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What rights do you actually have when buying a used car?

Buying a used car can save you thousands, but what rights are you giving up by choosing to buy a used car? We take a look at your consumer rights when buying a second-hand car…

The topic of used cars is at the very top of the list when it comes to the most common consumer complaints. We all horror stories all the time about buying a used car, so we decided to put together the below guide so you know exactly where you stand in terms of buying a used car – whether it comes from a dealer or a private seller.

Buying a used car from a dealership

If you’re looking to protect your consumer rights when buying a used car, then your best bet is probably to buy it from a dealer rather than a private seller as the law provides you with far more protection. For instance, dealerships are obliged to prepare the car before they are allowed to put it up for sale, which means they have to verify the accuracy of the recorded milage.

They also have to abide by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for all vehicles purchased after 1 October 2015, and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 for any vehicle they purchased before that.

Under both of these Acts, ­new or used vehicles must be:

  • of satisfactory quality – meaning the car should be of a standard a reasonable person would expect, once factors like age, value, history, mileage and make are taken into account. For example, an old vehicle with very high mileage would not reasonably be expected to be as good as a new vehicle with much lower mileage. But both should be roadworthy, reliable and in a condition ­consistent with its age and price.
  • fit for purpose – meaning the vehicle should be able to be used for the purposes you would normally expect – including any particular purpose you tell the dealer about before you buy (e.g. motorway driving).
  • as described – the vehicle should match the description given by the dealer.

Making a complaint against a car dealer

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you have the right to claim an automatic refund from the dealer if you discover the vehicle you purchased is faulty within the first 30 days. If the fault only comes to light after the first 30 days, but before six months have passed, then you are entitled to claim a repair or replacement from the dealer. During this period the dealer has one opportunity to carry out the repair or provide a replacement – after that you are then entitled to a refund.

After the first six months it becomes a little bit harder, as the burden is then on you as the consumer to prove the vehicle was faulty at the time of purchase and that the dealer failed in their obligations under the Consumer Rights Act.

Buying a used car from a private seller

Although you will probably find it cheaper to buy a second-hand car from a private seller, it is the riskiest option in terms of your rights if something goes wrong.

There is simply not the same level of legal protection here as there is with buying from a car dealership. With the private seller only obliged to make sure the car is roadworthy, matches the description given and that the person selling the car is the owner.

It is your responsibility as the consumer to ensure the car is ‘of satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for purpose’ before you go through with the purchase. Which means you need to know what you’re looking for and be sure everything is in order, as once you buy it the vehicle – faults and all – is your problem!

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