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Buying a second-hand car - What are my responsibilities?


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I would like to buy a second-hand car which has been advertised for sale online.

 

The seller has said, both in his advert and in private emails, that the car is sound in every way and has no defects.

 

When I view the car in person, with the hope of buying it, what am I required to do in law to cover myself, as far as any reasonable person should be expected to?

 

Or would the contract for sale simply be formed on the basis of the descriptions used by the seller when he held-out the vehicle for sale? (Unless something was immediately and readily apparent to the contrary?)

 

Do I have a subsequent time-frame for inspection?

 

What if the car turns out to be dangerous motor vehicle, or simply not fit for purpose? What if this is caused by an issue which could not possibly be foreseen during any reasonable private investigations on the side of the road?

 

Surely the law does not expect every private buyer to undertake his own 150 point mechanical investigation before concluding contracts? Such an expectation would seem unreasonable!

 

Learned Gurus, please advise! I don't want to put a foot wrong! Thank you.

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The only rights you have in a private sale are:

1. The property being legally theirs to sell

2. The property being as described.

 

There is no assumption of reasonable quality or fitness for purpose as there is in business to consumer contracts. Nor is there any cancellation right unless it is provided for by the contract. There is also no positive duty on the seller to point out problems. So if he does not describe the condition of the vehicle, you cannot claim that it is no as described.

 

Where something does go wrong, it may not be that easy getting your money back or some other remedy (such as getting the seller to pay for repairs).

 

Where action is taken, you need to show that you relied on the descriptions given. the emails and advert will obviously be needed so keep them.

 

It really is a case of caveat emptor. Remember you are not obliged to buy the car. If there is anything you are not happy with, negotiate, ask questions and if needed, walk away.

 

The following seems to give some good tips on what to look for with a car:

 

Hints and Tips when buying a secondhand or used car.

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I second the above.

 

The only real comeback you have is on the 'dangerous vehicle' label where the seller would then be committing an offence. If the seller doesn't want to cooperate with you, then your only recourse is through the courts which can be very time consuming.

 

The main difference, in general, between private and dealer purchases is that in private, you will have to prove there is something wrong whereas a dealer will have to prove there isn't, but it can still take court action to get a private seller to do anything about it.

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I would get an MOT inspection, before you buy £35 or so, take it for a good long test drive; check all the electrics are working, ancillaries etc. and give it a good look over, for damage repairs etc. chaeck any service history documents they may have.

Do everything you can to check, saves agro in the future.

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Getting the car released for an MoT inspection could be problematical - as it requires the full cooperation of the seller, who may not wish to be unreasonable, but this adds a considerable burden, even if the car is genuinely A1.

 

Take someone with you who is familiar with the mechanics, or pay for an AA/RAC inspection to make sure - the latter can also be useful as a bargaining chip, as they usually find something that will help defray the cost!

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If a private seller holds out an item for sale, and expressly states the items condition, but the item then transpires to have problems which were not represented in that description of condition... Does that provide the purchaser with recourse through the county court, on the basis of misrepresentation?

 

Forgive me if I was unclear: I am not talking about prudence (seeking an MOT appraisal, etc). I am thinking more about legal obligation.

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I would doubt it - it depends on the description given.

Basically, if no mention of the problem is given, or the description does not cover it, then there is no recourse.

 

If the seller states, say, "Car for sale, L reg, manual, sun roof, 5 door £2,000" then no description as to the cars condition has been given. if there is rust, but the rust is not mentioned (but known about), there is again nothing you can do.

 

If, though, the advert said "... some rust on doors, boot needs to be slammed to close otherwise no other faults" then you can have a claim because he has described two faults and gave a generalised description as to the rest of the car not having any faults. But then we go into other areas, such as whether such a statement is binding etc etc.

 

If there is an issue with the description you might want to see if your local Trading Standards dept has a walk in advice center and take the advert in. The CAB will also be able to help.

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Thank you for your reply. It is very helpful. Allow me to explain a little more...

 

I in fact bought a car under these circumstances recently. The seller stated in his eBay listing: "Bit of rust, mainly in the boot." Then showing a photo of a tiny amount of rust in the boot sill.

 

After winning the eBay auction, I then viewed the car in person. I asked the seller at this time if there were any other problems with the car. His responses was an authoritative 'No'.

 

Then, ten days after purchasing this car, the entire rear suspension system fell out whilst I was driving it. The reason, as determined by an MOT test centre owner: "Sever long-term corrosion to the inside of the rear wheel arches".

 

Do you think this might sound like a case of misrepresentation on this basis?

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Only if you can prove the seller was clairvoyant!

 

A trader would be expected to know, but not a private seller. If it was working when he sold it to you, he could not have reasonably expected you to have such a problem, and it wasn't a problem, so he answered truthfully.

 

Unless there was a promise of an additional guarantee, or you took out a mechanical warranty to protect yourself, I don't see a challenge making any headway.

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If this was 'long term' rust, did the car have an MoT and if so, from what date did it start.

 

This would go back to my other posting, 'Dangerous Vehicle'.

 

Is there any past paperwork? if not, then go here and check on the MoT:

 

MOT Information - Introduction

 

If it doesn't match what you have been given then you certainly have a case.

 

If the certificate you have is new, then it is either fraudulent or the garage that did it has done it properly.

 

Either way, this should be reported to Vosa and Trading Standards.

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The seller provided the vehicle's service history. This included documents concerning last three MOTs. Each MOT was initially failed due to 'severe corrosion' to many areas of the vehicles chassis, including both the nearside and offside rear wheel arches. Each time, an invoice was raised for very non-descript 'repair work', and each time the vehicle passed the subsequent MOT retest.

 

However, from a very careful inspection of the nearside rear wheel arch, I am assured by an expert that there has never been any repair work performed the nearside rear wheel arch in the vehicle's history. It would appear necessary to report to VOSA concerning the MOT test centre which originally purported to have performed such work.

 

Regarding my contractual relationship with the seller, is it certain that I would not have any recourse for misrepresentation?

 

How about for the sale of goods not fit for purpose which they were held out for sale for - ie to perform a reasonable level of continued performance as a motor vehicle?

 

Please tell me more about demonstrating an instance of the sale of a dangerous motor vehicle!

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You are trying to attach additional responsibilities to a private seller that have no basis in law. Since the evidence you speak of were provided at the time of sale, I'm surprised you are even attempting to seek any recourse after-the-event, when the correct time to do this was at the purchasing stage, not after it.

 

As for selling a dangerous vehicle - the private seller has no duty of care, other han he must not mislead. He may not have the technical knowledge either way, therefore when making a private sale this additional burden falls to you.

 

Any issue concerning non-existent repair work is a site issue that has no relevance to you. The previous owner would have an issue, but if the whole point of the repair work was to 'chase an MoT' certificate, then the only work that would have been done would have been enough to achieve a pass - even borderline, AT THE TIME THE TEST WAS TAKEN.

 

As to complaining to VOSA, I would doubt they would be interested,. You didn't commission the MoT test, and it is well outside the timeframe for a retest. The test - as it states on the form - is no guarantee of road worthiness, simply on the day of the test it complied with the regulations.

 

I'm unaware of any tester being held to account for an erroneous test more than a week after the original test. Therefore, for the protection you seem to require, it is obvious you should have bought from a trader at a higher price, and used this as your starting point for losses or omissions.

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I don't have time now, but there have been several cases with a private individual selling a car in a dangerous condition and I will try and find one when I come home and post.

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You always have recourse to the small claims court and the case will be decided on whats reasonable as well as points of law, so that may well be worth persueing. the threat of or actually receiving the papers may sway the sellers response to any claim you have made with them.

What representations hav you made to the seller if any yet?

However remember auction on auctions your rights are greatly reduced, as with buying at any auction especially car auction. It definetley CAVEAT EMPTOR. check and check again.

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Dear Sir, I thank you for your valuable advice on this thread, but I cannot accept your assertions on the basis which you have set out. The legal principles which they would appear to present seem to be legally untenable to my mind. Allow me to explain...

... Since the evidence you speak of were provided at the time of sale, I'm surprised you are even attempting to seek any recourse after-the-event, when the correct time to do this was at the purchasing stage, not after it....

I would suggest that the time when the contract for sale was formed was when consideration initially passed - ie the payment of a 10% deposit - on the basis of the eBay auction and the condition of the vehicle which was set out therein.

 

The contract was therefore formed on the basis of the condition of the vehicle which the seller represented online, and that this was the time of sale. Facts provided at the time of sale was therefore the condition of the vehicle set out in the auction. I would suggest that a detailed photographic eBay auction is quite different from a traditional discreet classifieds advert, in this sense.

 

As for selling a dangerous vehicle - the private seller has no duty of care, other han he must not mislead....

I would suggest that in this case the difference between the condition of the vehicle as stated in the eBay auction and the condition of the vehicle as was later evident, demonstrates that the seller clearly did mislead. Regardless of whether he knew it or not. A duty of care cannot be disregarded due to a lack of knowledge, can it. Though of course I would prefer to not bring duty of care into this, as I would prefer to address this as a contractual issue rather than an issue in tort.

 

He may not have the technical knowledge either way, therefore when making a private sale this additional burden falls to you.

So am I right in thinking that you are suggesting that the misrepresentation of goods held out for sale, where done in good faith, absolves the seller's duty of care in tort and duty to truthful and accurate representation when attempting to form a contract?

 

I agree fully with all the other points regarding MOT tests.

 

Please don't take this as a direct challenge from me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I simply wish to address head-on the points which you've previously raised so as to determine what the precise legal position here may be. Thank you for reading this. I look forward to your next response, if you feel that one may be necessary.

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Only if you can prove the seller was clairvoyant!

I take it you have never acquainted yourself with the landmark case of Redgrave v Hurd (1881).

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Don't forget though that here we are dealing with business to business - there will be a higher duty of care placed on both parties than there would with a private seller.

 

Also, the decision of the case have been overidden by subsequent cases.

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As I have stated in the previous posts, this transaction concerned is between two private individuals.

 

I believe 'Redgrave v Hurd' is still good law. If it has since been overturned then please be so kind as to state the relevant case in point.

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"This should stand as a warning to others that it is illegal to sell unroadworthy or dangerous cars and if caught you will receive a hefty fine."

 

icWalsall - Man who sold car with a 'catalogue of faults' is fined

 

Vehicles not to be sold in unroadworthy condition or altered so as to be unroadworthy

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section no person shall supply a motor vehicle or trailer in an unroadworthy condition.

(2) In this section references to supply include—

(a) sell,

(b) offer to sell or supply, and

© expose for sale.

 

Road Traffic Act 1988

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As I have stated in the previous posts, this transaction concerned is between two private individuals.

 

I believe 'Redgrave v Hurd' is still good law. If it has since been overturned then please be so kind as to state the relevant case in point.

 

Smith v E S Bush [1990] 1 AC 831 for one.

 

The reason for me mentioning it is that it focuses on duty of care and reliance on the seller's description - should he have known about the additional damage?

 

I've got a load of caselaw on private sales - I'll see if I can dig anything out that might help, but off the top of my head I do not recall any,

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I take it you have never acquainted yourself with the landmark case of Redgrave v Hurd (1881).

 

One swallow does not a Summer make.

 

Further, there is a JOINT responsibility here - which was lacking on one side.

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