Bought a Car from the Personal Ads: What Are My Rights?
“I bought a new car from the ‘for sale’ section in the back of our local weekly newspaper, last week. It was described as a 2001 Ford Ka, with full service history, and it was a really good price so I bought it after taking it for a test drive.
“The seller said he couldn’t find the service history, although it did have one, and promised that he’d send it on to me once I’d bought the car.
"It was fine for the first few days, although I did notice a funny clicking noise, but thought nothing of it. Anyway, it got worse, and then I took it to a garage to see what the problem was, and it turned out to be a problem with the front wheel shaft which is going to cost me a lot to get fixed.
“Can I ask for some money from the seller? After all, the Sale of Goods Act says goods must be of satisfactory quality.”
AdviceThere are two issues here, one is that the car is faulty, and one is that you haven’t had the service history. Ironically, although the problems with the front shaft are causing you the most stress, it’s the fact that you haven’t got the service history that might be helpful.
Legally, the Sale and Supply of Goods Act only covers sales made in the course of a business, so if you buy anything from a private seller, you are unlikely to be able to get any redress if there are problems with the goods.
If the car had been unsafe, the seller might have committed an offence under the Consumer Protection Act, but although there would have been an offence committed, that in itself wouldn’t get you anywhere when it comes to getting money back from the seller. Even bought privately, a car must be fit to use on the road. Unfortunately, you would need to prove that it wasn’t, when you bought it.
Goods Must Fit Their DescriptionYou may have some comeback with the seller of this car if you still don’t have the full service history, and if you still have the advertisement claiming to be able to supply one. The reason for this is that the Trade Descriptions Act applies to private sales as well as business, and it states that any goods that you buy should fit any description that has been made of them.
In your case, you were told that a full service history was available, and so the seller will be in breach of contract if they cannot provide you with it. If so, you’re entitled to go back to them and ask for a refund of what you paid, or some form of compensation – maybe in the form of a contribution towards the cost of having the front shaft replaced.
What You Need to DoI’d suggest that you approach the seller amicably, and explain what happened. They may not have known about the condition of the car, and could be very willing to help. If things don’t work out, point out that you do know your legal rights when goods don't fit their description under consumer law, and that you’ll be putting something in writing.
Of course, if the service history then mysteriously turns up, you don’t have a lot of comeback at all, unless you can prove that the car wasn’t fit to drive when you bought it, and that could cost you as much, if not more, than the repairs do.