You will have some legal redress against the seller if the car is advertised unfairly, is mis-described. This will apply whether the seller is a dealer or a private person. In all cases if the car has been mis-described as to age, build year, mileage, general condition - a delight rather than a dump - then you have recourse under the Trades Descriptions Act and other legislation.

Always keep the advert until you are satisfied the car is all OK and fairly described. If mileage is stated is it probably genuine, consistent with the car's overall condition.

Are the seats worn out, the seats belts threadbare, the carpets worn through, then it's unlikely to have done the average mileage for a 3 year old car.


If there is a problem with the car you have just bought always go back to the
seller first and try to sort it out amicably. Most private sellers will listen, are genuine people and will do what they can to resolve the matter if your complaint is a reasonable one although there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

If bought from a dealer you have rather more legal redress, but before going to law go and talk to the dealer, most are reasonable, hopeful of repeat business and concerned about their reputation so will try to resolve any dispute. If this doesn't work try writing to them formally keeping copies of all correspondence.

If that doesn't work it's time to play rough. Perhaps stand in their showroom or on their forecourt and explain loudly to all of the other customers. Write to the local paper, they might be interested in your story.  

Don't escalate the warfare too fast you'll usually achieve more by reasonable and patient negotiation.

The Citizens Advice Bureaux in almost every town are familiar with car buying problems and will give help and advic. Yu can find them in the telephone directory e Citizens Advice ?

Local council Trading Standards Office.

The Law ?

Several pieces of legislation apply to used car sales, either specifically or generally, notably The Road Traffic Acts, the Sale of Goods Act, the Trades Descriptions Act and the Consumer Credit Act.  

The ROAD TRAFFIC ACT says any vehicle must be roadworthy. It is therefore illegal for anyone to sell you a car that is not roadworthy at the time of sale.

The SALE OF GOODS ACT say the car must be of  mercheantable quality and fit for the purpose. For example, if the car fails a new MOT test within hours of leaving the dealership it is probably not "of mercheantable quality", if you especially told the dealer that you wanted the car for off road use and he sells you something that it is totally unsuitable that would not be "fit for the purpose".

The TRADES DESCRIPTIONS ACT says that the advert must fairly and accurately describe the car.

The CONSUMER CREDIT ACT covers your rights in respect of all finance agreements.

It's worth noting that dealers or other sellers are not responsible for any defects that they draw to your attention in advance although they cannot sell you an unroadworthy car without breaking the law.

For the dealer masquerading as a private vendor your only redress may be thorough the civil courts - if you can find him again - if the car has been mis- described in the advert or if you have it checked immediately after purchase and it is found to be unroadworthy - a criminal offence.

Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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