because raising a large family isn’t for the faint-hearted

Buying a Faulty Used Car

picture of a faulty used car on a tow truck stating buying a used car


What can you do if you buy a faulty used car?

I bought a faulty used car and now I want to use my experience to help you deal with your faulty used car. Please note that I am not a qualified lawyer or an expert in Consumer Law and you must always do your own research. All I am is a buyer who has been burnt buying a faulty used car and wants to use my experience of buying a faulty used car to help you and I cannot be held liable if something should go wrong. I strongly suggest that if you are unsure you seek legal advice

Buying a used car is one of the most stressful things you can do. You’re buying what will possibly unless you own your own home, be the most expensive thing you will ever own. New cars, whilst more reliable, could cost more than you can afford. Especially in our case when we need a car big enough to carry our five children.

This means you’re left choosing a second-hand car, one that is probably a trade-in and you’re left at the mercy of the dealer or trader. Especially, if like me you don’t know much about cars. This can lead to you buying a faulty used car

I always seem to have really bad luck when it comes to buying faulty used cars. Finances mean I have to choose cars which are in their final days. I know you have more rights when you buy from a dealer and I knew this means that you could end up paying more money, but that means you’re going to get a reliable car right? One that will last longer than a few weeks! WRONG and if things go wrong, you’re left at the mercy of the dealer or spending money you haven’t got trying to fix the car.

I hate buying cars, no matter how hard I try, I always seem to buy faulty used cars with hidden faults. The last seven cars I have owned, have only lasted me a year and in some cases only a few weeks before I have had to spend money on repairs.

So last year when hubby hit a cow on his way home from work and totalled my car (the cow was fine and ran off!) we decided that we were fed up with buying cars on death’s door and we applied for a loan of £5,000 to buy a decent one.

our car which was damaged when hubby hit a cow

Once the loan had been improved we searched for a car we all liked and we found a lovely one on Autotrader from a used car dealer. We contacted him and arranged to go and have a look the following day and that night I spend all evening researching the vehicle, running a vehicle check and checking the MOT history online. Everything came back fine and here’s is where I made my first mistake, I didn’t research the dealer, I didn’t check to see if he was a member of a trade association. All I did was look at his 4 reviews on Autotrader and his website.

The following day I went with my dad to look at the car. The dealer reminded me of Matilda’s dad in Matilda, all talk and trying to impress me with the car. He took us for a test drive, but he drove, which should have had my alarm bells ringing. Then when we were looking over the car, checking the bodywork for any sign of damage or repairs, checking the engine for any sign of an oil leak, checking the oil for a any sign of head gasket damage, checking the tyres and the brakes and checking the multimedia TV, DVD and Sat Nav which were built in, he came over with the phone in his hand and asked if we wanted to take it as he had someone on the phone who were on their way down the motorway and wanted to know if it was worth carrying on. We had planned on going for a cuppa to discuss the car. Yet I felt pressured to chose right there and then or risk losing the car.

After asking for a few to discuss it with my dad, my dad answered it was my decision. To help me make up my mind, I went to speak to the dealer. I mentioned what I had discovered on the MOT certificate, namely the rear tyre and brakes which were advisories on the MOT from a month earlier and to ask if they had been changed and if not was he willing to either change them or give me a discount.

He wasn’t interested in either, all he would say was that even with the tyre and the brakes, which were only advisories, the car was still at a bargain price and he wouldn’t go any lower. When I mentioned the airbag warning light and was he willing to lower the price because of that he said no. At the time I didn’t even realise airbag warning light will cause an MOT failure, but he told me it was nothing to worry about.

Then I asked about the Cam Belt and Water Pump history and he told me he didn’t know anything about whether they had been replaced and that the previous owner hadn’t said anything but it did have a service history, which he didn’t give me until after I had purchased the vehicle.

ford galaxy 2006

Finally I asked about the sluggishness to start and he reassured me that it just needed a good run to charge the battery as it had been idle for a while before it had come to him a few days earlier. No matter what I brought up, he had an answer for and he wouldn’t come down in price, but as I liked the car and it was in my price range and everyone at home liked the car and were looking forward to seeing it, I decided to take it. He then took me to the bank so I could do a transfer, he wouldn’t let me pay by credit card, not even £10, which was a shame as I would have had more protection if I could have used a credit card, even if I had only paid for a fraction of the cost of the car.

After I had bought the car we finally went for a cuppa and this is where my doubts started to creep in and I began to worry I had bought a faulty used car. I drove it 100 miles home and I noticed as I got closer to home that there was smoke coming from the exhaust. When I got home I went through the service history and saw it was due a full service and on checking with the previous garages which had carried out the service I learnt that the cam belt and water pump hadn’t been changed. So I arranged for it to go into my local, AA approved garage for a new water pump, cam belt, battery because the car was still sluggish to start, full service and a new tyre and rear brake pads and discs.

After spending £3,990 on the car, I then spent £1,179.84 on maintenance. Because the garage was busy and couldn’t fit it in for three weeks, I refused to use the car until the cam belt had been replaced just in case it blew and took out the engine. The day after I got the car back from the garage we took the children for a ride to MacDonalds, about 60 miles away and as we got closer I noticed it was smoking again. By the time we got to MacDonald’s the car was engulfed in smoke and the dashboard displayed Engine Malfunction. I phoned the AA who towed our faulty used car home and the garage diagnosed a faulty turbocharger. We had owned the car 21 days, already spent £1,179.84 on the car and we now faced a repair bill of £1,127.47.

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On the garage’s advice, I contacted the dealer to ask about the history of the turbocharger and he said he would get back to me. He didn’t and he stopped answering my texts and phone calls. I then contacted the Citizens Advice Bureau for advice and to learn what my rights were, especially as the dealer had written Sold as Seen. No Warranty on the receipt and I was worried that this meant I had no rights to get the faulty used car repaired. CAB (Citizen’s Advice Bureau) reassured me that I did have rights and the dealer had actually acted illegally by writing Sold as Seen on my receipt in order to try and reduce my legal rights and that they would report him to Trading Standards. They also gave me the advice on what my next steps were to get the situation resolved.

What if you bought a faulty used car?

In the UK you have the legal rights if you buy a faulty used car that you bought from a used car dealer or a second-hand car dealer. These legal rights come under the under the Consumer Act 2015.

A vehicle must be fit for purpose (in this case, get you from A to B safely), of satisfactory quality (taking into account its age and mileage) and as described (meaning it meets any description or advertisement or in discussions given to you when you were buying it).

Therefore, if you find you have a faulty used car, you have the right to refuse the car and get your money back provided you let the dealer know within 30 days. You are entitled to ask for a repair if after 30 days of ownership a fault has appeared. Provided you believe the fault was there when you bought the car.

It is the responsibility of the dealer to prove that the fault wasn’t there when you bought the faulty used car during the first six months of ownership. After six months then it is up to you to prove. If you’ve owned the car longer than 30 days you are entitled to a refund only if a repair is unsuccessful. The dealer is allowed to make a deduction from the refund to cover “fair use” if more than 30 days have passed.

If the dealer told you about the fault when you bought the faulty used car, you won’t be entitled to anything. Or you inspected the car and should’ve spotted the problem, or you are just unhappy about how much you paid for the car or if you caused the fault.

How to Complain

Your first step is to contact the dealer (or finance company if you bought the faulty used car on hire-purchase) stating what the problem is with the vehicle and what you want the dealer to do about it i.e refund or repair. Sadly, if you bought the car from a private seller you do not have any rights.

Within your first 30 days of ownership, you can take your faulty used car back to the dealer for a refund or repair. Think about whether the problem is likely to lead to bigger issues. Should you get it repaired or get a refund? If the fault means you can’t drive the car, you should ask the trader to come and collect it at their own cost. It shouldn’t cost you anything as long as the car is actually faulty.

If you part-exchanged your old car you can ask for your old car back if you’re asking for a refund. Should the dealer have already sold it on, ask for the value they gave when you did the deal on the faulty used car.

Write to the dealer and say what is wring with your faulty used car. Mention the Consumer Act 2015 and show you understand your rights.  Explain to the dealer what you want them to do about it. You could say something like

“Under the Consumer Act 2015, this car should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. My rights have been breached because the car you sold me is faulty. I would like you to put this right by giving me a refund/repairing the faulty used car at your cost.” 

Make sure you keep a record of your conversations and any letters, get any verbal agreements in writing, including when you can expect the car to be ready (if you’re asking for a repair) and whether they’ll offer you a courtesy car in the meantime (they don’t have to but it never hurts to ask).

If you paid by debit or credit card then you have extra protection and can get your money back through your bank if the dealer is being difficult. If you paid by debit card then contact your bank and say you want to use the “chargeback” scheme. It’s always best to ask to speak to a manager to make sure you speak to someone who is aware of the scheme. If you paid by credit card, then you need to tell your credit card company that you wish to make a claim under “section 75“.  It doesn’t matter if you paid just £10 on your credit card or the full price, as long as your faulty used car cost over £100.

What if the Dealer is unhelpful?

If there’s no response to your letter or phone calls, then your next step is to write a complaint letter. The CAB website has Complaint Letter Templates you can use.  Or you can contact the CAB and speak to one of their advisers for advice. Make sure you mention in your letter that they have two weeks to respond. Again mention the magic words which are Consumer Act 2015. Remember to state that the faulty used car is either of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described. Make sure you note the date that you sent your letter and keep a copy for your own files.

Check whether the dealer is a member of a trade or motor association. You may need to write to them and ask. If they are a member, you may be able to get them to help you resolve your issue. They might also have an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme (ADR). An ADR is a way of solving disagreements without going to court. They use a third party to mediate and try to reach a solution.

Should they not respond to your letters or are not a member of a motor or trade association. If they are are not a member or unwilling to use an ADR scheme. Make sure you keep a record of this. If you should have to go to court, you need to prove that you have tried to resolve this issue as best you can. You might be able to use an ADR scheme, which would help you should you go to court.  The chances are that if the dealer is avoiding you they will also ignore the ADR scheme.

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The final resort is taking the dealer to court. This is the stage that I am at now, as the dealer has ignored all contact.

If the value is under £10,000, you can take your case to the small claims court. You can do this online or through the post. It does cost, but if you are on certain benefits or earn below a certain amount, you might be able to have your fee waived or reduced. If you can claim a reduced or waived fee, you cannot do it online.

Before you can start court proceedings, you have to send one more letter to the dealer. known as a Letter Before Court this gives them one more chance to deal with your faulty used car. Remember to state that it is a Letter Before Court. Remember to use the magic words of Consumer Act 2015 and give them a deadline of two weeks to respond.

The Car Has Developed Another Fault?

What If the dealer has repaired your faulty used car and it goes wrong again?  You have the right to refuse a second repair and provided that the repair hasn’t solved the problem or another problem has developed, you can ask to return the car and ask for your money back. You may only get part of your money back though, depending on how much you’ve used the car. If you want to keep the car, you could always ask for a discount.

Where to get more help?

I used the Citizens Advice Bureau when I found my new car was a faulty used car. They were friendly and knowledgeable and give free advice, even face-to-face appointments if that will help. They have trained advisers who can give you advice on their helpline on 03454 040506 or you can contact them using this online form. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to contact Consumerline

Good luck and let me know how you get on!


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Rachel (My Crazy Brood)

Parenting Blogger & Mum of 5

Hi, I’m Rachel, the poor mum of this crazy lot! We are; Dad (Bob), Ryan (17), Becky (15) Ruby  (14), Rhian (11) and Reese (7). We also have Gwen the staffy dog, 5 guinea pigs and 2 hamsters. Join us as we navigate the craziness that raising a large family with additional needs can bring.


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