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If the car you bought is still on hire purchase

This advice applies to England

You often have a right to keep the car - called 'good title' - even if it's still on outstanding hire purchase or conditional sale. You have the right to own the car if all these apply:

  • you didn't know the car was subject to a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement
  • you bought the car honestly and had no reason to think there was a problem - this is called buying 'in good faith'
  • you're a 'private buyer' - this means you don't buy cars to sell or hire them on
  • you're the first private buyer to buy the car from the person who has the hire purchase or conditional sale agreement

If you're not the first private buyer, you might still have good title if the previous owner had it. 

If the finance company contact you

It's up to the finance company to prove that you don't have good title, rather than you having to prove that you do.

But, you could write to them and explain that you bought the car in good faith and didn't know it was still on hire purchase or conditional sale. It can help to include:

  • the name and address of the person you bought the car from
  • the date you bought it
  • details of how the car was advertised - and a copy of the advert if you have it
  • how much you paid
  • a copy of the receipt or other proof of purchase

If your car is taken away

What you should do depends on whether you've got good title to the car.

If you've got good title to the car, you should complain. Contact the finance company or look on their website to check their complaints procedure.

If your complaint isn't resolved you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service who will investigate for you.

If you haven't got good title to the car

You could try and get your money back from the seller.

If you bought from a private seller, tell them "I have a right to a refund under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, because you didn't have the right to sell me the car".

If you bought from a trader, tell them "I have a right to a refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, because you didn't have the right to sell me the car".

If the seller is a trader or company, ask them if they belong to a trade association that offers alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is a way of solving disagreements without going to court. You can contact the trade association directly to ask how the ADR process will work. Keep a record of the date you asked the trader about the scheme - you might need it if you take further action.

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