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.