There are various tricks employed by dodgy traders to try and get around the various laws that apply when selling cars. This is almost always done to try and avoid their legal obligations, which can be an expensive part of their business.

As a customer, you need to be on your guard for anything which doesn’t sound quite right when buying a used car – especially if you are only looking to spend less than a couple of thousand pounds.

You may see a car advertised with “spares or repairs” or “no warranty given or implied” somewhere near the end of the vehicle description. Used car traders have also often been known to add these phrases to the bottom of a sales contract. But what exactly do they mean and how do they affect your consumer rights?

Using phrases like “spares or repairs only”, “trade only” or “no warranty given or implied”, or something similar, is often an attempt by dodgy traders to avoid their obligations under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Customers who sign contracts with this wording may be denying themselves valuable rights, or face a long and difficult battle with the dealer if you have problems later on.

Some dealers will also pose as private individuals selling their own cars, rather than as traders, again to try and deny you your legal rights.

No warranty given or implied

We discussed this in detail last week, but in summary there is no legal requirement for a trader to provide a warranty on a used car. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights if you have a problem.

Used car warranty - what is the law and what are your rights?

Any used car bought by a private buyer from a trader, whether it costs £500 or £500,000, is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Within certain constraints, this allows you to reject the vehicle if it is faulty.

Spares or repair – don’t be fooled

As a buyer, you are also covered by Section 75 of the Road Traffic Act, under which it is an offence to sell or supply an unroadworthy vehicle. This means you have the right to expect that any car you purchase from a trader or car dealer is roadworthy and can be safely driven home without endangering you or anyone else.

This is a very basic standard, and certainly doesn’t mean the car has to be perfect. But things like steering, brakes, tyres, exhaust system, seat belts, suspension and structural bodywork must be in good order.

If a sales contract has the words “sales or repair” written on it, the dealer is saying that the car is unroadworthy and is not to be driven on a public road. Do not sign any contract which has this written on it – unless you have no intention of driving the car home and are planning to load it onto a truck or trailer for repairs/restoration.

If a trader tries to convince you that “spares or repair only” means something different or is related to warranty, they are lying and you should walk away immediately (feel free to call Trading Standards on the way out).

We have had a few questions in recent weeks from readers who have bought cars marked “spares or repair” and did not realise what it meant (or didn’t notice until afterwards). If this has happened to you, you do have some recourse against the trader but it will probably require some professional legal assistance.

According to Section 75 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a used car dealer is required to prove that “there was reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle would not be used on the road or would not be used until it had been put into roadworthy condition”.

If taken to court, the trader would have to show that they took all reasonable action to ensure that you knew the car was unroadworthy and that you were not going to drive the car. The car would have to be clearly advertised that the car was unroadworthy (and a small comment that says “spares or repairs only” in the fine print is not adequate), a test drive request would have to be declined and the dealer would have to make sure that you did not attempt to drive the car away after purchase. If the trader fails to take these actions, you can reasonably argue that you were not made clearly aware that the car was unroadworthy.

Next page: More tricks and sharp practices to watch out for


  1. Unfortunately if a dealer decides they don’t want to know when you have problems your only course of action is through the courts. You do at least have more rights than buying privately but not much.

  2. I brought a car on finance 7th june this year it is a ford focus 13 plate from a second hand dealership…since having the car under a month the car has issues with shuddering when go to pull away from idle postion…my car has been back to the garage…they said was gators so repaired…then got told was prop shaft so they repaired that aswell got car back just over week ago and the problem remains the same..have informed the dealership got told to take car back for them to look at…can i reject this car as lost all faith in it now

    • Hi Tammy. Whether you can reject the car will depend on how significant the shuddering is, and therefore whether the car would be considered as “faulty”. You can certainly write to the dealership to reject the car, but there is no guarantee they will accept your rejection. You will need to work in conjunction with the finance company, as they have ultimate ownership of the vehicle – that doesn’t affect your right to reject the car, but there is a process for the dealer to refund the finance company and the finance company to refund you in turn.

  3. My daughter innocently bought a van from a Dealer with an MOT which had been put on it a couple of months previously literally by the next door garage. She was encouraged to drive it and the dealer took her to the Post Office to tax it andd helped her to arrange insurance. She had plans to use the vehicle privately and possibly in conjunction with a planned dog walking business. She was encourage to drive it away as it was ‘safe to drive having been ‘checked’ – Loads of problems later, reluctant to take it back to pushy Dealer and doubtful as to the quality of repairs I (father) paid for them to be done after examined by nearby Test Station where vehicle in more than one respect considered unsafe and dangerous. It was not until some time later did I discover “SPARES & REPAIR: YES” on the Bill of Sale – where does she stand as Trading Standards list a whole host of Dealer Must Do Items which Dealer didn’t when a vehicle is in this category.

    • Hi Richard. The best bet is to see a solicitor so you can claim against the dealer. If the car is listed as “Spares & repair”, the dealer cannot allow you to drive away in it and should be trying to stop you from doing so.

      As outlined above, if the dealer argues that the car was safe to drive then the “spares & repair” clause would be invalid. But your chances of getting your money back will be higher if you get a lawyer to help you.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.