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Used car from private sale but seller is not owner

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Hi Group,


Below I am describing events on how I ended up buying a faulty used car from a private seller (claimed in the Ad),


Buying Stage:

1. I have bought a used car (80k miles) posted on autotrader as private sale for 3200 GBP in October 2015. This is my first car in UK. Advert description on autotrader said the car is in excellent condition and described vehicle features in general.

2. I went too the seller location and tested it. It was driving a bit slow pick up and jerking on reverse but otherwise car interiors and external view looked good and well maintained.

3. Seller said it is semi-automatic and it drives differently and the drive feeling is normal in this type. I have never driven semi-automatic earlier so I felt he may be right and trusted him (big mistake).

4. Seller also told me that he is actually a dealer and doing it for part exchange. He does not have an office as it requires an office space and some 100 cars to be dealt with. ( Again I made mistake of not asking on why he is selling this car as private)

5. I did my research on the vehicle history and even got HPI clear check. Everything was good. Seller mentioned that car is in very good condition and no need for any further inspection as he has done the inspection himself. He did mention that I need to replace tyres and I did ask him about warranty and he said no.

6. I bought the vehicle and received a sale receipt and transferred amount via bank online.


First week:

1. I wanted to still get the vehicle verified by Toyota and booked for vehicle safety and visual check. They told me to replace the brakes and break pads immediately. I knew something like this might pop up but was ready for such things as I did not get it inspected by garage prior to buying. I got them replaced and couple of tyres as well.

2. When driving back home vehicle started displaying 'N' symbol on dashboard while the gear was in drive position. I got confused and thought I must have done something wrong. I switched off and restarted the vehicle and then it was normal drive. ( Very big mistake of not reporting back to garage). I just sent SMS info to the seller that I have replaced breakes and tyres. He did not respond to that though. I did not wanted to bother him too much either.



Nov to end of Dec 2015:

1. Vehicle was driving ok and I kept reading reviews on my vehicle model online and found so many issues around the 'N' flashing and other issues. Started feeling bad about my transaction.

2. During Christmas holidays took my family out to visit a family friend. After driving 20 miles on M25, vehicle started 'N' flashing again in the middle of lane ( quite scary one with everyone inside car). Somehow after 5 mins I was able to get the vehicle moving and in that confusion still went ahead and after a mile N flashing came back. Vehicle did not move for 15 to 20 minutes on M25.

3. Got the vehicle towed back home without taking any further risk. Towed it again to Toyota next day.

4. Toyota confirmed me to replace clutch and actuator at 2029 GBP. I had no words. They cleared the error in car log and said I can still drive it but cannot guarantee anything.

5. Tried calling the seller. His number is no more in use. Felt cheated.

6. Somehow I got to know from Toyota that same error was seen in an inspection in Sep 15 before I bought it. I got it in writing from them in my diagnosis report.



Jan 2016 to Till now:

1. Reached out to citizenadvice. They recommended to send letter to seller. Found his address by googling which is different from what he put in the sale invoice (different flat number only).

2. I sent 4 letters over Jan month and seller did not respond. I then created money claims request with small claims court saying he did not inform me about the fault with transmission. I claimed for 2029GBP plus the breaks expenses as it is also a critical component.

3. Seller defended it saying that he also not versed with semi-automatic and in his inspection some error was found by Garage and it was cleared and then vehicle is driving normal and he does not know any N flashing issue. He claimed garage told him that the issue could be anything and they need to take the vehicle to investigate further.

3. He also mentioned that I have driven almost 2 months and now I am reporting this issue. When I tested it no such issue was seen. He said it is a private sale and sold as seen.


I am looking for some clarifications on below,


1. Sellers name is not in the V5C document. Which means he is not the owner and was trying to sell it for some reason. If he is not the owner then can he claim to be a private seller? Is he right in any of the sale aspect?

2. He claimed that he did found some error code in his inspection but did not tell me about it. Doesn't it amount to incorrect vehicle description to me?

3. Unless the error code gets registered in the log no inspection can find the actual problem. So even if I had done inspection I would not have come across the problem. I am I still at fault of not inspecting?

4. Do I stand any chance of winning the case?


Appreciate your advices.




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He said it is a private sale and sold as seen If its a genuine private sale then that's correct


I claimed for 2029GBP plus the breaks expenses Brakes are a service item, cant see how you can claim for these...if they stopped the car ok when you bought it then thats life

Sellers name is not in the V5C document. Which means he is not the owner and was trying to sell it for some reason Not necessarily. lookat the V5. It will say 'the registered keeper is not necessarily the legal owner'

Doesn't it amount to incorrect vehicle description to me? No,not unless you specifically asked and he lied AND you can prove so, ie not he said I said

Do I stand any chance of winning the case? Not much no. Even if you do, if he has no money or assets then you wont get paid even if you win the case

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Thanks bob. But what can be a genuine private sale? Can a registered keeper sell the car? if he can then can it be a private one legally?



I do have a Toyota diagnosis report which does say the same N symbol issue was reported prior to the sale. Seller did not fix the problem instead erased the log so that the vehicle could be driven. Will this not stand in the court as a lie?



There is no way i could have specifically enquired about this issue with the seller. He said vehicle is in excellent condition. There was no mention of any kind of issues with the vehicle.



I am not able to trust the vehicle on the road and so the vehicle stays at home. :(

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no way of knowing if its a genuine private sale...it probably isn't, but not a great deal you can do


The previous report will help, but if the seller is not deemed to have expert mechanical knowledge then it may fall down at that point


If its a private sale its not up to the seller to disclose a fault, unless you ask and he lies


Even if you win the case (and you may well do so) the next problem is getting paid. If he has no money or assets and doesnt pay you are stuffed.



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I already gone through them and there is no recall. It is an error code that they already have in their known list and it means go replace your clutch and actuator.



My learning as first time car buyer is if an old used car with any critical component expected to be at its end of life then anyone selling it as in excellent condition without substantiating it means it is brutal lie.



I probably have already proved that his sale as private was incorrect with the help of VSTAG.



A private seller is supposed to prove he is registered keeper of the vehicle else he should do a trade sale. Because anyone can be owner but no one can prove that he is actually a owner. I hope what I said is correct.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for supporting words isbo. I don't understand why laws are not covering buyers properly in private sales. This drives everyone to dealers but even there you will see lot of issues then why not apply same laws across and make it level playing field. Infact, with private sales so vulnerable to these type of issues, buyers in this section actually need more protection.

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