Buying a Car

Buying a Car post image

When you buy a car, whether brand new or second hand, you benefit from the protection of certain statutory consumer rights as provided for under the Sale of Goods Act. However there is some variation in these rights depending on how you buy the car and who you buy it from.

Your statutory rights

First and foremost, whoever sells you the car must ensure they have the right to sell it and can pass on full ownership to you. If it turns out that the car is stolen or belongs to a finance company, you will not automatically then own it, even if you have already handed over the cash.

Secondly, the seller must ensure that the car is exactly as described. Therefore if it has air con, CD player etc, then these features must not only exist, but they must also work; if it is in excellent condition, it should be relatively free from marks, scratches, dents and rust; if certain parts have been replaced, they must not then break down after a short time and so on. The description of the car also includes make, model and accurate mileage

Thirdly (and this is where your rights differ), if you have bought the car from a dealer, the car must be of satisfactory quality. Satisfactory quality is defined as what a ‘reasonable person’ would regard as acceptable, taking into account factors such as price paid, fitness for purpose specified, appearance and finish, safety and durability. If it becomes apparent that the car was not of the quality you were led to expect, you are quite within your rights to go back to the dealer, even after some weeks or even months of use. If it was the case that you were invited to carry out a thorough inspection of the car before purchase, and then you go back to complain about something which that inspection should have revealed, you will have no legal rights in that regard.

If you have bought the car from a private seller, who does not normally trade in cars, then there is no legal obligation on the seller to provide a car of satisfactory quality, and it is therefore a much riskier purchase. For this reason, there are more consumer complaints about the purchase of second hand cars than any other, so exercise significant caution – buyer beware!

The seller’s responsibility

In the event that you have to take a car back to the seller on the basis of a breach in one of your statutory rights, the seller cannot try to refer you to the manufacturer under the context of a guarantee or warranty – and particularly not when it involves additional cost to you. Any warranties or insurance policies offered by the seller are additional to these rights and cannot replace them.

Beware of car dealers posing as private sellers. They do this to evade their legal rights as regards satisfactory quality. If the individual trying to sell the car cannot provide paperwork to prove that he/she is the actual owner of the car and has been so for a while, then they may be a dealer trying to get rid of a dodgy car.

If there is a problem

These are your statutory consumer rights. If any of them are breached you are within your rights to go back to the seller, who will then be legally required to remedy the situation in a number of different ways, depending on your situation and the nature of the complaint. The law requires you to act reasonably too, so if the problem is minor and can be repaired easily, within reasonable time, at no additional cost to you and without causing any significant inconvenience, then the dealer can insist on a repair as a first option. But remember that this will not stop you from taking it back if the repair is unsatisfactory or there is something else wrong with the car.

If the car cannot be repaired, if the repair is unsatisfactory, or takes an unreasonable length of time, your next option would be to have it replaced. If this is undesirable or impossible, then you can request a refund, although if some time has passed, you should be aware that any the refund given may well take account of any use you have had of the car since you took possession of it.

In situations where you would like to keep the car and undertake to carry out the repairs yourself, you have another option, which is to request a discount on the price paid.

Buying a car at auction

You may well get the best deal, but there is the risk of reduced consumer protection if something goes wrong. Look out for disclaimers such as ‘sold as seen’ and enquire as to how this affects your statutory rights as regards quality issues. You may not have an opportunity to examine the car or take it for a test drive, and any bid you make will become a legally binding contract at the fall of the hammer!

Buying a car on the internet

When buying a car on the internet, you have just as many rights as if you had bought the car after having seen an ad in the newspaper, provided this is from a dealer. If you go ahead with the purchase, not having had any face to face contact with the dealer, you will also benefit from rights provided under the Distance Selling regulations, which include a 7-day cooling off period.

If however you buy the car as a private sale from an individual, who doesn’t trade in cars for a living, you won’t benefit from the legal requirement of the seller to provide a car of satisfactory quality. It could be a heap of junk, and you would have no legal recourse.

We are not accepting any more comments on this article. If your question is not answered below, please post it in the buying a car section of the consumer forum.


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30 comments… add one

  • Emma Bromhall 7 August, 9:16 am

    I have recently brought a Peugeot 307 from a registered dealer. I am experiencing problems with the clutch pedal and am constantly “riding” the clutch as such. I have spoken to several people including a couple of mechanics who have advised that it is definitely faulty. Having taken it back to the garage they are saying that they cannot find a fault with the car and are refusing to let me swap it or give me back my money.

    Any comments would be gratefully received.

    Reply
  • Randy 8 August, 11:39 pm

    I signed a contract and all the paperwork from a car dealer with no money down and drove off with it, now they are saying the the bank turned me down and want a deposit after 3 days, can they get by with this or not?

    Reply
  • Catriona 17 August, 10:43 pm

    Emma – you have the right to a repair in the first instance if the car is found to be faulty. You cannot automatically ask for a replacement or a refund if the problem is fix-able. The problem with cars is that the problem does not present itself on a short trip ’round the block’ by the mechanic. Take it back but this time ensure you are in the car when it is taken for a drive so can point it out personally. Otherwise indicate that you are unsatisfied and request the problem be escalated.

    Reply
  • Catriona 17 August, 10:59 pm

    Randy – decisions on car finance should be agreed and confirmed before you are allowed to drive the car away. In this case the dealer behaved improperly and perhaps unlawfully – your insurance could well have been invalidated. Because the dealer allowed you to drive away the car without the correct finance docs in place, his contract with you may be legally unenforceable, so I’m not sure whether he has any right to demand money from you retrospectively.

    Reply
  • Jamie 22 August, 2:40 pm

    Hi, I recently went to view a car in the evening from a garage/dealer, under pressure i put down a deposit of £250.00 and signed forms saying id buy car. Next morning I’ve changed my mind and called to say so, I also wrote to say I wish to change my mind and cancel any contracts we have together. Would i be entitled to a refund of the £250.00 deposit which formed part of the selling price?

    Reply
  • Catriona 27 August, 9:23 pm

    I’m afraid there is no cooling off period with sales which were carried out face to face in this way. You have signed a legally binding contract and paid a deposit which is recognised in law as an undertaking or intention in good faith. Therefore by attempting to rescind the contract, the seller has no obligation to return the deposit and could even chase you for the remainder of the cost of the car. The only way you could rescind the contract and get back your money was if you feel you were misold, or were not in possession of the all of the facts so as to make an informed decision. You could also appeal to his better nature?

    Reply
  • Jon B 1 September, 4:58 pm

    Hi, I purchased a car 4 weeks ago from Cargiant who are a large car supermarket in London. On getting home the car leaked oil on my drive and a transmission urgent service warning light came up. On taking it to Volvo they have said the engine is leaking, the gearbox is also and has failed and needs replacing and the drive shaft gators are also split which will all cost about £6500! Cagiant are not too responsive as I did not purchase any additional warranty. They have a 114 point check which I would imagine should pick this up. Should they be liable for these items which should have been apparent?

    Reply
  • Catriona 2 September, 1:18 pm

    Jon – The warranty is irrelevant, if you take Volvo’s assessment to Cargiant it will clearly demonstrate that the car is not roadworthy and because this happened within hours of driving away, you would not have taken possession which puts you in a strong position. Go back to them citing Sale of Goods section 14 and request they repair the car, and provide you with a replacement car in the meantime. If they decline, then you can request either a reduction in price or a refund.

    Reply
  • Bernard 16 September, 9:33 pm

    I bought a second hand car from a trader (VW Polo) 3 weeks ago, paid 1550 Pounds. After 1-2 weeks the engine started to make a noise occasionally, which recently got louder. So I took the car to a local garage, where they found out that the tensioner had failed, and due to low tension on the cambelt the crankshaft pulley had become loose, causing 4 valves to have been bent. Estimate to repair about 1000 Pounds.
    Now I contacted the trader who sold me the car, who of course insists that everything was fine when he sold it, but after I mentioned the Sale of Goods Act he agreed to have a look at it. However, he expects me to bring the car to him, which would cost me another 100 Pounds, and I will already have to pay that much to the garage where the car is now, as they spent quite some time on it. How is my situation and who is responsible for these costs?

    Reply
  • Brian 11 July, 2:18 pm

    I was shown a Audi A3 by a salesman from TRADECENTERWALES NEATH who told myself and my wife the car mileage was 56,000 miles. We agreed to buy the car and signed the agree without checking the details on it. When we got home I noticed the mileage was 64,500 miles, after confirming with the company it turns out the mileage is the higher one. I have asked for my £100 deposit back but they will not refund it, because the salesman James Hawkins denies saying the car mileage was 56,000 and i have signed a contract which has 64,500 on it, what are my rights. Can I take action against the individual or the company?

    Reply
  • Emma 15 July, 2:49 pm

    I bought a brand new fiat 500 5months ago and when I got it home I noticed marks on the paintwork. I called the dealer up to complain and the salesman said he had noticed them before I took the car away but didnt say anything. I still have not had the problem fixed as they keep making excuses. Where do I stand in handing the car back to them?

    Reply
  • andy 5 August, 6:24 pm

    I bought a Peugeot 207 cc 13 months ago from lookers Vauxhall St Helens and up to now the car has been back to lookers a total of ten times for a oil leak that they keep saying its fixed then after a lengthy stay at lookers I get the car back then 3 weeks later the engine oil light comes on again!!!! I check the oil level and its low so whatever they are fixing its not working. just wondering what options are open to me as they’ve had the car long then I have

    Reply
  • stuart 6 August, 11:13 am

    Hi,

    I need some help, I part exed my vauxhall a couple of weeks ago, the problem was the garage was ment to settle my personal loan with Barclays of £7100, But instead they paid of my other car finance with Creation for £10500, so they overpaid!
    I contacted the finance company staight away and they said that my other car is now been cleared of finance and that there is nothing they could do, its the dealers mistake!
    As my vauxhall was a personal loan the car has no money owing on it as uts a personal loan.
    The dealership have now said that if I dont pay £3000 they will undo the deal and take my car back off me!!

    Where do I stand

    Reply
  • Sarah 7 August, 12:02 am

    Hi. My husband and I purchases a jeep from an Ltd company (solo guy running it from his house) off the back is an advert on autotrader. The mileage on the advert, and the odometer reads 46,000 miles. We brought the jeep home tonight and my husband went to look in the manual at how to change the seats, flipped to the service history and noticed that the mileage in 2011 was 53,000, in 2012 was 37,000 and the dealer we bought it from registered it in 3013 as 46,000. The MOT coroborates this. Unfortunately we took his word, and that of the odometer, of what the true mileage was. We would like to return the car for a full refund ideally, or at the very least get a refund in the difference of actual value of the car against what we paid. What are our rights? Thanks

    Reply
  • Barry 17 August, 3:46 pm

    Bought a car for 6500 and it’s part financed
    A problem with the inlet manifold developed after three months.
    Finance company told me to take it back to dealer.
    He first tried to get out of doing anything by saying it had warranty and to take it elsewhere to be repaired.
    I told him finance company said I had to go to him.
    He has now had the car for 2 months and it’s went from original problem to needing spill pipes and an egr valve and now the turbo is apparently faulty.
    I’ve had no car in this time.
    Finance company gave them ten days to rectify but that was two weeks ago.
    Can I now reject this car as its excuse after excuse and I feel they are trying to push it out over the six months so burden of proof falls to me.
    Also if I can,how do I go about getti g the 2500 I got as a trade in toward the car for my previous car?
    Many thanks for any help
    Also I’m in Scotland if this makes a difference

    Reply
  • Paul 23 September, 7:41 pm

    Bought a Mercedes from a Honda main dealer February 2013 with a three month warranty, had to have a front suspension spring replaced just after the warranty expired at no cost to myself. Now seven months on the turbo has failed which renders the car unusable, is it too late to use the sale of goods act?

    Reply
  • Raymond Cox 29 September, 8:24 pm

    My wife bought a Honda 4 wheel drive, she collected from a dealer in Rugby, after about one and a quarter hours on the road it broke down, Green Flag were called out but could not fix the problem and it had to be bought home on a recovery vehicle, when the second hand dealer was contacted he said that the vehicle was bought as seen and the wife had signed a document to that fact, the vehicle cost £2500,how do we stand at making him pay for repairs or taking the vehicle back and getting money refunded, can you help please ??

    Reply
  • Alex 29 October, 3:34 am

    Nobody and nowhere helps people who have bought cars privately and rather than the car in whole being stolen, it has turned out parts of the car originate from a stolen vehicle.

    Please help.

    I bought a car almost a year ago.

    Police stop me advising there is a marker to seize and inspect.

    It turns out there was a report that certain cosmetic parts of interior were not original but came from a stripped down car stolen almost a year before my purchase.

    I get told I do not have legal ownership of seats but Police cant prove other parts stolen.

    The police wont release my car until i buy the seats off insuree but they tell insurer of stolen car they believe other parts in their “opinion” are from same stolen car because they are all the same colour, and my original car should have a different colour.

    I offered to buy the positively identified front seats but the insurer sent their solicitors on me who wont negotiate a deal until they inspect all interior.

    Police are aware but wont do anything.

    I offered to give seats back but solicitors said they will take me to court to force all interior check.

    I have researched and all interior second hand is cheaper than what i offered the solicitors for just the front.

    Where are my rights and what can i do.

    Am i right to think it is less risky/costly to send an engineer in and swap my interior just in case?

    My car has been in Police compound for nearly 3 months and 2 months is how long they took to positive ID front seats only and they told me I will be paying the bill.

    Please advise and direct on the law for private buyers who face these problems.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Gabby 7 November, 10:21 am

    Bought a vauxhall astra second hand from a dealer I be had it 4 months I had to repair a part at cost £170 and now two weeks later there’s a noise and have been told by vauxhal garage it’s flywheel and for them to change this will cost £1500 can I return to dealer and ask them to do anything I paid £9000 for this car and I can’t afford to keep paying amounts out so soon after purchase what are my rights in this?

    Reply
  • michelle 18 November, 3:12 pm

    2 weeks ago I bought a 2010 Vauxhall corsa diesel ecoflex, £185 5*warranty and used my old car as part exchange. The day after purchasing it I needed to use the air flow knob to demist the window and it had jammed. I’m not good at complaining so rang the warranty I purchased and they told me to take it to a garage to check it and then get back. Didn’t realise what a big job it is and they managed to go in the side and free it at a cost of 2 hours labour(I still owe). Back to the warranty who are disputing because of the time scale, contacted the garage who sold me it who say it was all working when I bought it and the warranty will sort it. Back to warranty who now want to send an independent assessor and the whole thing has to be stripped down at my cost so he can see the parts. So how it stands is I could be looking at hundreds for the strip down if he decides against the claim, the garage can only part fix it due to the cost as Vauxhall would replace the whole heater part at a cost of £700+ vat + labour, the warranty will only pay out £500 so it could only be limited parts replaced which may not fix it. Now my service light is coming on when I put my foot down and I get a lag of power. It needs to go on a diagnostic machine which apparently is covered under warranty but scared to ring them about that as well so not sure what to do now!!

    Reply
  • Helen 25 November, 9:21 pm

    I bought a fiat punto Evo on Saturday. I noticed that the reflector was cracked on the front and mentioned it to the salesman who kept fobbing it off saying that they wouldn’t be able to fix it. He said he would ring me on Monday. He rang me today and said if I wanted the reflector fixing they could do that but the car has no tax so they either pay the car tax or fix the reflector. Can they do that when the reflector needs fixing?

    Reply
  • vincent 26 November, 11:27 am

    I bought a ford focus 2005 on 23/07/2013.
    after one week the engine developed a fault (battery warning light)
    I took the to a ford main dealer who then did a diagnotics check, they found that apart from the fault with the Alternator, they also find other problems including two very badly bucked front wheels.
    so i went back to the car dealer i bought the car from and complained about the problems, they said as a good will they would replace the Alternator but I would have to pay the labour cost (£90.00)
    and as for the wheels they said I wasn’t covered!
    so i relutantly let them repaid the Alternator at my cost.
    After 3 months and one week I had another Fault! (Engine warning light) car is cuttung out intermitently and is not runing properly
    I have since been back to the dealer and have told them that this fault has happened and they have refussed to except responsabilaty.
    I have written to them explaining that I have rights but they keep telling me that the 3 month warrenty has expired.
    Please help. do i have any rights and what should I do.
    I have written to them on several accaitions but we are at dead lock
    what should i do now.

    Reply
  • Anthony 28 November, 10:06 pm

    I bought a bmw second hand on the 15-10-13 from sytner. 5 days later i noticed a louh mechanical “clunking” when you shift gear at a stand still. I took it back immediately and the car has pretty much been with then since. They replaced some rubbers, problem was still there, replaced gear box, problem was still there and now replaced crank shaft and the problem is still there. I called them up 2 days ago to have an update on my car and i was told by the service deperatment that they still having problems and so have asked BMW Technical section for help. I called them today and i was told BMW says the “cluncking” is normal.
    Meanwhile when i first took the car to the dealership myself and the master technician tested my car against one they had on site and clearly knew there was a problem with it. Also they had to demonstrate and prove to BMW that the gearbox was actually faulty and needed replacement before BMW would authorise it.

    They are refusing to give me a replacement or my money back. what should i do please help .
    Many Thanks

    Reply
  • Corinne 18 January, 3:14 pm

    I purachased a second hand car from a garage and had been told it was safe to drive etc. I did not have the car inspected and recently took it for a service at a main dealership. A free health check was completed and i have been advised of several serious faults with the vehicle that need urgent attention such as corroded brake lines which will require the engine being removed, issues with the suspension amd geometry affecting the steering, severe misting on the rear main affecting the clutch which now needs replacing as well as others such as cracking on the coil pack, missing springs and split manifold bolts – the exhaust silencers are also split. I had informed the garage about a knocking sound and to have a small rust spot repaired and asked for their attention to have it rectified and they did not get back in touch. The advert also demonstrated the car had cruise control which it does not. The bill for repair is in exces s of 5k; do I have any rights with regard getting them to pick up the tab. any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
  • Tayne 16 February, 7:17 pm

    I need help..

    Bought a car from carcraft in 2012. The car was faulty and they offered to repair it.

    The repair wasn’t done to a satisfactory quality.

    So the car was taken back for the repairs. Again wasn’t done to a good enough standard.

    The car then failed it MOT because of the same problem to which they fixed it to a good enough standard for a pass. Bearing in mind, the fault still was not fully repaired.

    Then the car had to go back again because of the fault and then, problems with the electrics and a loud excessive notice on the engine.

    They couldn’t fix that either.

    So after many times of the car going back and forth to the garage and me having to change tyres 1-2 times a month because of the fault, I was offered a full refund or a replacement.

    I have them the benefit of the doubt and took a replacement car.

    The new car went for it’s service which carcraft say to do in the first 6months. So I booked it in for three months later, again when complete the car had to go back as they had messed with the car computer.

    Now the car is due it’s actual service, the light has come one to warn me.

    The car was booked in for it to be taken off. As a result of this, the car had to go back in because the messed with the display.

    Then three weeks later, a warning light comes on which is regarding to the lights being out. No lights are out because I checked them and replaced every one just incase. The light still came up.

    Then the service light came on again.

    And then last Monday, a red warning light came on along with. Picture on my car in ramps. This in my book explains that if the red was in light comes on, to pull over and seek urgent help.

    I was advised by carcraft if the driving of the car hasn’t changed then to drive it over to them. I live 25 miles away and have to go on the motorway!!

    This is now the second car that a fault has arrised and the third time the car has been in the garage for the same problem.

    I am wanting a full refund or for them to take the car back and cancel my finance having all the problems I have had and still having!!!

    Is this possible? Cheers

    Reply
  • Kayla McKeever 2 March, 11:02 pm

    In ohio, nine days ago I payed 3,00 cash down on an 8,000$ 2004 Mitsubishi endeavor, they assured me the car was in excellent condition, nine days later the engine is knocking extremely bad, I called the dealer and they said its an as is sale and its my car to worry about, do I have any rights?

    Reply
  • Toni 17 March, 7:19 pm

    Hi I have just got a new car from a dealership. Once I drove the car a few mile I realised that the start/stop wasn’t working. It turns out the dealers ordered a different engine to the one I thought I’d ordered. I took the car back to them after driving approx. 40 miles and they are saying there’s nothing they can do because I signed the order forms. The order forms only stated that Id ordered a 2.0 CDTi and not which exact engine model but I verbally double checked the engine at the time of order with the sales rep so I didn’t question this again.

    Reply
  • antony fahy 30 March, 8:53 pm

    We purchased our 207 from bristol st motors in Worcester,within the last 12months problems have arisen with the car.1st the steering rack was found to have a crack all the way down it,2nd we have had to change the gear box and also the clutch.now tonite 30/03/2014 as my wife was coming back from work the door on the drivers side has dropped and now we can’t shut it.we have had nothing but trouble since the 1st problem.taking it back to garage tomorrow and will not accept the old saying sorry its down to wear and tear.

    Reply
  • R.J. Clark 31 March, 11:35 pm

    I recently purchased a new fx4 with custom wheels and tires from a local Dealership. With less than 5 thousand miles on it the custom rims are peeling . I was told because I didn’t buy a extended warenty they would not replace them and because they were custom they would not replace them? The wheels where on the new truck which brought the price up I paid for the truck sky high. TGhey are still saying they will not do nothing about it. What are my rights.

    Reply
  • Diane Booth 8 April, 7:20 am

    My daughter bought a brand new Ford Fiesta a week last Saturday having waited a month for it. The following Wed it broke down, just stopped in the middle of a busy dual carriageway. It has gone back to the garage, where it has now been for six days, they have ordered a new fuel pump but are by no means certain that this is the problem. The garage have now had the car for longer than she has! Can she give it back to them and demand another new car in its place?

    Reply

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