If you are looking at buying a second-hand car, there can be considerable confusion as to what to expect in terms of a used car warranty and what your rights are when something goes wrong.

At one end of the spectrum, you will have cars advertised as still being covered by their new car warranty, while at the other end you will see cars being advertised and sold with no warranty given at all. In between is a bewildering variety of used car warranty offers which have different meanings and consequences for car buyers.

In this article, we will look at the different types of warranty offered on a used car and what protection you can expect – even if the car is sold without any warranty.

Your statutory rights on any used car

Many buyer confuse warranties with their legal rights, but they are two different things. Any used car purchase by a private individual from a trader is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you recourse to reject the car if it is not as described or is faulty. You are also covered by the Road Traffic Act 1988, which says that it is an office for a trader to sell an unroadworthy vehicle (unless the buyer has no intention of driving it on the road in its present state).

It does not matter whether the car you are buying is priced at £500, £50,000 or £500,000; if you are private individual buying a car from a trader then you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act. This rights cannot be waived in return for a discount or any other offer.

Although there is no specific legal description, a faulty car is generally considered to be a car which is not roadworthy and/or not safe. Secondary issues, like a broken stereo or paintwork problems, are generally not acceptable reasons to reject a car under the Consumer Rights Act.

Used car warranty – tow truck

If you are arguing with a trader over a rejection and end up taking your case to court, the judge will take things like age and mileage into account when considering whether a fault is considered significant enough to reject the vehicle, so a ten-year-old car with 100,000 miles on the clock will be given considerably more leeway than a three-year-old car that has done 20,000 miles.

The key thing to remember if you are considering rejecting a used car is that “a car with a fault is not necessarily a faulty car” (The Car Expert, 2017).

Warranty on a used car

A warranty is a form of additional insurance cover against certain faults, over and above your statutory rights. It does not override or replace your rights under the Consumer Rights Act, but it covers a wider range of faults which would not be acceptable reasons for rejecting the car altogether.

There are a few different types of warranty which may apply to the used car you are buying, and it is important to know which applies to you.

New car warranty

A fairly new used car (less than three years old) will almost certainly still be covered by whatever is left of the manufacturer’s new car warranty. This is the best kind of warranty, as it is usually fairly painless to make a claim via a franchised main dealer. The car has to be serviced on time, every time, for the manufacturer’s warranty to be valid, but you don’t have to have the car serviced by a franchised dealer thanks to EU law. After Brexit, who knows?

Most manufacturers offer a three-year warranty on their new cars, but some offer more. Many also offer extended warranties at extra cost, but be aware that these may not offer the same terms and benefits as the original warranty.

Approved used car warranty

Approved used car warranty - Toyota

Main dealers of big brands will also usually have an “approved used car warranty” of some sort, usually for 12 months. These are often branded as a manufacturer warranty, but are mostly managed and underwritten by a third party insurer on behalf of the manufacturer or dealer.

Often this type of warranty has an attached requirement that the car has to be serviced by either the selling dealer or another franchised dealer for the warranty to be valid. This is enforceable, unlike the new car warranty, as the warranty is not actually provided by the manufacturer.

Aftermarket used car warranty

The majority of used car traders will offer some form of warranty on their cars, but the value of these warranties vary massively. Some are branded products offered in conjunction with a breakdown provider (like the AA or RAC), but again they are actually managed and underwritten by a specialist insurance company.

The term offered may be a week, a month, a few months or a year, and there will be very specific areas which are excluded from the warranty cover. There may also be a specific process for claiming on the warranty; some will require you to get authorisation from the warranty company before proceeding, while others may require you to pay for any work up-front and then reimburse you afterwards if your claim is approved.

It is very important to read the fine print on any warranty, but especially so on an aftermarket product as the terms and conditions will vary significantly on different warranties. Much better to know how it works and what is covered before you have a problem then when you are standing in a garage arguing over who’s paying for your car’s repairs.

Older/higher-mileage/cheaper cars tend to be offered with warranties that cover significantly less than those offered on newer/more expensive cars, so beware.

No warranty at all?

It is not illegal for a trader to sell a car without a warranty, and this is fairly common on very cheap used cars (less than a couple of thousand pounds). Unlike your statutory rights, a dealer can offer you a discount in return for waiving the warranty. However, you should be very wary of any dealer who makes this offer, as it is making you financially responsible for any fault which occurs in the car but is not significant enough to warrant rejection.

The dealer’s argument is usually that if you bought the same car privately then there would be no warranty provided, and it makes it impossible for a dealer to trade profitably on a cheap car if they have to provide an expensive warranty on a cheap car. By taking off the warranty, they can pass on the savings to you. Only accept this if you are feeling very brave.

Ask questions about the warranty being offered

When buying any car from a trader, it is important to ask about the used car warranty being offered and exactly what it covers. Don’t accept being brushed off or being told that you’ll be given a booklet when you pick up the car. Get proper answers and ask for a copy of that booklet before you agree to buy the car.

Beware of a trader who writes “no warranty” on a sales contract without any prior explanation. If a warranty is not offered, you need to make sure you find out about it before reading it on the contract. Although it’s not illegal, it is sneaky and it’s usually a sign that the dealer hasn’t been completely up-front with you about the vehicle’s condition.

There are other tricks a dodgy trader will try, such as writing “spares or repairs” or “trade only” somewhere on the sales agreement, and you need to be on your guard for such behaviour. We will be looking at this next week at The Car Expert.

With any other of buying a used car, it is your obligation as a buyer to make sure you ask questions about anything you are told, and don’t simply take the salesman’s word at face value. Once you sign a contract, you are legally committed and it doesn’t matter what you’ve been told verbally. So make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for on a used car warranty or it may not be worth the paper it’s written on.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I bought extended warranty for the car i bought in Dec to run once the manufacturer warranty ran out in July. However some idiot hot me which wrote my car off. I went to cancel the policy and was told that i was entitled to nothing back. Spoke to the reputable dealer and told the same. Even though i was told i could cancel by the sales rep at the dealership! Disgusted

  2. Hi,

    I bought a used car from a garage, had it 40 days and done about 300 miles and the clutch has gone. When purchasing the car, I questioned a funny sound the clutch was making but was told it needed some lubricant and it’s fine. Test drove a car thought nothing of it because I don’t know much about cars. The garage now is refusing to help as it is not included in their guarantees. Do I have any legal rights as a customer? Many thanks for help

    • Hi Marta. It’s potentially a difficult one, as a clutch is considered a wear & tear item. However, given that you queried the clutch during the sale, you should be able to make a claim for rejecting the vehicle. Your chances of success may not be great, however.

  3. I bought a second hand car in December 2016 couple weeks later the car stalled took it back to dealer he said couldn’t find the problem to bring it back if it happens again then the management light came on so he then had it for nearly a month he said it might be thermostat housing so changed that finely got my car back 3 days after my car stalled again he said to bring it back I then rejected the car I phoned the finance company they said I would have to get a diagnostic test to prove he couldn’t find the fault where do I go from here

    • Hi Elizabeth. You will need to work with the finance company, as ultimately it’s their car rather than yours at this point. If they want a diagnostic test to help proceed with the rejection, you will need to arrange this. I’d speak to them again to find out exactly what they need in detail, to make sure you are not wasting your time and money on something which won’t help your cause.

  4. I agreed to by a 2009 vehicle that has been modified and was told by the dealer that the warranty they sold covered modified vehicles and I have this in writing from them. I spoke to the warranty provider today just to double check (stupid me should have done this at the beginning I know!) and they assure me 100% that the warranty would be void. Would the warranty be considered part if the conditions of sale? Could I use that as grounds to withdraw and get my deposit back?

    • Hi Dawn. Yes, you could argue that you have been mis-sold if you do not have the promised warranty. Alternatively, the dealer could provide you with a warranty from another provider instead.

  5. I bought a car for £1300 2 & half month ago. The car is in limp mode with air intake leak fault on intake manifold. The dealer has asked me to pay 50% of the repair bill I have disagreed due to the vehicle being dangerous. I bought it from a large dealer who has 2 sites dealing in prestige cars

    • Hi Colin. If you have a used car warranty, you should refer to that – or call the warranty provider – to see if they would cover the issue.
      If you don’t have a warranty, then the dealer offering to pay 50% of the bill is probably quite good. Plenty of dealers would refuse to pay anything, especially if the car was only valued at £1,300 to start with.

  6. Hi Stuart, we just yesterday bought a used car from a trader. It is a Seat Leon, 2006, 103 000miles for £2000 –
    market price. the car seemed ok and we drove it home almost 80 miles carefully it did not show any particular problems – the trader said it stayed without being used for 3 weeks so to be careful with breaks. when we arrived home after 40 -50 min the kids noticed the smoke coming out under the hood. we ran to open it and saw the fire. it took us a couple of minute to put out the fire. it looks the ignition coils got fire and some wiring burn off… we called the trader who was not happy to speak to us saying that if that happened on the road it would be a case but as it happened at home he has no responsibility. Is it true? we have 3 month warranty from him (for £500) but it will hardly cover all the damage. what can we do?

      • hi Stuart, thank you for your answer. I will try to call the dealer today to speak to him again. as it is very disappointing to pay for a car, road tax, insurance – and now to remain without a car and money. and we really need a car.

  7. I paid £4500 for a car 3 months ago, whilst driving this home from the garage a throttle light came on the dash I didn’t really think much of this and although I let the garage know about this they did not respond, knowing I had 6 months warranty left I figured any issues I could get them repaired for free anyway.
    It’s now nearing the end of June I have half my warranty left and have finally managed to get a diagnostics done, the error code is P0046 turbo problem, the garage also say the engine management light has been disconnected, they say the car is not fit for purpose.
    The warranty is third party and I don’t think the turbo is covered, this too is a costly problem, with the car still in warranty period are the garage obliged to give me a full refund, I’ve tried contacting the garage for weeks but no response

    • Hi James. Given that you are beyond your first 30 days, the dealer is allowed to have one chance to repair the car before you can reject it under the Consumer Rights Act. Had you acted quicker, you could have rejected it without giving them the opportunity to fix the problem.

      You have also continued to drive the car for three months, despite knowing the warning light was on, and that will make it more difficult to reject the car or make a warranty claim.

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