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Car buying advice

Spares or repairs – and other dodgy trader tricks

The Car Expert shines a spotlight on some of the unethical and illegal tricks that shady dealers will try to pull on unsuspecting car buyers

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.

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 “spares 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

Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive 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. Hi I sold a car 10 weeks ago with 8 months mot left on it. The buyer was happy at the time of purchase and she test drove the car with in the speed limit of 70mph. Instantly paid a deposit of £400 picked up with arranged following Saturday and paid the remaining £1000. 10 weeks on she is demanding a full refund even though we both signed as sold as seen on receipt. I sold this car with good faith MOTED to a high standards to the best of my knowledge. Just wondering where I stand with this.

  2. Hi Stuart, if a dealer is selling, for example, a 19 year old 2002 Vauxhall Astra with 160,000 miles for £495 which he has taken as a part exchange, you can’t honestly expect the dealer to not try an protect himself from the 6 months guarantee the consumer rights act implies he is responsible for?
    It’s old and cheap with high miles, you can’t expect a trader to warrant that car for 6 months? Or do you realistically expect them to do that?

  3. My friend just brought a car for the first time and on the advert it said spares and repairs. When. Questioning the dealer, the dealer related it to warranty, now I am worried.

  4. Hello Stuart
    I recently bought a used car for a independent deal (on the invoice it has spear of repair)
    He did highlight a few issues which were needs new tyres (not worn but perishing) marks one body work & faulty electric tail gage door)
    Otherwise he described it as a good runner , with good history ect,
    I picked up the car with the highlighted issues . Drove it back over 50 miles after taxing it at the dealer ..
    2 weeks on its developed a terrible loud noice from the engine (knocking)
    Any suggestions on what I can do?

  5. Hi I bought a car from a dealer it didn’t state spares or repairs online but this is what I signed for. I signed the receipt of sale and it stated it on there and I also signed a company headed sales agreement form which stated, “customer aware that the vehicle is being sold as spares or repairs” it states at the bottom please sign if you have read fully. Can I get a refund.

    • Hi Dave. You’ll probably have a fight on your hands since you admit that you signed two pieces of paper that said “spares or repairs”. From a legal perspective (I’m not a lawyer), it would probably come down to whether either of those pieces of paper constitutes a waiver to your legal rights under the Road Traffic Act.

      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 you have attempted to drive off in the vehicle and the dealer has made no attempt to stop you, you could argue that they are in breach of the Act. But you’ll probably need some legal assistance to get your money back, and even if you succeed there’s no guarantee you’ll get your legal costs back.

  6. 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.


    • 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

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