If the car you bought turns out to be faulty, your rights and options depend on who you bought it from and what you were told about the car before you bought it.
Your rights are different depending on whether you bought from a dealer or a private seller.
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You bought from a dealer
If you bought a used car from a dealer the law under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 says that the car should be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for its intended purpose or a purpose that you made known to the dealer
- as described.
If the car turns out to be faulty, you may be able to get a refund, a repair or ask for a replacement.
If you bought your car on a finance agreement then it is worth checking the agreement and getting some advice, as the finance company maybe liable if something goes wrong.
You bought from a private seller
When you buy a used car from a private seller, you don't have the same rights as you do when buying from a dealer. You have no legal right to expect that the car is of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose, but there is a requirement that it should be 'as described'.
Your rights and options if the car you bought from a dealer is faulty
If the dealer pointed out a fault before you bought the car
If the dealer says they pointed a car’s fault out to you before you bought it, you may not be able to complain. However, you may still be able to get the dealer to do something about it if they did not point out the full extent of the defects. For example, if they told you the clutch was stiff but it was in fact worn through, you can still ask them to sort out the problem.
If you inspected the car
The dealer might say that you should have noticed the fault when you inspected the car. If the fault was obvious, such as rusty bodywork or dents, and you did inspect the car, it is unlikely you can ask the dealer to sort the problem out once you own the car.
If the fault is something less obvious, like an engine problem or worn out clutch, you should point out that you examined the car as a layperson, so could only be expected to gain a general impression of it. If you did not examine the car yourself, you should also say so.
Getting a refund
You may be able to ask for a full refund if:
- the fault is serious
- it is within a reasonable time of the sale and
- you have stopped using the car.
Sometimes a partial refund is more appropriate, for example if you have used the car for some time before you noticed the problem.
If you want a refund then you will have to prove the car is not of satisfactory quality. If you are asking for a repair or replacement, or a refund because the trader cannot offer a repair or replacement within the first six months, then the responsibility is on the trader to prove the car is of satisfactory quality.
Getting the car repaired or a replacement
If the fault is minor, such as a worn out clutch, or you don’t want a refund, it might be more appropriate to ask for the car to be repaired. You could also consider asking for a replacement car. The replacement should be of a similar age, mileage and model as the car you're handing back.
If you accept a repair for a major fault you can still claim a refund later if the repair is not of a satisfactory quality.
You discover the fault within six months
The responsibility is normally on you rather than the dealer to prove that a car is faulty in some way. However, the responsibility is on the dealer to prove that the car was of satisfactory quality when you bought it, if you discover the fault within the first six months and you are asking for:
- a repair or
- a replacement or
- a full or partial refund where a repair or replacement isn't possible, would cause significant inconvenience to you as the buyer or would cost a disproportionate amount to the dealer.
Where the dealer is responsible for proving the car is of a satisfactory quality, they have to prove the fault wasn’t present using evidence such as an independent report into the car’s condition.
You discover the fault after the first six months
If you discover the fault after the first six months, you should contact the dealer you bought the car from, to give them the opportunity to inspect the car and where possible put the problem right. The responsibility is on you after six months to prove the car was faulty when sold, so you may have to provide evidence to support your claim.
You can do this by getting a report from another garage. However there may be a cost,so always check first. You can then provide the dealer with a written report of the other garage's findings. If it supports your claim, you will be in a stronger position.
You will need to get a second opinion before you get the work done at another garage if you want to claim the costs back from the dealer.
You may also be able to claim compensation for any other loss you've had as a result of the fault,
If the garage refuses to put things right
If the garage refuses to put things right, check whether they belong to a trade association with a code of practice setting out standards of service they must follow. You can use this to show the garage that they must put the problem right.
If negotiations fail, you could consider using an alternative dispute resolution scheme. Check to see if the trade association has such a scheme.