If your second hand car develops a problem, you might think you’re on your own, but regardless of whether the banger you bought was from a car dealer or a friend of a friend you do have certain rights.
We explain what you can do if you need to return a second hand car or if its not quite the little runner described in the advert.
Your right to return 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 to be not what you’d been led to expect or as described, you may have the right to 'reject' and return the second hand car and get your money back.
But you only have a reasonable time to reject a second hand car. While there is 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. An if you reject a second hand car you must stop using it.
I bought my second hand car from a dealer
When you buy a second hand car from a dealer, you have the right, under the Sale of Goods Act, 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 the purpose (for example, to get you from A to B safely).
If the second hand car does not meet these requirements, you have a 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 are entitled to:
- give the second hand car back and get your money back, or
- 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.
I bought my second hand car on credit card
If you bought the car on credit, 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 on 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.
I bought my second hand car privately
You have fewer rights when you buy from a private seller and key parts of the Sale of Goods Act don't apply – 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).
I bought the second hand car at auction
When you buy a used car at auction you have very limited legal rights. Though the Sale of Goods Act generally applies 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 the 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.