FAQ: I’ve bought a car and I’m not happy with it. What can I do?

30 November 2018

Our Litigation Solicitor, Iain Blundell, answers a Frequently Asked Question in today’s article, dealing with second hand car purchases.

If you have ever bought a car second hand, how do you know what rights you have, does it come with a warranty, and what can you do if things go wrong?

The purchaser acquires consumer rights under the Consumer Rights Act. This piece of law provides that goods must be of a “satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. It is on this basis that a buyer – a consumer – can bring an action against the seller if the product is faulty.

However, it is important to consider the details of each particular case, as the expected “satisfactory quality” will differ where you have bought a car described as ‘requires work’ as opposed to one sold as ‘pristine condition, one careful owner, etc.

Taken together, “fit for purpose” and “satisfactory quality” does include durability and a buyer would expect the car to last a reasonable period if using carefully. Again, caution must be exercised, as the car may have been described as ‘sold as seen’, or defects may even have been highlighted.

The best advice is to take a careful note (or photo, photocopy etc) of the advert or sales particulars. It is then easier to bring legal action against the seller if the vehicle has not met the expectations “as described”.

It is also important to be confident who you are buying from. Is it an established used car dealership, an individual (perhaps following an online advert) or is it unclear? If things do go wrong, you will need to know who to address your complaint to and, ultimately, who to take court action against. The identity of the seller will also be a relevant factor in deciding whether it is worth suing them; do they have any money to pay a judgment?

Once something has gone wrong, you should complain to the seller. The dealership should be afforded the opportunity to repair the vehicle. If they do not, then court action can be brought against them.

Before bringing a claim, a formal Letter of Claim should be sent to the dealership. This should ask for a refund (within 30 days of purchase), if using the consumer right to reject, or set out the remedy you seek (repair, replacement). Assuming agreement is not reached at this stage, you can then issue a claim online using the Ministry of Justice’s Money Claim Online portal. A Court fee is paid at this point, using a sliding scale depending on the value of the claim.

The Court action must be brought within 6 years of the purchase (or discovery of the fault). The earlier a court claim is brought, often the better the chances of success.

If you are successful in Court, or if the seller ignores the court process, the Judge will grant a County Court Judgment in your favour. You then have a number of options to pursue to enforce the debt, and could, for example, send the High Court Enforcement Officers (sheriffs) to secure repayment.

If you have any burning legal questions, or need advice about a disputed matter, please contact our expert team on 01254 297130.