Buying & Selling Disputes

Car Purchase (from a dealer)

If you buy a car from a motor dealer you enter into a legally binding contract governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002). When you buy from a motor trader you have the right to expect the car to be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose, including any special purpose made known to the seller;
  • as described.

If you have bought a car from a trader which turns out to be faulty or which you think has been misdescribed, you need to take action straight away.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Consumer Credit Act 1974 say that, if you can show the goods to be faulty or misdescribed, you have 'for a short time after purchase' a right to reject the goods and get a refund of the purchase price.

You should contact Consumer Direct for advice: www.consumerdirect.gov.uk. Telephone: 08454 04 05 06.

You may also want to contact Trading Standards for further advice: www.tradingstandards.gov.uk

If Consumer Direct or Trading Standards advise you that you have a strong case, you may need legal advice. For legal advice, you should start with the Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

Car Purchase (private)

When buying a car privately, the rule is 'let the buyer beware'. It is up to you to find out whether the car is of satisfactory quality, to make your own checks (see our free checklist) on what you are told and to take responsibility for your choice, as the seller is not liable for the satisfactory quality of the vehicle.

You are still entitled to expect the car to be 'as described.' Remember, though, that it may be much more difficult for you to enforce your rights against a private individual.

Whether you buy privately or from a trader, you are entitled to expect the vehicle to be capable of passing an MOT test when you buy it (unless you and the seller clearly agree it is to be sold as scrap).

You can also expect the seller to be the owner or authorised by the owner to sell. If you buy a car later found to be stolen, you have no legal right to keep it. You will have to try to get your money back from the seller.

The Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives 'good title' (ownership) to the innocent private purchaser of a car which later turns out to be subject to a claim by a finance company because of a previous unpaid hire purchase or conditional sale agreement. This means that the finance company, which is claiming the money, cannot usually repossess the car against your will.

For advice on this you should contact Consumer Direct: www.consumerdirect.gov.uk. Telephone: 08454 04 05 06.