If you buy a used car privately it’s largely a case of ‘buyer beware’ – the car should match the description given by the seller and must be roadworthy but it’s up to you to ask the right questions, inspect the car thoroughly and satisfy yourself that its history is clean and mileage genuine. Consider getting a car data check for peace of mind.
You can expect to pay more for the car if you buy from a dealer – private sellers don’t have their overheads – but the law’s on your side.
If you buy from a dealer you’re covered by the Sale of Goods Act and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has published guidance for second hand car dealers to help them understand their legal obligations to consumers and their duties if something goes wrong with the vehicle.
Basically the car must be as described and of satisfactory quality, taking account of its age, mileage and price.
The car must also be fit for purpose, including any specific purpose such as towing that you tell the dealer about before you buy.
The dealer is liable for faults with the vehicle which mean it was not of satisfactory quality at the time of the sale. This includes faults that may only become apparent later on – up to six months after purchase the burden of proof is with the dealer to prove that the fault was not present at the time of the sale.
Dealers are not liable for: fair wear and tear; misuse or accidental damage; faults drawn to your attention at the time of the sale, or for faults you should have noticed if you examined the vehicle before the sale.
A dealer must prepare the car before offering it for sale. This preparation should include verifying the accuracy of the recorded mileage and checking the vehicle’s history – they should keep a full record of all checks carried out.
A dealer is likely to be committing an offence under the Consumer Protection Regulations if they omit or hide information that would enable you to make an informed decision before buying a car. This would include withholding the results of their checks into the vehicle’s mechanical condition, history and mileage.
Help yourself by asking the right questions
- How many and what type of owner has the car had?
- Has the car been repaired or modified in any way following an accident?
- What mechanical checks has the dealer carried out?
- What checks into the vehicle’s background/history has the dealer carried out?
- What checks has the dealer made to verify the recorded mileage?