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Is a used car warranty required by law?

New cars always come with a warranty, but what about a used car? Should you expect a used car warranty, and is it a legal requirement?

Car warranty advice at The Car Expert, brought to you by

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Buy a new car from a dealer and you can rightly expect to get a warranty lasting for several years. But what about a used car? Should you expect a used car warranty, and is it a legal requirement?

New cars come with the assurance that, if anything fails or breaks down during the first few years of their life, they will be repaired and brought back to standard by the manufacturer’s official agent, such as a dealership. That’s one of the many advantages of buying a new model.

When it comes to used cars, however, it’s a mixed bag. Newer used cars are likely to be covered by their original factory warranty, but once a car is out of its new car warranty period, the type and length of used car warranty offered by a dealer (if any) will vary considerably. While most used car dealerships will use the lure of some sort of warranty to attract you into their showroom to buy a vehicle from them, they are not obliged to do this.

Let’s have a look at what you might get.

Balance of new car warranty

Depending on the maker of the car, this can be anything from three years to seven from the date the car was first registered to its original owner. This means you get all the same warranty coverage as a new car buyer, but obviously only for however long is left on that original warranty.

Under EU rules – which still apply in the UK following Brexit – all new cars must have a minimum of two years’ unlimited mileage new car warranty. However, most car companies offer a longer period than this, although the mileage might be capped after two years (for example, a three-year / 100,000 mileage warranty).

Depending on the car manufacturer, the warranty after the first two years may be managed differently to the warranty in the first two years. However, this shouldn’t affect you as a customer and it should be perfectly seamless.

‘Approved’ used car warranty

If you’re buying a used car from a franchised dealership (eg – a used Audi from an official Audi dealership), it will probably come with what looks like a factory warranty for at least 12 months – often with the option to pay more to extend this for another year or two.

However, there will almost certainly be differences between an ‘approved used car’ warranty and a new car warranty, despite the official-looking branding.

The used car warranty will be provided by a third-party warranty company and branded up as a manufacturer product – a process called ‘white labelling’. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long it’s being made clear to you who is actually providing the warranty and what the process is if you ever need to make a claim.

In theory, claiming on an approved used car warranty should be as seamless as a new car warranty from the customer’s point of view. However, there will almost certainly be certain terms and conditions, as well as stricter limits on claims, compared to a new car warranty. Other than a smoother claims experience, there’s usually nothing better or more comprehensive about an ‘official’ used car warranty than one from a third-party provider.

Third-party dealer warranty

If you’re buying a car from an independent used car dealership, you may well be offered a used car warranty as part of the purchase. This will be an ‘aftermarket’ used car warranty, which entitles you to some protection from breakdown or failure – within strictly defined limits.

Usually, any warranty offered with a used car will be for a short period of time – often 30 days or 90 days – and with specific exemptions on what you can claim for.

No warranty at all

Contrary to many people’s assumptions, there’s no law saying that a used car has to be sold with a warranty. And if you’re buying a cheap used car, chances are that you won’t get any kind of warranty (or at least, nothing that’s worth the paper it’s written on).

Dealers might tell you that by not offering a warranty, they are passing on savings to you, as if you were buying from a private seller. It’s a fair point, but it could leave you with an unwanted repair bill in a few weeks’ time if something goes wrong.

If you don’t get any warranty, or only a token offering, dealers will often try to sell you a warranty instead. This can be very expensive, so be wary.

Obviously, if you’re buying a used car from a private seller, you don’t get any kind of cover unless the car is still under its new car warranty. If they’re trying to convince you that the car has a used car warranty, check it for yourself as it may not be transferable to you when you buy the vehicle.

Buying your own used car warranty

Many used car buyers will choose to buy their own used car warranty – and there are plenty available online. A warranty from a specialist provider will almost certainly be far more comprehensive than the one being thrown in for free by a car dealer, so it’s certainly worth checking out.

Similarly, buying a warranty online is usually much cheaper than buying a warranty from a dealer, or extending the ‘official’ used car warranty from a franchised dealership (because dealers usually mark up warranties quite substantially to boost their profit margins). Many car owners will buy a warranty online when their existing warranty runs out, to make sure they remain protected against the most expensive repairs for a broken car.

As with anything, you need to check carefully to see what’s covered and what you’d have to pay in terms of any excess, but it’s highly likely that a warranty bought online will be better value than one bought at the dealership.

What about the Consumer Rights Act?

Whatever car you’re buying, at whatever price you’re paying, you do have one level of law-enforced cover provided in the form of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which offers you some protection.

The Act specifies that car dealers have to give you the car that they have described in their advertising, it has to be fit for purpose and it must be of a reasonable and safe quality.

That’s not the same as getting a warranty, and it’s far more limited and specific to protect buyers if they have purchased a car that is faulty or not as described.

The Act allows a consumer to reject a faulty or mis-sold car under specific circumstances, meaning you have the right to reject the vehicle and claim a full or partial refund from the seller. This only applies when you are buying from an official dealer and does not relate to private purchases. There is also a specific process involved, and it depends on how long you have had the car. Luckily for you, The Car Expert has a comprehensive guide to rejecting a faulty car.

Additional reporting by Stuart Masson.

Here at The Car Expert, we have some fantastic warranty offers for our readers provided by our commercial partners. If you’re interested in a used car warranty, you should check these out:

  • ALA Insurance provides used car warranties in conjunction with the RAC
  • MotorEasy offers warranties and many other types of cover for car owners

More car warranty information

The UK’s best used car warranty providers

The UK’s best used car warranty providers

Independent vs. franchise dealerships – the pros and cons

Independent vs. franchise dealerships – the pros and cons

Should my used car warranty be regulated?

Should my used car warranty be regulated?

What’s the difference? Car warranty vs. car insurance

What’s the difference? Car warranty vs. car insurance

Understanding your warranty policy

Understanding your warranty policy

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.