Buying a car is a major expense with many potential pitfalls. So what are your consumer rights and how do you go about complaining if things go wrong.
Your rights when you buy a car
If you purchase a car from a car dealer either with a showroom or online (known as traders) the car must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for purpose
- as described in any advert or by the dealer
If a car doesn't meet these criteria you will usually have a right to either a:
If you purchase a car from a trader or over the phone you also have right to a 'cooling off' period. This gives you seven working days after the car has been delivered to cancel your order for any reason and get your money back.
If you buy a car form a private seller or at a car auction for traders, you have fewer rights. The car only has to:
- match the description given by the seller
- be theirs to sell, eg the car isn't stolen or owned by a finance company because the car loan hasn't been paid off.
If the car you buy has a disclaimer
Some car traders try to use disclaimers such as 'sold as seen', 'trade sale only' or 'no refund' t0 restrict your rights. This is against the law and you can report any trader to Consumer Direct, the government funded consumer advice service.
Car dealers masquerading as private sellers
Some dealers pretend they are private sellers to get rid of faulty cars, the tell-tale signs are:
- the seller's name doesn't appear on the logbook as the last registered keeper
- the same advert appears in several publications
- the cars are advertised for sale in car parks, or other public spaces
If you believe a private seller is a car dealer report them to Consumer Direct.
If you buy a faulty car from a private seller who turns out to be a car dealer, you would have the right to a repair, replacement or refund.
Sellers at auctions can restrict your rights by putting signs up around your car or information in the auction catalogue such as:
- 'sold as seen' - this means the car doesn't have to be of satisfactory quality
- 'your legal rights don't apply' - this means the seller does not have to give you a repair, replacement or refund if the car is faulty
The responsibility for checking the car at auction is yours.
It is illegal for auction houses to put the wrong vehicle history in the auction catalogue, because this could result in buying a stolen car. You can report any auction house you suspect of doing this to Consumer Direct.
Returning a faulty car to a trader
If you discover a fault with a car you've bought from a trader, you should contact the trader immediately.
If the trader agrees to sort out the fault, what the trader will offer you will depend on:
- how long you've had the car - if you've had good use from the car it's unlikely you'll get a full refund
- how serious the fault is
- whether the fault happens again and again
- the cost of carrying out the repair or replacing the car
You are to seek legal advice if you experience any problems
If you need to complain
If you want to make a complaint about your car, first contact:
- the trader or dealer you bought the car from
- the seller if it's a private sale or you bought the car from an auction house
- the finance company if you paid for the car using a credit card or a loan arranged by the trader
If the problem isn't resolved then:
- follow up the complaint in writing
- contact Consumer Direct (08454 04 05 06)
- complain to a trade association if the car dealer is a member