What Are My Legal Rights When Buying A Used Car?

Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 9th May 2024

Buying a car can be an exciting experience. However, it’s important to understand the legalities involved to avoid problems later on


In this guide, we’ll explore your legal rights as a consumer when it comes to buying a used car in the UK, and what you should do if a used car develops a fault after purchase.

What should you do before buying a used car? 

You should do your research before buying a new car so you understand the market, can identify potential issues, and make informed decisions. This includes comparing prices for similar makes, models, and years in your local area to help you gauge the average selling price and negotiate a fair deal. 

You should also check the vehicle’s history reports to get a good understanding of its past, like ownership history, accident records, and service maintenance. In checking these reports, you may uncover hidden issues that may affect the car's safety, reliability, or value. 

Cars sold by dealerships must be of good quality, fit for purpose, and match their description. You have 30 days to reject the car and get a refund if it doesn't meet these standards.

If the car develops a fault within six months, the dealership must fix it, replace the car, or refund your money.

Dealerships may also offer additional warranties, covering specific parts or timeframes.

Your rights are fewer when you buy a car from a private seller compared to one from a dealership, but you can still seek recourse if the seller misled you or breached the contract.

The car should match the description in the ad or as described. If it doesn’t, you may have legal grounds for a refund or compensation. Further, If the seller lies about the car's condition, you can take legal action against them.

Sellers legally have to provide accurate information about the vehicle they’re selling, including its condition, mileage, service history, and any known defects. 

If sellers misrepresent or withhold information about a used car, buyers can take legal action and claim compensation for damages or losses. 

What are my rights when buying a used car? 

When buying a used car, as per the Sale of Goods Act and Consumer Rights Act, you have the right to expect that it is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described by the seller. 

These laws also provide remedies for consumers if a car fails to meet these standards, such as the right to repair, a replacement, or a refund. 

What does it mean to expect the car to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described?

Cars should be free from defects, safe to use, and durable. They should also meet any reasonable expectations the buyer may have based on age, mileage, and price.

The car should be fit for any specific purpose for which it was sold, and match the description provided by the seller. 

What’s the difference between warranties and guarantees when buying a car? 

A warranty is a promise made by the seller or manufacturer to repair or replace any defects in the vehicle within a specified period. In contrast, a guarantee is a commitment to the quality or performance of the vehicle, often provided by the seller or dealer.

Implied warranties are automatically provided by law and cannot be disclaimed by the seller. These warranties include the implied warranty of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and compliance with description. On the other hand, extended warranties are optional agreements that extend the coverage beyond the manufacturer's warranty period. 

Why is it important to inspect and test drive a used car before purchase?

Inspecting and test driving the car allows you to assess its condition, performance, and suitability for your needs. It helps you uncover any potential issues or red flags that may not be apparent from photos or descriptions alone. Additionally, it allows you to experience how the car handles on the road and whether it meets your expectations in terms of comfort and drivability.

When inspecting a used car, key areas to look at include: 

  • Mileage 

  • Service History 

  • Overall condition inside and out 

  • Mechanical components 

  • Interior Feature

What documents should you get when you buy a new car?

When you buy a used car you should get: 

  • Vehicle Registration Certificate (VC5) 

  • Service History 

  • MOT Certificate 

  • Vehicle handbook

Verifying ownership documents ensures that the seller has the legal right to sell the vehicle and that there are no outstanding finance agreements or other liabilities attached to it.

Service records provide valuable insight into the car's maintenance history, helping you assess its overall condition and reliability.

Should I get a receipt when buying a used car?

A receipt or sales contract serves as proof of purchase and outlines the terms of the sale, including the agreed-upon price, payment method, and any additional terms or conditions. It provides both the buyer and the seller with legal protection and can help resolve disputes or issues that may arise after the sale. So, yes, you should get a receipt!

What should I do if I encounter problems with a used car purchase?

If you encounter problems with a used car after purchase, contact the seller to discuss the issue and attempt to resolve it amicably. Provide evidence of the problem, such as photos or repair estimates, and clearly outline your desired resolution.

If the seller is unwilling or unable to address the issue, you may need to explore other options for recourse.

If direct communication with the seller proves unsuccessful, you may consider escalating the matter by:

  • Sending a formal written complaint outlining the issue and requested resolution.

  • Seeking assistance from a consumer rights solicitor.

  • Attempting alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration.

  • Pursuing legal action through the courts as a last resort.

How can Lawhive help?

Our team of legal professionals specialises in consumer rights and vehicle transactions, providing you with the support you need to make informed decisions.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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