How to complain about a second hand car

After our homes, it is said that cars are the next most expensive thing that we own.  What happens if you have a problem with the car you purchased.


I Stock Second Hand Car Complaints

Until recently the cost of owning and running a car was on the increase. However, within the last 6-months these costs have started to fall as fuel and car insurance costs have dropped.

There were 7.1 million second-hand car sales in the UK last year. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, half of the cars that develop a fault display the fault within a month of purchasing the vehicle. Drivers spend over £363 million on second-hand car faults each year.

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Stopping a fault before it starts

So how can you stop a problem before it happens? Here are my top tips for ensuring that you buy a hassle free car:

Check MOT certificate – indicates if car is roadworthy, preferably ensure the cars MOT is recent as then you know it has been independently deemed to be road worthy;
  • Check service history – demonstrates if car has been maintained. Ask to see the service history and when and where it was serviced. It is also good to see all the receipts for servicing and car maintenance.
  • Check V5 registration document – this is the car ownership document and will help reassure you that the car is not stolen; 
  • Check if car is a write off – helps you know what you are buying. You can quickly check the car’s history on line to ensure that its does not have any outstanding debt against it and that it has not been written off or scrapped; 
  • Ask for a test drive and walk around check – for signs the car isn’t what it seems, ensure things like it has a spare wheel and all the correct tools; 
  • Get engineer’s check – you may want to consider this but it will depend on cost of the car and the condition of the vehicle. But it is a good way to protect against any hidden dangers;
  • Check price value guide – indicates reasonable price to pay. You can do this from sites such as AutoTrader. 
  • Keep a copy – keep a copy of the car’s advert or marketing material. If something goes wrong you then have reference material to help resolve your issue as well as your proof of purchase;
  • Buy on credit card – if you can, buy the car on credit card as under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, the credit card firm is equally liable for breaches of contract for all purchases between £300 and £30,000.

What are your rights? 

If you buy a car and it develops a fault, what are your rights and what can you do? The following are the main areas of consumer law that you can use to assist you in resolving your issue:

  • The car is what it is meant to be. The car must be as it described in the sellers description, including any written description in an advertisement or catalogue. 
  • Be of satisfactory quality. The car must be in reasonable condition, considering its age and make, its past history and the price paid.
  • Be fit for its purpose. If you request a vehicle, which is capable of towing a large caravan, it must be capable of doing the job. However, before you purchase the vehicle ensure you have asked these questions, preferably in writing along with the seller’s written response. 
  • Be roadworthy: It is a criminal offence to sell an un-roadworthy car. A car is not roadworthy if its brakes, tyres, steering or construction make it unfit for the road. Even an MOT certificate doesn't necessarily mean that the car roadworthy but of course it is a good sign.

Bought a new car and it has a fault

If you bought a new car and it develops a fault then your issue is with the dealership and not with the manufacturer. Therefore, you should address your issue with the dealership.

The goods you purchased should be of satisfactory quality. For a new car this all faults and issues should be covered for at least 6-months. The dealership is responsible to fix any faults at no additional cost to the consumer. After 6-month ands up to 6-years, you can still claim the issue is the dealership’s fault. However, the onus is on you to prove the fault existed at the time of purchase. 

Bought a second hand car from a dealership

If a car purchased from a dealership displays a fault within the first 4 weeks, immediately contact the dealership in writing, stating that you reject the car and are requesting a full refund Stop using the vehicle as otherwise your case will not be deemed as valid.
If the issue has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you will need to take legal action. The best way is via Money Claims OnLine (MCOL), the Government’s online Court. You can claim up to £99,999 and the threat of action is often enough to resolve the issue. 80% of issues resolved before they go to Court and you can cancel at any time.

Bought with hire purchase from a dealership

Under common law, you can reject the car throughout the duration of your contract. However you must immediately stop using the vehicle once you have detected a fault and reported it. Report the issue in writing and explain that the product is of unsatisfactory quality. 

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Bought from a private seller

It is illegal for a firm to claim to be a private seller so ensure the person is actually a private seller. If you purchase from a private seller then you are buying the car, sold as seen and there is very little come back if something goes wrong.

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