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Buying second hand cars – your rights

All new cars come with a warranty, along with peace of mind that they are brand new and should have no faults or problems. Sadly the same cannot always be said when buying second hand cars. All too often that dream car turns into a nightmare as soon as you get it home.

So what are your rights when you buy second hand cars and what legal comeback do you have if something goes wrong?

Your rights buying from a dealer

Buying a car from a dealer is by far the safest option, as there are a number of laws to protect you. Firstly, under the Sale of Goods Act, any vehicle bought from a dealer or motor trader has to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. It is the dealer’s responsibility to check the vehicle’s history and to ensure that they have the right to sell it.

‘Satisfactory quality’ means that the vehicle should be of quality expected for a car of that age and mileage. If not, the dealer must point out any problems in advance for you. Make sure you get any agreement in writing, detailing exactly what you are buying, so that you can prove what you were and were not told about your car. Under the Customer Protection from Unfair Trading Act, the car dealer must not give false information, hide or fail to disclose any relevant details. The Act also outlines 32 other specific practices that are banned, including high pressure sales techniques.

If your car does not live up to its description, or if something goes wrong that was patently at fault before you bought the car, then you have the right to have the car repaired free of charge, or to return it for a full refund. For more information, contact Citizen’s Advice online or call 08454 040506.

Your rights in a private sale

In a private car sale, the boot is on the other foot, and it is your responsibility to ask the right questions, as the seller is not obliged to reveal anything about the car unless you ask. The only legal obligation on the seller is that the car is roadworthy (it is illegal to sell an unroadworthy car in the UK) and that they have the right to sell the vehicle.

Most private cars are ‘sold as seen’, which means it is up to you to ‘see’ any problems before you buy. If your car turns out to be a turkey, then you have only got yourself to blame for not checking it out more thoroughly. You’ll have little or no rights with the seller, even through the courts.

Buying online

More and more people are buying used cars online these days, but the same basic rules apply. If you are buying from a second hand car dealer, they are still bound by the Acts mentioned above, plus you have additional ‘distance selling’ rights, including the right to cancel the deal within seven days and get a full refund. Private sellers online are in the same position as a local private seller.

Dealers pretending to be private sellers

Finally, beware of car dealers who try to pass themselves off as private sellers in order to avoid their obligations and cheat you of your rights. Always be suspicious of a private seller who wants to meet you somewhere other than their home, and make sure the seller’s name appears on the car documents. If the name on the V5C is not theirs, ask them why!

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