The second-hand car I bought has a problem, what are my rights?

If your second-hand car develops a problem you’re not alone. Regardless of whether the banger you bought was from a dealer or a friend of a friend, you do have rights.
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Rejecting a second-hand car

If there's a problem with a second-hand car soon after you've bought it - for example, the car develops a problem you wouldn't expect for the car's age and mileage, or it turns out not to be what you’d been led to expect - you may have the right to reject it and get your money back.

If you bought the car after 1 October 2015, you only have 30 days to reject a second-hand car and get a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act.

Cars bought before 1 October 2015, come under the Sale of Goods Act, which states that you must have rejected the car within a reasonable time frame.

While there's no clear definition of what a reasonable time is in the Sale of Goods Act, it probably needed to be within three to four weeks – less if it was an obvious problem. 

And if you reject a second-hand car you must stop using it immediately. 

Returning a second-hand car

If you're past the first 30 days but a problem has arisen that you think would have been present at the time of purchase, you're entitled to ask for a repair or replacement free of charge. 

In most cases this will be a repair, as whoever sold the car to you will usually be able to prove that the cost of replacing it would be disproportionate. 

During the first six months after purchase it's the responsibility of the seller to prove the fault wasn't there, not for you to prove it was. 

But after the first six months, the onus will be on you to prove that the fault was present from the day you bought the car. 

If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you're entitled to a refund.

But the car dealer can make a deduction from the refund after the first 30 days for 'fair use'.

Use our faulty goods complaint tool

Make a claim

Use this tool to ask for a refund, repair or replacement. Once you’ve answered some simple questions, you will receive an email with a ready-to-go letter to send off to the retailer.
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Second-hand car from a dealer

When you buy a second-hand car from a dealer, you have the right under the Consumer Rights Act (which replaced the Sale of Goods Act from 1 October 2015), to expect the car to:

  • be of satisfactory quality (taking into account its age and mileage)
  • meet any description given to you when you were buying it (whether in the ad or in discussions prior to sale)
  • be fit for purpose (in this case for example, to get you from A to B safely)

If the second-hand car does not meet these requirements, you have the right to claim against the dealer for breach of contract.

If something you buy is not 'as described', or the seller is guilty of misrepresentation, you're entitled to:

  • give the second-hand car back and get your money back
  • if you want to keep the car, ask for compensation (usually the cost of any repairs it needs).

But if you buy a second-hand car that was not described as being in excellent condition or good working order and it breaks soon after you buy it, you don't have any right to reject it or to claim compensation.

Second-hand car warranties

If you bought a warranty or your second-hand car came with a guarantee, you may be able to claim on that to get any problems fixed. 

However, having a warranty does not affect your legal rights. You could still either reject the car or claim against the dealer under the Consumer Rights Act or Sale of Goods Act.

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Bought with a credit card

If you bought your car with a credit card, you can also claim against the credit company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. 

Those with debit cards may be able to claim through the chargeback scheme. 

If you have bought the car on hire purchase you can reject it through the finance company as long as it meets the criteria above.

Second-hand car bought privately

You have fewer rights when you buy from a private seller and key parts of the Consumer Rights Act don't apply. 

For example, there is no legal requirement for a car to be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

But legally the seller must:

  • accurately describe the second-hand car (for example, an ad must not say 'one owner' when the car has had several)
  • not misrepresent the second-hand car, that is tell you something about it which isn't true. For example, if it’s been in an accident, the owner must answer truthfully.

Second-hand car bought at auction

When you buy a used car at auction you have very limited legal rights. 

The Consumer Rights Act - and its predecessor the Sale of Goods Act - generally apply to cars sold at auction. However, auction houses are allowed to exclude the main conditions of the Act (such as being of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose) if they put a notice on display in the catalogue or on the wall.

Make sure you check the auction house conditions before you bid. When you buy at auction, your rights are against the seller not the auction house.


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