Used car problems – your rights

Used car problems – your rights

So you think you’ve found the perfect second hand car. It’s shiny, drives like a dream and ‘corners like it’s on rails’ (as famously expressed by Julia Roberts of Richard Gere’s Lotus Esprit in ‘Pretty Woman’). Soon after purchase, your shiny dream machine starts to grow weary. It develops problems you wouldn’t necessarily expect for the car’s age and mileage. The truth of the matter is, that while many buyers of second hand cars are car-savvy, sometimes they become subject to bad deals thrust upon them by hard-nosed dealers.

What can I do about a faulty used car?

Here at Rocket Lawyer, I am often asked what you should do if you buy a second hand car that turns out to be faulty. If your car develops a problem you’re not alone. Regardless of whether you bought it from an authorised dealer or from a private seller, you have rights, which largely depend on who you bought it from and how they described the car. Always make sure to document the terms of your agreement using a car sale contract.

Cars bought from dealers

When you buy a second hand car from a dealer, you have the right under the Consumer Rights Act, to expect the car to:

  • Be of satisfactory quality, taking into account the age, value, history and mileage of the vehicle.
  • Meet any description given to you when you were buying it.
  • Be fit for purpose, that is, you must be able to use the vehicle for the purposes that you would normally expect from a vehicle.

If you bought the car after 1 October and it does not meet these requirements, you have 30 days to reject the car and get a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act.

  • Upon discovering the fault, make sure you contact the dealer as soon as possible. If the dealer offers to fix the problem, make sure you understand any costs involved and ensure all agreements are in writing.
  • If the dealer doesn’t cooperate, you can always reject the car, as long as you tried to resolve the issue with the dealer first.
  • If you decide to reject the car, ensure you give the dealer your reasons for doing so in writing, and within six months of taking delivery of it.
  • If the dealer refuses to accept your rejection of the car, the Money Advice Service suggests that you contact the customer relations department of its manufacturer straight away – they may be able to help mediate. Alternatively, you can Ask a lawyer for further advice.

Cars bought from private sellers

If you bought the car from a private seller, you have fewer rights than if you’d bought the car from an authorised dealer, for example, there is no legal requirement for the car to be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

Legally, the seller must accurately describe the car and not misrepresent it (eg tell you something about the car which isn’t true). If your car develops problems and the seller refuses to cooperate, you can always take action by suing them via the Money Claims Online service if the amount disputed is under £100,000. Nevertheless, the law doesn’t give you much to go on unless you’ve been misled, therefore, it is very much a case of ‘let the buyer beware.’

For additional help on any of the issues raised in this article, read Returning a used car. Alternatively, you can Ask a lawyer.