Spares or repair – and other dodgy trader tricks

Car buying advice
Spares or repair - dodgy car dealers use all sorts of tricks

Trade sale only

Like “spares or repair”, this is a term that sometimes appears in the fine print of an ad or contract. If a trader is selling a car to another trader, normal consumer protection laws like the Consumer Rights Act 2015 do not apply.

If a dealer has written “trade sale” or something similar on the contract, it is an attempt to deny you your consumer rights. if you knowingly sign a contract marked “trade sale”, you are effectively stating that you are a car dealer.

You are within your rights to strike out phrases like “trade sale” or “spares or repair” from a contract and still buy the car (assuming the dealer signs it without those phrases included, of course), but generally these are signs of a dodgy trader and you should take your money elsewhere. If the dealer is being shady on the paperwork, there’s every chance that they’re equally dodgy when it comes to the condition of the car. If you have any problems, you can almost guarantee that you will have a fight on your hands to protect your legal rights.

Is this a trader or a private seller?

If you buy a car from a private individual, you do not have any of the consumer protections described above; you’re on your own. Inevitably, this has led to small-time dealers posing as private individuals in an attempt to circumvent their legal obligations.

If a car is being advertised on a dealer’s website, or on their premises, it is a dealer sale and you can expect the full protection of the Consumer Rights Act and the Road Traffic Act.

If a dealer tries to spin you a story that this particular car might be advertised on their website but it’s actually his wife’s/mother’s/daughter’s private car and he’s just using the site to advertise it for them, he’s lying. Leave immediately.

If you pull up to a private seller’s house and they have several cars parked up on the property, be very suspicious. If you sell more than four cars in the space of a year, you are considered a used car dealer. Trading from home and pretending that the car is their own personal vehicle is a common trick for dodgy dealers.

If you are buying a car from a trader, make sure they have a proper sales contract form that shows the correct company name and details. If the name on the contract is a different company than the one advertising the car, ask to see the paperwork which shows the connection between the two (eg – one company may be owned by the other company, which is fine).

Selling on consignment

When it comes to rare or expensive luxury cars, dealers will often sell a car on consignment for a customer. That’s not a problem, as long as the dealer acknowledges that they are still selling the car and therefore will be liable in the event of any consumer rights claims. It’s no different to the dealer selling a car they own themselves.

If the dealer tells you that normal conditions of sale don’t apply because they are selling the car on consignment, either walk away or insist that you deal directly with the actual owner as a private sale.


The main message to take away from all this is that a trader can only take advantage of you if you let them. This is so important that it’s one of The Car Expert’s Ten Golden Rules of buying a car.

There are plenty of dodgy car dealers out there (as well as plenty of honest ones, obviously), but as a buyer it’s up to you to make sure you take responsibility for your own money – because you’re the only one who really cares about your money.

If you have any reason at all to doubt what you see or hear, it’s up to you to ask questions and decide whether you’re happy with the answer.

Car dealership with balloons

“Look, balloons! This must be a reputable dealership…”

Stuart Masson

Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.


  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

    • Stuart Masson

      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.

    • Stuart Masson

      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.

  4. Hello Stuart,

    My Dad bought a car today from a dealership in London (05/10/17) and it had an MOT done on the 29th August 2017 with no advisory information (this was done at their local garage). They had also taxed it for us at the time and had no problem with us driving it away that same day. The car was not listed as faulty, spare or repair nor was it listed as ‘Not road worthy’. They also let us get into the car and let us drive away with close to an empty tank, which we noticed straight away and had to go to the petrol station, this wasnt a major issue. However, My dad had got into a terrible incident on the dual carriage way, where he almost lost control of the car because the breaks were not braking as they should, causing him to slightly swerve. When we got home we messaged the Dealer about this and that we wanted to return the car, as my dad was very uncomfortable with the situation. We then checked the Idrive system on the car, and on the service tab, there were green ticks by the tyre pressure and engine oil, however there was a yellow triangular label by the Brake fluid, stating that the car needed to be serviced (even though it was serviced in march and then apparently serviced two weeks before the sale at their local garage, which they were going to provide the document the next day, which is what they said). This obviously explained the problem prior on the dual carriage way, where the brakes hadn’t worked properly. My dad was very uncomfortable with the situation and went and checked the documents. He had got to checking the invoice, it had stated the vehicle was ‘sold for spare or repair, no road worthy, for part only, and no warranty given’. This was very frustrating as we signed the invoice without us knowing about such thing, the dealer didn’t once mention that the car was not road worthy, nor did he mention that he sold us a care for ‘spares or repair’. He let us drive the car away with no hesitation, however we did not test drive it before. We want to get a full refund for the car and hope that the dealer doesnt do such a thing next time.


    • Stuart Masson

      Hi Hasib. If the car is taxed, it must have a valid MOT certificate – which you said was passed on 29 August. Therefore, on 29 August the car was considered roadworthy and the certificate will show the mileage at the time. Presumably the car hasn’t covered many more miles since then, so it’s reasonable to assume that the car should still be in a roadworthy condition.

      If a dealer is selling a car under the guise of “spares or repair only”, then they can’t let you drive the vehicle away and need to make it clear that the car is not roadworthy. It would appear that the dealer is pulling the stunt listed in the article above, and hoping that a “spare or repair” note on the contract will negate any need to comply with the Consumer Rights Act.

      Your right to reject will depend on what the fault with the brakes is. if it’s only a minor issue (such as being low on fluid, but not leaking fluid), then you are unlikely to have the right to reject the vehicle. The dealer will be able to point out that the car has been serviced in March, MOTed in August and checked again a couple of weeks ago. However, being able to stop is considered a fairly fundamental requirement of a car, so if there is any kind of fault with the braking system then you either want to be rejecting the car or making sure that the system is properly repaired.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

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