Bought a faulty car? Know your rights

hand with a car keys....

Buying a used car is a notoriously tricky business, and while most are happy with their purchase, there are occasions when things go wrong with the vehicle you bought in good faith.

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, a used car bought from a dealer must be of satisfactory quality, fit for its intended purpose and as described. Therefore, if you later discover a fault, you may be able to get a refund, repair or even a replacement. However, remember that the same does not apply if you bought from a private seller, although the vehicle should still be 'as described'.

If you've recently purchased a vehicle from a dealer and have a problem with the car, here's what you need to know.

When can I claim?
A dealer may suggest that you were aware, or should have been aware of the fault when you inspected the car. That may be true with regards to obvious bodywork issues, but where that is not the problem, i.e. you encounter an engine problem or worn out clutch, you are well within your rights to explain that you inspected the car as a layperson, and may be entitled to compensation. The same may be true if the dealer themselves made you aware of a fault with the car but not the full extent of the problem.

Of course, the fault may not be evident until you have started using the car on a regular basis, but if you discover the problem within the first six months, it is the dealer's responsibility to prove that the car was of satisfactory quality when you bought it, possibly by providing evidence as to the car's condition, such as an independent report.

Even if the fault becomes apparent after six months, you may be able to claim, though the responsibility is then yours as to providing evidence to support the theory that it was faulty when you bought it. To do this, you can get a report from an independent garage, or a second opinion prior to getting work done if you plan to claim the costs back from the dealer.

What can I claim?
For serious faults that are within a reasonable time after the sale, or that have caused you to stop using the car, you may be able to ask for a refund. If it's the case that you drove the vehicle for some time before noticing the problem, a partial refund may be more appropriate. Unless the dealer is unable to offer a repair or replacement within six months of the purchase, the onus is on you to prove that the car is not of satisfactory quality.

Minor faults, on the other hand, may not warrant a refund. Instead, ask the dealer to repair the car or provide a replacement. In the case of the latter, you should be offered a vehicle of similar age, mileage and model. It's also worth knowing that if the dealer agrees to repair a major fault, you may be able to claim a refund at a later date if the repair is found to be of unsatisfactory quality.

Dealing with disputes
If the dealer refuses to offer reasonable compensation, repairs or a replacement, and the fault is persistent, you may want to take things further. Make every effort to resolve the situation with the trader by complaining by telephone and in writing, but if the situation is still not satisfactorily resolved, gather as much evidence as you can (such as an independent report from a garage) before reporting the problem to Trading Standards.

Where negotiations fail, check whether the dealer or garage belongs to a trade association such as Motor Codes or the Retail Motor Industry Federation. Such bodies have strict codes of practice and service standards that members must follow, and they may be able to help in the case of a dispute.

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