Used Car Buying Rights

Buying a Used Car?

Keep your head and know your rights


We’ve all been there – full of pure excitement of purchasing our next car that sometimes we stop listening to our head and are led by our heart.  So, what do you need to look out for and what can you do if it all goes wrong?


All being well, you will have a seamless transaction and complete the purchase of a quality car that you planned to buy.  But, it’s not always straight forward.  Often budgets get stretched or we end up with a car because we could get a deal on it rather than a car that met our needs!  So, we need to start with a seller that we can trust.

Buyers Risk

Whenever you purchase something second hand, you are reliant on the seller to be up front and honest about the condition of the product.

Cars are no different.  It’s important we can trust where we are buying from.  We want to know that the car is as described, the mileage is genuine, all paperwork is present and that it functions as expected.  So, it depends on what kind of buyer you are: Do you prefer to be able to buy with all assurances given, trust in your own knowledge, or risk take a little in the hope of finding a bargain?  Wherever you are on the scale, understanding the risk is the first stage of getting the deal you are looking for.  It is not just about finances, but the guarantees also given.

Main Dealers will only sell cars that they are willing to put a warranty on.  Any cars that they don’t feel they can sell from their forecourt, will be sent to auction.  They conduct a Pre-Delivery Inspection to ensure that anything that could be foreseen will be rectified before handover to you.

Independent Dealership operate much like the main dealer, in that they will conduct their own safety checks through their own workshop before the car is delivered to you with a warranty.  Unlike a main dealer, an independent dealership is more reliant on good reviews and recommendations, so it’s worth checking these.  They may also have affiliation with the AA, RAC, Trading Standards, Which or similar.  Some will also ensure it has a service and fresh MOT before handover.

Independent Sales Forecourt  As a car sales only business, they will focus on the aesthetics but some more studious forecourts work with a local garage to ensure the car is prepared before sale.  Check their credentials before making a purchase and look for a warranty and affiliations such as mentioned above.  If they have the car serviced, make sure you are given the paperwork and are confident in the garage they use.

Auctions can be a great source of finding something ‘cheap’.  But all cars sold at auction whether through an Auction House or through online bidding are ‘sold as seen’.  This term is used to describe goods that are sold in their existing condition, with no promise that they will work well.  It is worth noting that this is where companies send vehicles they are not confident in selling themselves without risking further issues.

Private purchase.  Whether a vehicle is seen with a note in the window, advertised locally or from a friend, it is considered a private purchase.  If you know the seller personally, it can be a great way of trusting in the background and condition of the car, but also with no assurances, it can put a strain on friendships should it go wrong.

Trade Purchase.  Main Dealers, Independent Dealers and Sales Forecourts, also sell cars within the trade.  They consider the condition of the car and discount any work that may need doing to it.  It is a business-to-business transaction to allow the buyer to make the rectification work and sell the car on at a profit.

Legal Remedies

Consumers are protected by several laws if purchasing from a business.  Your first action will always be to contact the dealer direct to discuss the issue.  If it cannot be resolved at this level, every dealership will have an Alternative Dispute Resolution service to mediate to a conclusion.  Where this does not work, there are various legislation that will support you.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015


Within 30 Days of Purchase

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you the right to ask for a full refund in the first 30 days after buying any product that proves to be faulty.  This includes new and used cars.

The law states that a vehicle must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

Satisfactory Quality

To be of satisfactory quality, a car must not be faulty or broken when purchased and it must be of a standard that a reasonable person would expect, considering its age and mileage.  Ie, an older car with more miles on the clock is not expected to be as good as a newer one with lower mileage, although both should be roadworthy, reliable and of a quality consistent with their age and price paid.

Fit forPurpose

The vehicle should be fit for the purpose it has been supplied which includes any specific purpose you tell a dealer you want to use it for prior to buying it.  So, if you’ve told the dealer you want to tow a caravan, it should be able to do so.

As Described

It should match any description you have been given of it when you bought it.

If the car does not conform to any one of the above criteria, you are entitled to hand it back and get all your money refunded.  The seller might not accept your rejection, in which case you will have to start court proceedings against them if you want a refund.

After 30 Days of Purchase

After 30 days of purchase, but before 6 months, you can request a repair or a replacement vehicle.  The onus is on the seller of the car to prove the fault was not present when it was sold.  If they can, you won’t get a refund.

If being repaired, the dealer has one chance to fix the fault.  If the fix doesn’t work, you’re entitled to a refund.  You won’t get the full purchase price back though.  Any usage of the car will be considered, and the refund adjusted accordingly.

After 6 Months of Purchase

After 6 months it is down to you to prove the fault was there at the time of purchase.  To do that, you’re likely to have to get an expert to examine the car or component and obtain a written report.

What Is Not Covered?

Dealers do not have to rectify any component that fails due to ‘fair wear and tear’, such as tyres or brake discs that wear out due to normal use.  This also applies to any specific fault a dealer told you about prior to purchase.  The CRA cannot be used to reject a car if you’ve simply changed your mind about buying it.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

This legislation makes it illegal for traders to engage in unfair business practices, such as giving false or insufficient information about a car.

Consumer Credit Act

Covers you if you’ve bought a car on hire purchase or using a credit card.

Case Studies

Sadly, we see too many cases where our own customers have had issues with the purchase of their new car.  Fortunately, in both these cases the consumer was protected by consumer law.  Both bought from businesses who were accredited by nationally recognised organisations.  Neither of them had experience of the business and no-one had recommended their service.

Case 1

A high-end vehicle was purchased from an independent sales centre and had a recent service and MOT.  A major fault appeared after 10 weeks.  Investigation uncovered the engine warning light had been mapped out of the system disguising major faults and represented an MOT failure.  The repair work was immense, and the consumer repeatedly requested to resolve the situation.


It was confirmed by an independent specialist that the lights had been mapped out of the vehicle and therefore the car was sold with major issues.  It failed on all 3 tests of the Consumer Rights Act and the consumer was awarded a full refund less 10 weeks use of the car.

Case 2

Small family car purchased from an independent sales forecourt.  Nationally recognised motor organisation flags are apparent around the forecourt.

After 12 months, the car develops a fault.  On investigation, it becomes apparent the front end of the car is not the same as the rear.  It is a ‘cut-and-shut’.


Although this was outside of the timescale, the customer could not have reasonably expected to have known the situation with the car which you could only see once the under tray had been removed.  The garage is approved for warranty not for approved sales which the flags suggested creating confusion. Investigation uncovers the same car has been sold 3 times by the same garage!  The customer was entitled to a refund and resolved the situation out of court.

Safeguard Yourself


Research the seller.  Look for reviews to establish their reputation before buying.  If using an auction site, ask questions before you commit to the sale.  Be clear on the ‘risk’ you are taking.

Check a current car pricing guide such as Parkers or Glasses Guide to give you a rough estimate.  Remember no two cars are the same… they all have different mileage, condition of bodywork, etc.   If the car is advertised significantly lower than the retail price, exercise extreme caution.  Don’t give scammers the opportunity to take your well-earned money.

Unless it is someone you know and trust, make sure you view at the car before buying to ensure it is an accurate representation of the description.  Or consider having an inspection service visit for you.

Look at the car’s history.  Has it been regularly maintained and serviced?

Be confident it is the car you want.  It’s all too easy to go over budget for that extra bit of boot space or latest gadget.  Does it fit within your budget for purchase and ongoing servicing costs?  Does the vehicle do what you want it to?

If you have a part-exchange, be realistic about its value.  The garage needs to be able to prepare your car for sale.  If part-exchanging with a car supermarket, be aware the price they give may not be what you receive.  It’s all part of the negotiation process when they see the car!


Legislation is there to protect us and it’s great when it can be applied, but it would be just as easy to have purchased the cars in the case studies privately without the protection of legislation.  It is much easier both financially, emotionally and for convenience if we can avoid putting ourselves in the situation right from the start.  We really don’t want anyone to endure the suffering in the same way these two families did.  The wider ramifications were monumental affecting their everyday life.  One of the cases lasted over 2 years.

Make sure you can enjoy looking for your next car.  If you want to take the strain out of the search, we have a Car Sales department at Redbourn Auto Solutions.  We have over 40 years’ experience in listening to our customers and providing them with the car they want whether new, nearly new or used.  Every car is fully prepared through our workshop so you can be assured that it is mechanically sound and will come with a warranty.  We’ve sold over 300 cars and very happy to help you find your next car.