Your rights when buying a car, whether new or second-hand, are the same as for any other goods.

However, exactly what rights you have will depend on who or where you buy your car from.

For example, you will have more rights buying from a dealer than when buying from a private individual. When buying from a private seller, the car must still accurately meet the description (such as the car’s condition and mileage), but there are no legal requirements for the car to be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose. Whilst the seller cannot knowingly mislead the buyer, for example falsely stating “one careful owner”, they do not have to volunteer information. It is therefore important you ask all the right questions.

Buying a new car

When you buy a new car from a motor dealer you have the same rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as for any other goods. The car must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for any particular purpose that was made known to the dealer; and
  • as described.

Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions

The law says that clear and accurate information on the fuel consumption and

CO² emissions of new cars must be readily available at points of sale.

Fuel consumption and CO² emissions information must follow the guidelines set out in the Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) Regulations 2001. Information must be shown on labels, posters, displays and in guidebooks against the description of the model.

This information must also be included in all promotional brochures.

Buying a second-hand car

When you buy a second-hand car from a trader, your rights are the same as when you buy any other goods. Therefore, when you buy from a motor trader you have the right to expect the car to be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose; and
  • as described.

While you should be prepared to accept a lower standard of quality from that for a new car, a second-hand car should certainly be:

  • fit to be used on the road;
  • in a condition in line with its age and price; and
  • reasonably reliable

A motor trader cannot take away or reduce these rights. Therefore, if dealers include wording such as “sold as seen” on their receipts, it has no legal effect and you can disregard it. If you find such wording on a receipt, you should report it to the Trading Standards Service as it is a criminal offence to try to mislead you about your rights in this way. Contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.

A Car Buyer's Guide (Consumer Council)

For further information, see The Consumer Council’s A Car Buyer’s Guide or telephone 0800 121 6022 to request your free copy.