What are my rights when I buy a used car?

Thanks to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, everyone has some statutory rights when they buy a used car from a dealer. If your car is faulty, you may be able to return it, depending on when you bought it.

Rhiannon Philps Published on 30 July 2021.
What are my rights when I buy a used car?

After the excitement of buying your new car, the last thing you want is to find a problem with it.

However, you won’t necessarily need to pay out for expensive repairs if something in your car isn’t working. Everyone who buys a car from a dealer has certain statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which means you can get help if your car is faulty.

Find out more about your rights when buying a car from a dealer, and what you should do if there’s an issue with your car.

Consumer rights when buying a car from a dealer

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, in most cases you are entitled to return your car and get a full refund if you find a fault within 30 days of purchase. This applies whether you bought your car online or in-person.

When you buy a car, it needs to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and match the description given by the dealer. This doesn’t mean the car needs to be in perfect condition, but it does mean that dealers have to be honest with buyers about the state of the vehicle and the price should reflect it. The buyer shouldn’t get any unexpected surprises when they get the car home.

If you do find a fault with the car up to 30 days after buying it, you have the right to return the car and get a refund. Once 30 days have passed, you no longer have this right.

However, for up to six months after purchase, you do have the right to ask for the car to be repaired or for a replacement. If you can’t get it repaired or replaced, or there continues to be a problem, you would then be entitled to a full or partial refund. For the first six months, it’s assumed that any fault in the car was there at the time of purchase, unless the dealer has proof that shows otherwise.

After six months, you still have the right to ask for repairs, a replacement, or a partial refund for up to six years after purchase (up to five years in Scotland). However, you will need to prove that the dealer breached one of the statutory rights and that they sold you a faulty car, which will be more difficult as time goes on.

If parts of your car simply get worn away with use, this won’t count as you would expect the car to deteriorate; it doesn’t mean there was a problem at the time of sale.

Bear in mind that the age and mileage of the car when you purchased it is taken into consideration. You would expect older cars to develop a few more problems than brand-new ones, so you may find it harder to prove you were sold faulty goods that weren’t of “satisfactory quality”.

The above rights only apply if there is a genuine problem with your car. You don’t have the right to return your car if you simply change your mind, unless you buy your car online.

If you buy a car from an online dealer, you can return it and get a refund up to 14 days after you received the vehicle, even if there’s no problem with it.

Rights when buying a car from a private seller

If you buy a car from a private seller, you don’t have the same rights as you do when buying from a dealer.

The seller has to legally be in a position to sell the car (i.e., they need to own it) and the car needs to be in a condition that means it can be legally driven on the roads. The car also needs to match the description provided by the seller.

If the car isn’t “as described”, you may be entitled to some compensation. However, you would need to contact the seller to arrange this, and the seller could refuse or be difficult about paying for any repairs or giving you a refund.

At the time of purchase, it’s your responsibility to make sure the car is fit for purpose and is of the desired quality. You don’t have the Consumer Rights Act to fall back on if you find there’s a problem later on, once the sale is complete.

Car warranty claims

Aside from your statutory consumer rights, your car may also be covered by a manufacturers’ warranty. Warranties will cover the cost of repairing specified mechanical and electrical problems in parts of your car, such as the engine, the steering, the braking system, and more.

These warranties come with every new car and normally last for three years, but some will last for longer. Even if you buy your car second-hand, the manufacturers’ warranty may still be valid, so it’s worth checking at the time of purchase if this is the case.

If the manufacturers’ warranty has expired, you could choose to get an extended warranty or used car warranty. These are available from dealerships and online providers and will also cover the cost of specific repairs. However, they have several terms and exclusions, so you’ll have to weigh up whether buying a car warranty is worth it or not.

Having a warranty won’t affect your statutory rights. Car warranties can cover the cost of repairs if a fault appears in your car long after purchase, whereas your rights will only entitle you to a refund or repairs if the car was faulty when you bought it from a dealer.

COMPARE: Car warranties

What to do if you find a problem with your car

If you have a problem with your car, you should first contact the dealer that you bought it from. You will need to be clear about what the problem is and tell the dealer this in writing.

Hopefully, the dealer will be cooperative and give you a refund if it’s within 30 days of purchase, or offer to repair or replace it after this period.

Make sure you keep a record of all your contact with the dealer.

You should always try to resolve any issues with the dealer and give them the opportunity to sort them out. If you encounter any problems, and the dealer is refusing to give you a refund for example, you may want to submit your dispute to the Motor Ombudsman to see if they can offer any help.

To help your case, it may be useful to get an independent inspection of your vehicle. Especially if you got your vehicle more than six months ago, it is your responsibility to prove that it was faulty when you bought it and an independent assessment could help provide you with the evidence you need. However, you would need to pay for this.

If you don’t qualify for a refund or a repair under your statutory rights but you have a car warranty, you may still be able to claim for the costs of fixing your car. You should contact your warranty provider if you find a problem and follow their guidance on what to do next.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more

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