The garage I bought the car from agreed to pay for the parts which was good. But now having had the car checked, the front discs are very worn on one side as well. Do I have any recourse having bought the car 3 days ago, to ask for the front discs to be done as well?Or would it be just the garages discretion to do it, i.e. they're not legally bound to do it?(It's not a mercedes main dealer by the way). Also when on the ramp they found a small oil leak under the engine - they said it was tiny and hard to know where it's from but again, do I have any legal recourse or at garages discretion or otherwise?Thanks, S
FRS - 27-Sep-17 @ 4:08 PM
I bought a used 2014 Ford Focus ST3 from a ford dealer on the 15th of September I reported to them this Monday that the clutch is smelling really bad under normal use. I took it to the dealer today and they admited they could smell it. They told me I wasn't entitled to a refund they could only check to see if it was wear or tear or not and if it was wear and tear tough. ONLY if they deem it to be a defect they will offer a repair... I have only driven the car 300 miles. I want my money back!
Bossross - 27-Sep-17 @ 12:57 PM
Sailen - Your Question:
I bought a 2016 C class mercedes benz car 3 month ago. Sudemtly my car brockdown and it is in the mercedes garage. I'm big dought on this car. Can I get the replacement car? Please your suggestion would be much appreciate on this matter.

Our Response:
You haven't given enough information about where you bought it from and why it broke down.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 27-Sep-17 @ 12:26 PM
I bought a 2016 C class mercedes benz car 3 month ago. Sudemtly my car brockdown and it is in the mercedes garage. I'm big dought on this car . Can I get the replacement car? Please your suggestion would be much appreciate on this matter.
Sailen - 27-Sep-17 @ 10:04 AM
I bought a car in July and when I got it home all the water had leeked out, as I was going on holiday to the Scotland the weekend after I called the dealer who let me take it to my garage who replaced the radiator and then paid me back.when on holiday in Scotland the engine management light came on and I took it to a garage who said it was a blocked DFP and needed a new catalytic converter. I came home down the motorway and the light went off, I then had it come on again but was going to the garage but it went off again, it then came on again last week just before I had to do a 5 hour round trip to take one not my daughters to university. I was told a good run at speed should fix it but it just stayed on and yesterday I took it to my garage who read the same falt code p0422 and recommended I try get it cleaned. I contacted the dealer last night to see if he would pay for the clean to try and fix it. I paid £2000 for the car but if I got the part from a main dealer I am looking at £2000 and even a non Kia part will cost me many hundred's. I know it was a second hand car and I know it will need a can belt change in a few thousand miles and the clutch is not great but I took that into account when I paid for it.
Npm - 21-Sep-17 @ 6:02 PM
I bought a Toyota Avensis Estate 17 days ago. Car has been running fine until 2days ago when we noticed a horrid burning rubber smell coming from the engine. I've done some research and it seems to suggest its the clutch that has gone/ is going. I've rung the dealer and asked for their help and they have just advised I drive it until the engine warning light comes on. (Not very happy to do this with two small children in the car?) And surely this could further damage the car?
Ali - 21-Sep-17 @ 9:46 AM
Cat13r - Your Question:
I bought a vehicle 7 months ago a 64 plate ford focus which has just had it's first mot. It's only done 68k miles and the timing belt has snapped. I have rung dealer and they said out of 6 months there is nothing they can do. What options do I have?

Our Response:
As it's over 6 months since purchase, the onus is on you to prove that the fault was present at the time of purchase. You haven't said how many miles that car had done at the time of purchase. It's common for some ford vehicles to need a timing belt replacement at around 60k miles depending on driving style etc.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:52 PM
I bought a vehicle 7 months ago a 64 plate ford focus which has just had it's first mot. It's only done 68k miles and the timing belt has snapped. I have rung dealer and they said out of 6 months there is nothing they can do. What options do I have?
Cat13r - 16-Sep-17 @ 1:21 PM
I bought an Audi in April. 6 weeks later it stopped running. When I OBD it read ECU not responding. My brother, who is a training mechanic removed the ecu and sent it away to be checked but it came back fine. I was able to use the car for a few weeks before the problem came back. I then returned it to the garage who had the car for a week or two before saying the problem had been resolved. The problem has since returned but the garage is now saying that since I removed the ECU and not them that my rights no longer cover me. Is this true?
Tron - 12-Sep-17 @ 5:03 PM
bazzar - Your Question:
I purchased a 2011 Vauxhall astra in may 2016 and it has now developed a nasty whine from the gearbox, the local vauxhall dealer checked it out and apparently it is a known fault for this gearbox but vauxhall have only offered to pay half the cost of replacing the box, do I have any rights to claim from the dealer I purchased the car from

Our Response:
Not really. You've had it for 18 months and we don't know how many miles you've put on the vehicle since purchase etc.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-Sep-17 @ 12:13 PM
I just bought a car two weeks ago the 14th gonna make it one month, since both it it's been acting up like it goes completely dead this morning I call the guy where I bought it at to fix it he said he can't fix it I'm gonna need to go to a mechanic, what should I do?
zuliej - 8-Sep-17 @ 4:29 AM
I purchased a 2011 Vauxhall astra in may 2016 and it has now developed a nasty whine from the gearbox, the local vauxhall dealer checked it out and apparently it is a known fault for this gearbox but vauxhall have only offered to pay half the cost of replacing the box, do I have any rights to claim from the dealer I purchased the car from
bazzar - 7-Sep-17 @ 1:03 PM
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