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What to do if Buying a Used Car Goes Wrong

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 23 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
What To Do If Buying A Used Car Goes Wrong

It can be a risky business buying a used car. A lot of money changes hands and no matter how thorough a buyer is when inspecting the car, it is easy to miss a fault. The car may seem in perfect order, only for a problem to become apparent later.

So what can a buyer do when the worst happens and the used car purchased in good faith goes wrong? Well, a buyer has more protection if the car is bought from a dealer. In that instance, the buyer is covered by the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Under the act, the dealer must ensure the car is of satisfactory quality, taking the car’s age, price and how it was described to the buyer into account. There should not be any serious defects other than any that the dealer had made the buyer aware of.

Seek a Refund

The car has to be as described. If the dealer claims a car has a 1.9-litre petrol engine when, in fact, it has a 1.8-litre diesel engine, the buyer has a right to reject the car and seek a replacement or refund.

In addition, the car must be fit for any reasonable purpose. It should be able to do all that the buyer reasonably expects of it, including any specific requirements a buyer tells a dealer he requires. For instance, if a buyer wants his used car to tow a caravan and a dealer insists a 1.1-litre Fiat Panda is up to the job, the buyer can reject the car if he finds it is not.

If a buyer pays to have a used car inspected, the dealer is not held responsible for any defects the inspection should have found but missed. It is crucial, therefore, that a buyer gets the dealer to provide a statement on the car’s condition.

Demand Repairs

If a car is faulty, a buyer has up to six months after the purchase date in which to reject it. A buyer can demand repair or a replacement, unless a replacement would cause disproportionate or significant inconvenience to the dealer. For example, if a repair would be as effective as a replacement or, in the case of minor defects, if a price reduction would be more appropriate.

The onus is on the dealer to prove the car was of satisfactory quality when sold, so there is no need for an independent car inspection. If a buyer believes the car is faulty, he must stop using it immediately and contact the dealer. Put the concerns in writing too and give evidence of any problems. If the car came from a franchised dealer, speak to the manufacturer direct, as manufacturers do not want to get a bad name just because a dealer has not provided the expected level of service.

Unfortunately, there is far less comeback for those who buy a used car privately. The only legal obligation for sellers is to describe the car truthfully, but even if a seller lies it can be extremely difficult, costly and time-consuming to get compensation. A buyer can still expect the car to be capable of passing an MOT (unless the seller states otherwise) and owned by the person selling it. If a buyer later finds out the car has been stolen he will have no legal right to keep it.

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I bought a 2007 Audi A4 on 1 Jun 2007 with 90K on the clock. On test driving the vehicle I did not notice any faults with the exception of the front disc which had been an advice on the last MOT. I took the vehicle to my local garage on the first week of September as the brake warning light had come on which turned out to be due to worn brake pads. When I collected the vehicle my mechanic advised me that the dual mass flywheel was on its way out and it was a fairly expensive repair. At the time of being informed of the clutch problem I had only driven the vehicle just over 2400 miles since purchase. I spoke to the garage where I bought the car about resolving the issue but they where not willing to help. I brought to their attention the Consumer Act of 2015 to which I was toldthat garages can offer what ever length of warranty they liked on a used vehicle if at all. The garage is covered by the AA Dealership Promise so I have tried to use them as an intermediate to resolve the problem. The AA did speak to the garage but informed me that the garage informed them that because I signed a Pre-delivery Inspection check list stating everything had been checked on the vehicle as working correctly that I do not have any comeback on the garage, is this right? I've even been through the Consumer Ombudsman but the garage refused to deal with them so there was nothing they could do. Do you think I have a case if I was to pursue this through the small claims court?
Andy - 23-Oct-16 @ 11:45 AM
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