Rights when Buying a Used Car from Private, Trade and Auction

December 7, 2023 by Zoe Hicks – 8 mins read

Understanding consumer rights is paramount in the intricate landscape of used car purchasing. The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 lays the foundation, with the Misrepresentation Act adding depth, so in this article, Motorscan aims to shed light by navigating through these legal intricacies, covering history checks, dealerships and private seller purchases, as well as online acquisitions through online car supermarket platforms!

Navigating the labyrinth of used car purchasing demands more than just a keen eye for a good deal; it requires a firm grasp of consumer rights. The interplay of various regulations and acts can be intricate, but it’s crucial to understand the safeguards you can take when dealing with private sellers, trade establishments, and auction houses.

The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 is a cornerstone for new and used car purchases, outlining a fundamental layer of protection. However, delving deeper into the world of used cars unveils another critical legal instrument—the Misrepresentation Act. So, within this article, Motorscan strives to untangle the legal threads, guiding you through the realm of consumer rights when buying used cars, including checking a vehicle’s history, addressing issues with dealer-bought and privately purchased used cars, and asserting your rights when making online purchases from car supermarket platforms like Cazoo and Cinch.

Consumer Rights Act 2015 for used and new cars

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is pivotal in safeguarding consumers when purchasing a used car from a private seller, auction house or dealership. This comprehensive legislation aims to promote fairness, transparency, and accountability. When it comes to used cars, the Act grants consumers several rights and protections:

  • The Act establishes that any used car purchased must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality, and match the description provided by the seller. It means the vehicle should perform as expected for its age and mileage, be in reasonable condition and be free from any defects that significantly impact its performance. If it fails to meet these standards, the buyer is within their rights to seek remedies, such as a repair, replacement, or refund.
  • Separately, the Act stipulates that any information given by the seller or the dealer, whether in writing, verbally, or through advertisements, forms part of the contract, so if claims provided by the seller are false, buyers can seek appropriate redress, which is particularly relevant when addressing misrepresentations or false claims made by the seller regarding the car’s history, condition, or mileage.
  • If you discover a defect or issue with a used car within the first 30 days after purchase, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 allows the consumer to reject the vehicle and demand a full refund. If the issue arises after the initial 30 days but within six months, the consumer still has the right to request a repair or replacement, and if attempts at repair or replacement fail, you can request a refund or price reduction.

The Misrepresentation Act

The Misrepresentation Act is perhaps more appropriate when speaking about used cars, mainly where a seller provides false or misleading information about a used car, influencing the buyer’s decision to purchase. The Act provides an additional layer of protection to consumers whom other consumer protection laws or acts might not cover by allowing them to seek remedies when a seller’s statements or representations have misled them. The Act similarly applies to private sellers, trade and auction houses. However, it’s essential to note that pursuing remedies under the Misrepresentation Act might involve legal processes and challenges, so seeking legal advice is recommended to understand the specific circumstances and options available:

  • Fraudulent Misrepresentation: If a seller knowingly provides false information about a used car with the intent to deceive a buyer, it is considered fraudulent misrepresentation. In such cases, the buyer may have the right to cancel the contract and potentially claim damages to recover any losses from the deception.
  • Negligent Misrepresentation: If a seller carelessly makes a false statement about a used car without taking proper care to ensure its accuracy, it is considered negligent misrepresentation. In this case, the buyer may be able to claim damages to cover any financial losses resulting from relying on the false information.
  • Innocent Misrepresentation: If a seller innocently provides false information about a used car, genuinely believing it to be true, it is considered innocent misrepresentation. Even though the seller didn’t act with dishonest intent, the buyer might still have the right to cancel the contract if the misrepresentation influenced their decision to buy.

What can you do to avoid the pitfalls of buying a used car?

Carrying out a car history check can be an invaluable process for consumers to avoid relying on consumer rights legislation by providing them with vital information about a used car’s past and determining whether the vehicle for sale is what it appears to be. By obtaining a comprehensive car history report from a reputable vehicle-checking service like Motorscan, buyers can make better decisions and reduce the risk of purchasing a vehicle with hidden issues. For example, carrying out Motorscan’s comprehensive car check, you can instantly see ownership history, mileage readings, MOT history, previous accidents or insurance write-offs, theft reports and outstanding finance. It can also tell you whether a vehicle was previously used as a taxi, Police, NHS or fire service vehicle, plus so much more, including five band valuations, so you can understand what a vehicle is worth.

This proactive approach can help buyers avoid vehicles with hidden problems, reduce the likelihood of disputes, and minimise the need to rely on consumer rights legislation for remedies after the purchase. While carrying out car history checks are not a guarantee against all problems, they significantly improve the chances of purchasing a reliable, problem-free used car.

Problems with cars bought from dealers

When buying a used car from dealerships and motor traders, consumers generally expect more professionalism and transparency than private sellers. However, issues can still arise, which can be minimised by thoroughly researching the dealership and carrying out their own car history check. Potential problems with dealers include:

  • Hidden defects that may not be apparent during a test drive.
  • Some dealers might not provide a completely accurate history of the car, including previous accidents, previous ownership, or maintenance records.
  • Occasionally, dealers might unknowingly or intentionally sell cars with outstanding finance owed on them.
  • Unscrupulous dealers could tamper with the odometer to reduce the displayed mileage on the car, making it appear less used than it is, known as ‘clocking’.
  • Some dealers may overprice used cars, making the buyer pay more than the car’s actual value.
  • Unsatisfactory repairs carried out by the dealer that might not be up to standard.
  • Some dealers might offer extended warranties that are ineffective or not as comprehensive as promised, leaving buyers with inadequate coverage.

Problems with used cars bought privately

Buying a used car from a private seller can offer cost savings, but it can also be riskier since private sellers may not have the same obligations as dealers and may not provide the same level of transparency. While consumer rights laws still apply to private sales, enforcing them can be more challenging than with dealers. However, with proper due diligence, careful research and a car history check, you can increase your chances of a successful purchase.

  • Private sellers might not disclose all issues with the car, leading to the possibility of buying a vehicle with hidden mechanical or structural problems.
  • A complete and accurate history of the car may not be provided, including past accidents, repairs, or significant issues.
  • Unlike dealers, private sellers typically sell cars ‘sold as seen’, meaning there is no warranty or guarantee on the vehicle’s condition after purchase.
  • Dishonest private sellers might consider tampering with the odometer to lower the displayed mileage to make the vehicle more attractive.
  • Verifying that the seller is the vehicle’s legal owner and has the right to sell it is essential.
  • Similar to dealer-bought cars, some private sellers might still owe money on the vehicle, which can result in complications for the new owner.

What are your rights when buying online through car supermarkets?

When buying a used car through a car supermarket like Cazoo or Cinch, your rights and protections are similar to those from a traditional dealership, including protection under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Misrepresentation Act. However, these online car retailers aim to provide a convenient and transparent buying experience, often offering protection under extended warranties and guarantees. Therefore, buying through a car supermarket can be a reliable avenue. However, you should always undertake the usual research and ensure the warranty cover offers the protection you need. You can expect additional protection, including:

  • 30-Day Right to Reject: If you discover a significant fault with the car within 30 days of purchase, you have the right to reject the vehicle and receive a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act.
  • 6-Month Rule: Within the first six months of purchase, if a fault emerges that wasn’t present at the time of purchase or that has been deemed a pre-existing issue, it’s presumed that the fault existed when you bought the car, meaning the burden of proof is on the seller to demonstrate otherwise.
  • Warranties and Guarantees: Car supermarkets like Cazoo and Cinch often provide their own warranties or guarantees on the cars they sell. These may extend beyond the legal requirements and offer additional coverage for certain components or repairs. Make sure to read and understand the terms of these warranties.
  • Online Consumer Rights: If you’re buying the car online, you’re also protected by the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which gives you a cooling-off period of 14 days from receiving the car, during which you can change your mind and return it for a refund without needing to provide a reason. However, if you’ve driven the car extensively during this period, the refund might be reduced to account for depreciation.


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