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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

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 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.
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