Car Sales Law FAQ

What is Car Sales Law?

Car sales law covers all the statutory and common law rights surrounding buying and selling cars, repairing, restoring and financing motor vehicles. This involves contract law and Tort such as negligence and misrepresentation along with the following legislation:

  • Sale of Goods Act
  • Supply of Goods and Services
  • Consumer Rights
  • Misrepresentation
  • Consumer Protection from unfair trading

Is it Illegal to Sell an Unroadworthy Car?

Yes, section 75 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, makes it a criminal offence to expose for sale or sell an unroadworthy car. This could be as simple as selling a car without an MOT, or one which has been poorly repaired.

Car “Sold As Seen” by a Dealer.

The inclusion on car sales invoices or adverts of ‘sold as seen’ or ‘trade sale no warranty implied or given’ has historically been to exclude consumer rights. However, in reality, it has no impact upon a buyer’s legal rights and may be itself be an offence under consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.

Will a Trade Sale Invoice Exclude Rights for ‘Dealer To Dealer’ Sales?

Not necessarily, the law is not a big fan of exclusion clauses under any circumstances but will construe them narrowly and literally. This means that you would have to specifically state that terms under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 are excluded. There would also need to be a non-representation clause limiting reliance upon anything said or done leading up to the inception of the contract.

What is a ‘Characteristic Of The Car’?

A buyer of a new Audi TT sought to reject it because he said it was not of satisfactory quality because it veered to the left. The dealer disputed this and the case ended up in court.

Following various expert opinions, it was revealed that the car was camber sensitive which caused it to veer slightly if the driver took their hands off the steering wheel.

There was no negative impact on tyre wear or any other parts and as a result, the court ruled in favour of the dealership on the basis that the issue was a characteristic of the car.

This has led to the “characteristic defence” being adopted, although almost without exception, wrongly.

What is ‘Drive On’ Damage?

It has become commonplace in car sales disputes for the seller or the finance company to suggest that the damage to the car was caused or made worse by the driver not stopping immediately or continuing to use it after the fault occurred.

However, in similarity to the ‘characteristic defence’, it gets used over judiciously and is invariably incorrectly applied. The bottom line is, there are very few trump cards, or ‘cure all’ defences in law and this isn’t one of them; when in doubt consult an expert.

What are My Rights When Buying a Car Privately?

As a rule, the maxim caveat emptor or buyer beware applies. In short, there are few legal rights in private car sale compared to dealer sales, but it’s not true to say that there are no legal rights or obligations.

The law of misrepresentation applies, for example, this involves a false statement of fact being relied upon by the buyer. If you claim the car has a full service history or a recently replaced turbo or gearbox and it hasn’t, then there are grounds for a claim.

Selling an unroadworthy car is applicable to private sales, although many trading standards authorities are reluctant to prosecute. Naturally, other criminal offences, such as clocking, ringing and cloning are still applicable.

I Wasn’t Told About The Car’s Previous History

Many dealers still adopt the old saying “ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies” but in reality, traders have a legal obligation to inform customers about anything which would impact upon their decision making when buying the car. This would include:

  • whether the car had previously been written off
  • the number of previous owners
  • it had been sold and rejected by the previous owner
  • the engine had been replaced

Are My Rights The Same for Vans and Motorhomes?

In short yes, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and other statutory rights apply to commercial vehicles and motorhomes, depending on whether the buyer is a consumer.

There may be additional issues to consider in terms of whether they are fit for purpose given that commercial vehicles are likely to be bought to carry goods and motor homes are intended to be temporarily lived in.

Can I Make The Dealer Repair The Car?

No, while there is a legal right to request a repair, the dealer cannot be compelled to carry out a repair if the cost to do so is disproportionate. This has to also be considered before you carry on with expensive repairs to the vehicle expecting to claim the cost back from the dealer.

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