Trading Standards has to deal with more complaints about used cars than any other product. But what are your rights when it comes to buying a used car? Just what legal protection do you have? 

Returning A Used Car

If you buy a second hand car that turns out to be faulty, your legal rights depend on who you bought it from and how the car was described. You have less legal protection when buying from a private seller than when buying from a registered dealer.

Sale of Goods

Replacing the Sale of Goods Act, the Consumer Rights Act covers the sale of new and used cars, but retains the old Act’s requirements that goods must be:

of satisfactory quality;

fit for purpose; and

as described. 

A car fails to meet these requirements when it develops a problem you wouldn't expect for the car's age and mileage, or it turns out not to be what you’d been led to expect. 

Short-Term Right To Reject

The Consumer Rights Act states that if the car was purchased after 1 October 2015 and fails to meet one or more of the criteria, you are entitled to reject the car and get a full refund within the first 30 days of buying it. If you bought the car from a dealer, the dealer can make a deduction from the refund for ‘fair use.’

This right to reject replaces the previous rule, which said that dealers only needed to repair or replace a faulty item or part. If you bought the car before 1 October 2015, then you must reject the car within a ‘reasonable time’ under the Sale of Goods Act. While there's no clear definition of what a ‘reasonable time’ is, it probably needs to be within three to four weeks – less if the problem is obvious.

Repair, Replacement or Refund

30 Days To 6 Months

If a defect is found once the 30 days have passed, but within 6 months, you are entitled to request a repair, replacement or refund free of charge. The law assumes that the fault was there at the time of delivery, unless the seller can prove otherwise. Where this right is exercised, dealers only have one chance at repair or replacement. If they fail to repair or replace the car, you are entitled to a full or partial refund.

6 Months Or More

After the first 6 months, the burden is on you to prove that the car was faulty at the time of delivery. In practice, this may require a form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you’re entitled to a refund.

Buying From A Dealer

If you bought a used car from a dealer, you have the right to expect it to meet the criteria listed above. If it does not meet these requirements, you have the right to claim against the dealer for breach of contract. In particular, if the car you bought is not as the dealer described it, you’re entitled to reject the car and get your money back. If you want to keep the car, you can ask the dealer for compensation covering the cost of repair.

Buying From A Private Seller

When you buy a used car from a private seller as opposed to a registered dealer, key parts of the Consumer Rights Act do not apply. For example, there is no legal requirement that a car be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose. The seller must accurately describe the car in any advertisements and tell you something about the car which isn’t true.

If you need any advice in relation buying a used car, please do not hesitate to call us on 01133 50 40 30 or at

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide. Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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