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Buying a Used Car: Your Rights

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 6 Aug 2022 | 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.


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).


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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Purchased an Hybrid car from a dealer, which I found not practical or suitable for my need.. Approached them in less than 3wks , as I understood (from a 2015 act) it could be returned for a refund.. They would not refund me, I was offered an exchange, with an £800 reduction in the Hybrid car returned..Was this fair.?
Bella - 6-Aug-22 @ 3:22 PM
I bought a kia sportage 66 plate from a garage with 6 month warrantycar was serviced on day of purchase i had it 6 weeks an was driving along car stopped lost all oil got recovered to a garage got it checked an the sump plug had come out seized engine the garage i gotbit from said its down to human error were do i stand ? How do i resume the situation ?
Lisa - 7-Sep-21 @ 10:03 PM
Thanks for this informative article. From this article, I come to know about the rules of used car.
Car Analytics - 27-Jan-21 @ 9:14 AM
Nice blog. In the UK there is a habit of having a personalized number plate so per person in a family can have a different number of plates, because of this it is difficult to find the car number. To make this easy you can go for a UK car number plate check. This car spec check number plate will help you to know how many owners did the car had.
number plate history - 20-Jan-21 @ 9:57 AM
Hi my daughter brought a car 2weeks ago broke down first week before the new log book came back she asked him to fix it but he wants half the money for it then he said he'll fix it a week later he's still got it were does she stand please
Twiggy - 22-Nov-20 @ 5:52 PM
Bought a 3yr old Ford Edge with 52k on the clock, from a large car supermarket, we took out a 3yr extended warranty at a cost of a grand. 19 days later we break down and car is recovered to a garage that say looks like water pump has broken, and said warranty people may not cover all parts as garage says belts will need replacing as well. Surly as the car was purchased less than 3 weeks earlier then all costs should be covered by either the warranty people or the dealership.
Bonnie - 1-Nov-20 @ 3:22 PM
I bought a used car 6 weeks ago from a dealership using finance. It's a ford focus zetec S 2009 it cost £3300 it had 63k on the clock and 12 month MOT. Its just died on me so I took it to the garage and they had to replace the alternator and battery costing £320, when I went to pick it up they also told me the clutch is starting to go and will need replacing soon. That's not going to be cheap maybe another £300-£500 Obviously not happy about the situation and im just wondering if I have any rights under the consumer rights act.
Jordang27 - 9-Oct-20 @ 6:14 PM
I botha Nissanjuke2013on the 20th of may 2020I noticedsome littleproblemcomingup on the dashboardkey signcomingup andbreak signcomingup so I contactmy and to himhe said the car keys batteryso I changeit the same problemit's on and offnow I noticethe side not comingout it's on and off now I understandthat the car gearboxis a reconditioned he never told me when I buy it so called and told I find the paper work for the gearboxhe said he dont know about it so he wasn'thonestfrom first when to buy the carone of the tireswas badly damaged when i boughtit and i never noticedis the somethingto do withthe steeringwheelfalling not for roadany advisedwhat can I dohe didn'ttell true aboutthe car
Annette - 15-Jul-20 @ 4:07 AM
I bought a car on 1st on march 2020 end of June I drove to show on way back i started car up I couldn't put car in to gear so take the car back to garage thay say the clutch has gone thay saying it going to cost £1050 what are my rights
woody - 9-Jul-20 @ 7:10 PM
Have purchased a second hand vehicle literally two weeks ago. Was sold it, declaring it had an mot , of which after purchase was found to be not true the listing declared it was mot till next year. Dealer took car , got it mot and brought it back , two weeks later we noticed a spring hanging offthe clutch pedal, & the clutch pedal was playing up, called the dealer again.I ,according to the dealer Am not covered in 3 month warranty for wear and tear as he states. Car now is at a garage that he uses for all of his other cars awaiting repair of the clutch master cylinder, although the dealer has told us it will be at our cost . I need some advise on this please , I have just spent £5200 on purchasing this 15 plate mondeo , which is clearly faulty , and I need to know if I can do anything other than have to pay for this expensive time consuming job please In order to get my vehicle back once repaired?
Jay - 29-Apr-20 @ 8:44 PM
Hey I bought a 2012 volvo from a dealership I've had the car 9 days now after about 3 days the exhaust sounded blown so I messaged the dealer and he said to take it back and he would have a look after I took it back he said that the flexi was blown and he would get it fixed 2 days later I got a txt saying it was ready to pick up and they replaced the flexi when I got it home the car was still making the noise so I looked at the flexi and it hadn't been changed what can I do? Thanks
Jack - 23-Feb-20 @ 4:48 PM
we traded our car at a Peugeot main dealer for a new vehicle with a years warranty(car we traded in had been bought from them)and we needed one that would last us a while as we are pensioners so had to be sure as the finance is a big bit of our pensions.within 10 weeks it had a management light on it needed a complete new adblue tank (covered under warranty) three weeks ago cutch slipped in 1st gear and lost power back it went to dealers, resultthe clutch has gone plus the flywheel we are being told its not covered under warranty as wear & tear cost is £1800 so we've had itless than 6 months,car has only done 33,000 (29,000 when purchased)so we've done 4,000.rang their Peugeot customer service "not their problem" any advice very appreciated
fedup - 23-Jan-20 @ 11:40 AM
Hello, i bought a car 2010 BMW 520d. The dealer said the car has warranty for all the possible brakedowns unless it is wear and tear problem. A week ago my cars timing chain snaped and i need to rebuild the engine wich will cost approximately 3000£ and i found out that my warranty covers just 1000£ for repairs. The dealer didn’t told me that. And i have a car just over 4 months. Do i have any chance to get money back for repairing my car?
Giedre - 21-Jan-20 @ 6:25 PM
Hi, We bought my son a fiat 500s from a well-known car dealer in London 2 months ago It has been back to him now for a sensor issue in the engine, which he repaired, but we also mentioned that the clutch was to very low and on it's way out. He said that the clutch is wear and tear and not covered under the warranty. Surely this is down to the dealer as we have only had the car for 2 months and within the dealers warranty of 3 months. It wouldn't have wear out in that short period of time? Please can you advise? Thank you Dee
Dee - 13-Jan-20 @ 8:41 PM
Good evening, I bought a second hand Nissan Juke 2011, 1.6petrol with 80k mileage. After 3 months of use, roughly after 3k miles more, the clutch went spongy and I couldn't get into the gear while driving on a 50mph way. I called the breakdown company and they drove me to the nearest garage, because of safety reasons. Since then I tried to contact the trader and try to find a solution, because the quotation from the garage was very expensive and warranty is not covering the entire amount. Therefore if I want my car back I have still to pay £300 extra. Time has passed while I was fighting with trader, via emails saying that under the Consumer Act 2015, I have all the rights for a free of charge repair, but unfortunately he refuses to accommodate my needs. Now car is fixed and still in the garage, trader is constantly telling me that he didn't sell any faulty goods because I have driven 3000 miles in 3 months. What would you suggest to do in this occasion? Thank you, every little helps! Kind Regards
valep88 - 7-Jan-20 @ 8:58 PM
I bought a Toyota yaris on 31/12/19 and was unsure about the gear box not working smoothly, we did mention this to the dealer and he assured us the gear box was fine but Iwent out with my nephew and he said the gear box is slipping and go and ask my mechanic. ...this I did today and he test drove it and has confirmed the gearbox needs changing I have messaged the dealer not heard back yet but does he need to replace gearbox or should I get my money back ....what are my rights
Jackie - 2-Jan-20 @ 5:05 PM
I bought a Ford Fiesta Zetec S (2010 -59 reg) from a well known dealer with good reviews online on 1st December 19. On December 27th the car broke down at 6am on my way to work. I called RAC out and had it towed to my local garage as the car was not drivable. RAC confirmed that the cam belt was completely shredded which effects the engine on fords, meaning I would need to install a brand new engine. What are my rights in this case, as this occurred less than a month after purchasing the car. Is the dealer obligated to have it fixed without me needing to put any further expenses into the car?
Perry - 30-Dec-19 @ 7:00 PM
Hi I brought a 2012 fiesta from a well known garage September last year. I has 6 months warranty with it which ran out March this year. In October my car broke down, Loss of steering and speedo went crazy and smelt of fuel. My car remains in the garage( 10 weeks now) My mechanic is baffled. He put a new ECU in and it still not working. An electrician has been brought in and checked all the electrics and found nothing. NewSensors have been put in also. Any advice
Dee - 30-Dec-19 @ 3:40 PM
Bought a Volvo S60 from dealer 2 months ago. I have taken it to a garage and been informed the camshaft pulley and tensioner needs to be replaced. Have contacted garage I bought it from and they say willing to put 250.00 towards cost of repair. Total cost is 450.00 is this fair or do I have right to have it repaired free of charge
Kevin - 26-Nov-19 @ 12:01 AM
Hi, I bought a Kuga 10 months ago, I had work done to it in the 3 months warranty, it had a leak from the roof that cause bad damp and puddles in the car, since then I took it back because the car wouldn’t start every so often. Not the circuit boards have eroded and the car isn’t in warranty. But this is a problem caused by them not dealing with the leak I had. Where do I stand with getting the car sales garage to take responsibility Thank you
Sam - 5-Nov-19 @ 9:57 PM
I bought a 2014 zafira 10 months ago and have now came onto my third major issue with it. Two months after getting the car the steering colum when on it took it back to be repaired for the dealership to phone me later that day to say “they haven’t fixed the car but we could get it back for the weekend then take it back if we wanted even though it was unsafe” two months after that again my car was recalled for risk of going on fire and phoned the dealership again and they says I couldn’t take it back and it wasn’t there problem I would have to take it to another dealership to get it fixed which I ended up doing. Now I have just went to go in the car and it won’t start I think the engine has gone in it. Is so frustrating as I have three kids one of which is disabled and rely on the car to take him to appointments
k.c - 19-Oct-19 @ 7:48 PM
bought AUDI TT tfsi 2011 52000 miles for 9900 on 20th aug 2019 after 6 days slave cylinder broke dealer took back to repair then noticed it had been in major crash which was badly repaired wasnt told to me when i bought the car.Car dealer states it is fit for purpose.I think it is not of satisfactort quality/not as decribed.what do you think?
locsel - 13-Oct-19 @ 2:47 PM
we purchased a Ford Galaxy on a 58 Plate on finance. within first month it has work done on it by the Car Dealer.. ie-oil leak (As an Advisory on MOT) rear brake change (Sold with less than 1mm pads). Since thenthe cam belt has snapped and knackered the engine. So the Car Finance are replacing the Engine (At No Cost to me) But.. If they have the recon engine. Why do they have to go and get the payment from the warrenty company and not just do the work?? They have had the car 1--11 days now. im loosing work and money. Am i entitled to a Courtesy Car?? and from who's expense??
Ste65 - 28-Sep-19 @ 4:23 PM
Hi, my friend bought a used car from a well-known car dealer in Hemel Hempstead 6 months ago and a week ago it broke down (the clutch went) We went to see the manager of the company on Sunday and was told that we only had 3 months from purchase date to get it fixed by them. The insurance covers the tyres etc. So the warranty had expired. Should we get hold of the insurance company and see what they suggest?? Thanx in advance, Shaz
Shaz - 10-Sep-19 @ 10:35 PM
We bought a second hand car which broke down within weeks but the garage responded quickly in having the car repaired in a matter of days however it has broken down again 3 months later and when i called they stated they were closed for holiday and wouldn’t be back for another 12 days. They even said we could have the car delivered to them for when they returned but why should we meet that cost? The garage is 45mins away. Can we take it elsewhere to be repaired and send them the bill?
Ang - 4-Sep-19 @ 11:44 AM
My son payed £10k for a second hand car from a garage 8 months ago and had various issues with the car, in about the first month the clutch being one of them, the garage told him they couldn't find any issue with the clutch (he has this in writing). The clutch has now failed and the garage says the have no responsibility to replace the clutch is this correct.
Deadmeat - 28-Aug-19 @ 12:43 PM
I bought a 2010 GMC Terrain from newly Buick in st George Utah we paid a little over 10,grand out the door it was used “as is no warranty “ I drove it for 40 days when the timing chain broke on it, what kind of rights do I have?? Thank you
Pammy - 26-Aug-19 @ 7:22 PM
Evening, today l bought my first car Nissan Juke 1.5 from a car dealer. leaving tbe premises no more than 10 minutes there was atiny smell whuch my daughter age 14 smelt. l stopped to check but l couldn't see anything, then the scent was gone. l began drinking heading for the junction, l drove on the M6 between 5 and 7, and it was there that the car broke down completely with the front part all in smoke of burnt rubber. The RAC after they arrived, said the clutch had gone and the battery. This all took place less than an hour. The car will be taken back first thing tomorrow to where l bought it. l want my deposit back will l get a full refund as it was less than 30 days?
kez - 30-Jul-19 @ 11:28 PM
Hi I bought a car a Renault koleos 2009 model I have had it 6 days & the fuel injection system warning light came on I read the manual which says take the car to a dealer I contacted Rooney Car Sales in Glasgow where I bought it from whom said he will have his mechanic look at it. I have now been reading the reviews for this company and loads of other buyers have had the same problem with either they’re engines or other things wrong just after 1 week -3 weeks of purchase I had to get £2000 finance to buy this car as I only got £2000 for my other car that was written off due to another crashing into the back of me so £4000 in total for this car I would like to return my car & get my money back not take another car is this my rights to ask for my cash back please advise me so I know what to say to the car dealer tomorrow or Thursday. Kind regards Rona Hargan
None - 25-Jun-19 @ 9:03 PM
I hope this letter finds you well. I bought a Toyota Yaris 2012 at Mayesbrook Car seller in Barking on 2nd May 2019. Recently, I paid in full amount my balance in my car finance loan as I want to sell the car, privately, after I found a new one that my wife really loves at an affordable price. I brought the car to CAR SHOP last weekend in Becontree to value my car but I was surprised to find out that, according to them and the pieces of evidence found, they can conclude that the car has been involved in the accident in the past. One of the clear evidence was the bumper has been replaced and poorly repaired. There is also evidence of the car received painting works. The car dealer, Mayesbrook (where I bought the car) lied to about the state of the car, and that if I had been made aware of the accident or rapair in the first place, I wouldn't have purchased it. It is under finance for £4000. I bought it for £5199 with £1199 as my deposit (£500 in cash and £699 in bank transfer). The car valuation came out only as £2450 because of the state of the car. For a buyer like me who don't know anything about the car, I would expect nothing is hidden when they advertise the car for sale and the car will be safe to drive. Mayesbrook claimed that all their cars have been checked and not been involved in any accidents. I was told by the valuer that some accidents are not recorded and reported to the insurance company in order not to be categorised as CAT N or CAT S. In this case, the value of the car will still be high once repaired. Isn't it that when a repair is done it will be categorised as CAT N or CAT S, depending on the severity of the repair to be done? In the sale advertisement, nothing is mentioned about the repair done and if the vehicle is belongs to any of these categories. Just this afternoon, webuyanycar representative came to have a final check the car before they can provide me their final valuation and as expected, the findings were the same as the Car Shop valuer findings. The car have received repainting and for this reason, most of the body works problems were hidden and no buyer will know the extent of the damage before the repainting is conducted. Am I not protected by "Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations" in this instance? I am happy for you to bring your own assessor to check the car and I'll show you the pieces of evidence pointed out to me by the car valuer. I don't know what is the extent of repair done in the car and it could be a risk to me and the other motorist if something happens while driving it. At the moment, I stopped driving the car after the CAR SHOP assessment. Please help me return this car to the dealer while it is under the 3 months warranty.
Allan - 21-Jun-19 @ 11:34 PM
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