Buying a new or used car

For most people, it is expensive to buy a car. Most garage dealers and traders are honest. But some are not and you need to be careful before you buy.

What the law says

When you buy a car from a garage dealer or  trader, your consumer rights are protected in law.  The car must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for any stated purpose.

If you buy at an auction you don't have the same rights if the cars are 'sold as seen'. Check the auction's conditions of sale before you buy. These conditions must be displayed prominently at the auction or in the catalogue.

Find out more about your rights when buying goods and services and buying at an auction.

Tips before buying a used car

Check the car’s history. A comprehensive check from a vehicle checking company will tell you if the car:

  • is stolen
  • is written off by an insurance company
  • has finance still owing
  • is at risk of being sold illegally
  • has mileage discrepancies

Checking the vehicle's mileage

A good quality vehicle history check should include a mileage check. Get an accurate mileage reading and see if the check flags anything that needs investigating further.

You can also check the mileage by reviewing the service and MOT records. Contact the servicing garages to verify the mileages they recorded during servicing.

The V5 logbook will also have the previous owner's details. Contact them to find out the mileage when they sold it, and see if that fits into the mileage patterns for the vehicle. A reduced mileage inflates the value of the vehicle, and is a safety risk as it could obscure the service intervals and work required at each interval.

Deciding to buy a used car

If you believe the vehicle history is genuine and want to buy:

  • don’t pay in cash
  • don’t rush into buying a car until you are 100 per cent sure
  • buy from the registered owner’s address shown on the V5 logbook
  • don’t pay less than 70 per cent of the average market value of a vehicle of the same make, age and condition

If the car develops a fault

You can request a full refund if you do so within a reasonable time of the sale. What counts as a reasonable time will depend on the facts of each case. It can vary from a few weeks to a number of months, although the longer you have owned a vehicle the greater the chance you will lose the right to a full refund.

You don't have to return the vehicle to the seller but if you don't you must make it available for collection.

If the seller disputes your request for a full refund, you have to prove that the vehicle was not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described by the seller at the time of buying.

For example, if the seller disagrees with your claim that the vehicle has a serious fault, you may need to provide evidence such as an independent report from a garage showing that the vehicle was unsatisfactory at the time of sale to support your claim.

If your complaint is valid the seller must accept the vehicle back and provide a full refund. If this happens you can also claim for reasonable losses suffered, including the cost of any independent report you have paid for to prove your case.

Buying from a private seller

If you buy a used car from a private seller, you have fewer legal rights. Before you buy, make sure you:

  • inspect the car and know what you are buying
  • bring a car mechanic with you
  • take a test drive if you have adequate insurance cover

For a fee, the RAC or the AA will examine the car for you. You can claim against the previous owner if they misrepresented the car’s age or mileage.

You will not be able to claim where there are faults with the car.

Some car traders pose as private sellers. If you think this happened when you bought a used car, report your suspicions to Consumerline.

Mileage clocking

It is illegal to turn back a car’s mileage clock. Known as ‘clocking’, it gives a false, low mileage record to make the car more attractive and valuable.

Check the recorded mileage when you see the car’s service history. If you're buying from a garage car dealer or trader, ask to speak to the previous owner.

If you find out later that your car has been clocked, contact Consumerline.

If you have a complaint about a car you bought

You should complain first to the person who sold you the car. If that doesn't work, and you bought your car from a garage or trader who is a member of a trade association, write to the Retail Motor Industry Federation, or to Motor Codes Ltd for complaints about cars still under a manufacturer's warranty.

Arbitration

Most trade associations have a code of practice which offers a low cost arbitration service. In arbitration an outsider investigates a dispute to decide who is right.

If you want to use arbitration, your garage or trader has to also agree. You will not get your fee back if you lose. The arbitrator's decision will be binding on both of you. This means that you cannot go to court later about the same dispute if you disagree with the arbitrator's decision.

Court action

If you can't resolve your complaint and didn’t use arbitration, you may need to take legal action. If the amount involved is not more than £3,000, you can take your case to the Small Claims Court. You don’t need a solicitor in the Small Claims Court. Contact Consumerline who can advise you how to apply.

For amounts over £3000, you should ask a solicitor about taking court action.

 

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.