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 01 October 2015, you only have 30 days to reject a second-hand car and get a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act.
If you bought the car before 01 October 2015, then you must reject the car within a reasonable time under the Sale of Goods Act.
While there's no clear definition of what a reasonable time is, it probably needs to be within three to four weeks – less if it's 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, then you're entitled to ask for a repair or replacement free of charge.
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 that 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 purchased 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'.
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 replaces the Sale of Goods Act from 01 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 advert or in discussions prior to sale)
- be fit for purpose (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 if 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.
This doesn't affect your legal rights and you could still either reject the car or claim against the dealer under the Consumer Rights Act or Sale of Goods Act.
- When you buy a second-hand car from a dealer, you still have statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act.
- If you bought your car on credit card, you may be able to claim under Section 75 if things go wrong.
- If you claim on your warranty, your legal rights to reject the car still remain.
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 purchased the car on hire purchase you can reject the car 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 advert must not say 'one owner' when the car has had several)
- not misrepresent the second-hand car (tell you something about the car which isn't true such as 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.
Though the Consumer Rights Act - and its predecessor the Sale of Goods Act - generally apply to cars sold at auction, auction houses are allowed to exclude its main conditions (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.