Returning a car
Wednesday 22 September 2010
If you buy a car and you’re unhappy with it, there are legal rights which you can use for a happy outcome.
If you have a problem when you buy a car, your first step should always be to contact the dealer to arrange an amicable agreement.
If you’re not happy with the car or the service you have received, there are a few golden rules:
• Inform the seller in writing as soon as possible if you are planning to reject the car – after six months of ownership it can become harder to claim
• Keep conversations friendly, but document all correspondence and keep copies of all letters and emails sent
• Keep a copy of the original advert
• Failure to continue finance payments could lead to the repossession of the vehicle or could harm your credit rating – inform the lender of your grievance immediately and include them in all correspondence
• Negotiate with the seller for a partial refund or other goods or services which may be suitable compensation
• The small claims court is an affordable option for claims under £5,000, but losing the action could mean paying the other party’s costs. Cases over £5,000 will be directed to the far more costly county court
How Auto Trader can help: Useful contacts
If you have any queries or concerns about your rights when buying a car, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 sets out several rules outlining what buyers can expect when buying goods – including cars.
A car must be of satisfactory quality, which means
• A car must meet the standards a reasonable person would expect to be satisfactory, taking into account how it was described by the seller, how much it cost, the age, history and mileage
• This covers factors including the appearance, integrity, safety and durability of the car
• It should be free from defects, unless pointed out prior to purchase
Dealers may be considered liable for faults present when the car was sold, but came to light later on. They are not responsible for general wear and tear, breakdowns during regular use or problems resulting from the driver’s misuse or damage.
A car must also be as described, meaning:
• The car must match any verbal or written descriptions provided by the dealer about the car, including adverts
• It should have all the features included in the advert, and they should work properly, unless the buyer has been told otherwise
Cars should also be reasonably fit for any normal purpose, and suitable for any other purpose the buyer informs the dealer of. For example, a dealer should not sell a small hatchback to tow a caravan.
These are basic rights afforded to buyers of goods, irrespective of other warranties, breakdown cover or guarantees supplied by the dealer. Similarly, descriptions such as ‘Sold as Seen’ don’t make the dealer exempt from these legal obligations.
You can expect the dealer to have the legal right to sell the car, the mileage stated on the dashboard is genuine unless otherwise stated, and the car isn’t subject to outstanding finance. Many buyers opt for their own vehicle history check before they sign on the dotted line.
Dealers who carry the logos of trade bodies such as Motor Codes or OFT Approved will have committed to maintaining the highest standards.
How Auto Trader can help: Useful contacts
Refunds are possible but are often considered a last resort by dealers.
• How much of a refund you can claim depends on how long you’ve owned the car, and the amount of mileage covered
• Your entitlement to a refund diminishes the longer you keep the car, although you can still ask for faults to be rectified
• You can ask for your part exchange to be returned, or request the cash value if the car is no longer in the dealer’s possession
• You can ask for a repair or replacement up to six months after purchase as long as you can prove the car was faulty at the time of sale
• You may need to get a written report from an expert, such as a mechanic or inspector from the AA or RAC, to prove a fault exists
Buying from a private seller means you’re not covered by any specific laws other than those relating to the legal right to sell goods. As such, it’s important to make thorough checks.
At the very least, you should:
• Expect the car to be sold as described by the seller
• Ensure the seller has the legal right to sell the car
• Get the seller’s landline telephone number and home address
• Prepare a receipt and ensure both you and the seller keep a copy
You should always carry out a vehicle history check to ensure the car hasn’t been written-off, recorded as stolen or subject to outstanding finance before you commit to buying a car.
How Auto Trader can help:
• Vehicle Check
• Car valuation
• Useful contacts
More in-depth buying advice: