How to complain about a second hand car
After our homes, it is said that cars are the next most expensive thing we own. What happens if you have a problem with the car you purchased?
Stopping a fault before it starts
So how can you stop a problem before it happens? Here are our top tips for ensuring you buy a hassle-free car:
- Check the MOT certificate – this indicates if the car is roadworthy and the date of the car's last MOT;
- Check the service history – this demonstrates if the 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 the V5 registration document – this is the car ownership document and will help reassure you that the car is not stolen;
- Check if the car is a write-off – this helps you know what you are buying. You can quickly check the car’s history online to ensure it 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 that the car isn’t what it seems, ensuring things such as having a spare wheel and all the correct tools;
- Get an engineer’s check – you may want to consider this but it will depend on the cost and condition of the car. But it is a good way to protect against any hidden dangers;
- Check the price value guide – this indicates what is a reasonable price to pay. You can do this from sites such as AutoTrader.
- 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, as under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, the credit card firm is equally liable for breaches of contract for all purchases more than £100 and less than £30,000.
What are your rights?
If you buy a car and it develops a fault, what are your rights? The following are the main areas of consumer law you can use to assist you in resolving your issue:
- The car is what it is meant to be: it must be as was described in the seller's description, including any written description in an advertisement or catalogue.
- The car must be of satisfactory quality: it must be in reasonable condition, considering its age and make, its past history and the price paid.
- The car must be fit for its purpose: if you buy a vehicle said to be capable of towing a large caravan, for example, 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.
- The car must be roadworthy: it is a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy 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 have bought a new car and it develops a fault then your issue is with the dealership, not with the manufacturer.
The goods you purchased should be of satisfactory quality. For a new car this means all faults and issues should be covered for at least six months. The dealership is responsible for fixing any faults at no additional cost to the consumer. After six months ands up to six 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 four 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.
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.
Bought from a private seller
It is illegal for a firm to claim it is 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.