Buying a second-hand car can be a lottery, but what are your legal rights when buying a used car in the UK?
Along with being one of the biggest financial outlays you will make, you need to be assured that you are not wasting your money.
And should that car you buy not be fit for purpose, there is legislation to protect your money and you.
This legislation applies whether the car you buy is used or new, or whether you buy from a used car dealer, a main dealer or privately.
Here, we spell out what your legal rights are when buying a used car.
However, we will be looking at the main consumer rights that will be covering used car buyers in England.
Buying a used car from a dealer
One of the safest ways to buy a used car is from a dealer.
If the dealer has an approved manufacturer’s used car scheme, then there may be a 30-day no-quibble return guarantee.
If the car of your dreams is not quite so impressive, this will be a godsend.
You can simply and return the car and exchange it for another – you may not necessarily get a refund.
As with most things when buying a used car, you should check the small print very carefully.
Buying a faulty used car
For anybody who has bought a used car that then turns out to be faulty, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is for you.
If you return the car to the dealer within 30 days of buying, you are entitled to a refund.
However, you need to prove that the car was already faulty when you purchased it.
And there are legal definitions to describe a car as faulty, so you need to consider these carefully.
To help you, a car can only be described as faulty by meeting one of three legal definitions:
- The car is not of satisfactory quality – this will mean that the car is not what you expected from its age, price and mileage.
- The used car is not fit for purpose – for example, if the dealer told you the car was capable of towing when it is not
- The used car is not ‘as described’ – for example, the equipment listed in the advert is not present in the car.
If your complaint fits into at least one of those three categories, and you return the vehicle back to the deals within 30 days, then you are entitled to a full refund.
And if you part-exchanged a car, you can also ask for that to be returned as part of the refund.
Fault becomes apparent after the 30-day period
Beware that if a fault becomes apparent after the 30-day period, then it’s a lot less likely you will be able to claim a refund.
There are still some protections and the car dealership – or whoever sells you the car – has a responsibility for it to be satisfactory for six months after it has been sold.
Those three descriptions still apply, and you can ask the dealer to put right a problem, but you should not be handed a bill.
After the six-month period, there are still six years of legal protection available – for car buyers in Scotland, the limit is five years.
That’s because with an old car, it is more difficult to prove that the fault was present when bought.
Buying a used car from a private seller
One of the attractions when buying a used car from a private seller is that it will be a lot cheaper.
This means there will not be a warranty, but you still have legal rights to protect you.
It is for this reason that you must do your homework when buying a used car and be aware of potential problems before spending money.
You should check properly that every part of the car is working, including the mechanical and electrical parts.
Before spending any money ensure the receipt details the vehicle sale but also details any faults that you and the seller agree on.
It’s this written evidence that will give you some protection if there is a serious fault, or if the car has been clocked – that’s when the mileage has been reduced.
Again, you have six years to make a complaint, in Scotland, it’s five years. The longer you keep the car, the harder it is to make a claim.
Also, it’s worth checking the Sale of Goods Act 1979 because the car must be sold as described. This means it should be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality – basically, as the seller has described.
If there is a problem, you can ask the seller to pay for the repairs, but don’t surprise them with a repair bill without telling them first. Also, any repair bill cannot be more than what you paid for the car.
If the seller refuses to pay, you can use the alternative dispute scheme which avoids going to the small claims court, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Otherwise, you are looking at going to court to reclaim the cost of repairs, or for a full refund.
Vehicle inspection check
Perhaps the best way to avoid an issue is to carry out a vehicle inspection check for a small fee. Instant Reg Check provide a check from just £2.95 online.
For peace of mind, this check will reveal whether the car you want to buy has been written off, been stolen or has finance outstanding – so the seller doesn’t own the car.
By doing so, you will know whether the dealer or seller is reputable and reduce your chances of being fleeced.
As our second lead editor, Emery Sinclair provides guidance on the stories DellOne2One contributors cover. Before joining our team, she was a freelance journalist for several publications including the Huff Post and Poly Gen. Emery received a BA and and MA from the University of Michigan