Consumer rights when buying a car or motorbike

You still have rights, even when you buy an old nail like Del Boy's Reliant Regal.  (Picture © Beaulieu)

You still have rights, even when you buy an old nail like Del Boy’s Reliant Regal. (Picture © Beaulieu)

Consumers complain about cars more than any other item, according to Citizens Advice. Typically, the consumer body receives over 45,000 grumbles a year, with just over two thirds relating to used cars.

However, few of us know the law or what it entitles us to if we’re not entirely satisfied. Read on to find out what you can and can’t ask for if things go wrong. 

When you buy from a dealer

You will enjoy the greatest level of consumer protection if you buy from a dealer. New cars and motorbikes, or those that are less than six months old, can be rejected if they are faulty. The dealer must prove the fault was not present at the time of manufacturing, and should be offered one chance to fix the fault. After that, you’re entitled to reject it.

However, it becomes more complicated for those who bought their car through a finance company. And given the rise in finance packages for new or nearly-new cars, that’s the majority of drivers. In that case, you’ll need to instruct the finance company to speak with the car’s supplying dealer.

Older cars should be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality for their age and price, and must be as described, as stipulated by the 1979 Sale of Goods Act. So, if something is preventing the car from working correctly, you could be entitled to a repair if this is uncharacteristic for the car’s age and price.

When you buy privately

Drivers who buy a car from an auction have little legal protection, so it’s not an advisable option for the inexperienced car buyer.

Trading Standards urges only slightly less caution for anyone buying from private individuals: “The legal principle of ‘caveat emptor’, or ‘buyer beware’ applies. You have no right to expect that the vehicle is of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose, but there is a requirement that it should be ‘as described’.”

That means if an advertisement says ‘low mileage, one previous owner’, the vehicle must fulfil those criteria. You are also entitled to expect that the vehicle is roadworthy – unless it has clearly been bought for spare parts, to help keep a classic car running for example, or scrap.

Buying a new car online

Some good news. The law is scrabbling to keep pace with consumers’ shopping habits. Increasing numbers of us are comfortable with buying expensive items such as a car or motorbike online. Automotive industry analyst Frost & Sullivan says that by 2025, a quarter of new cars sold in the UK will have been bought over the internet.

To protect those shopping from the comfort of their sofa, buyers now have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period, where they can change their mind after placing an order online. The directive was introduced in June, ahead of a new UK Consumer Rights Act that will come into force later this year.

Buyers can also change their mind for up to 14 days from the moment they take delivery of the car, so long as they received cancellation information when placing their order, or before the car was delivered. If they are passed the cancellation information after they take delivery of the car, the cooling off period ends 14 days after they got that information.

The dealer must then refund the customer within 14 days of being notified of the cancellation.

See how to go about rejecting a car in Part Two

3 comments on “Consumer rights when buying a car or motorbike

  1. Beth Dowson 27/06/2020 12:31 PM

    I have just bought a motorbike from a bike trader/dealership on EBay.
    In the advert description it stated, “All paintwork, wheels, frame and exhaust system in spotless condition”.
    I asked the seller several times about the condition of the bike. He said it was in “mint condition” and I would be disappointed. I was unable to actually go and view the bike due to Covid 19 hence I asked about the condition several times.
    I paid £4343.00 for the motorbike using my RBS credit card on the 16th June 2020. This price included the cost of the motorbike being delivered by courier service.
    The motorbike was delivered on the 25th June 2020. The courier arrived, got my motorbike out the van, gave me the motorbike documentation and then drove off. I did not have to sign for delivery
    On inspection of the motorbike I found the following issues:

    • Corrosion on both wheels
    • Corrosion on all the engine casing
    • Rust on the rear of the frame
    • Corrosion on the rear shock absorber
    • Corrosion on swing arm which had been badly hand painted over in an attempt to cover it up
    I contacted the dealer and advised that the motorbike was not as described in the advert and under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 I wanted him to collect the bike and give me a full refund. He was very abrupt but eventually said he would give me a refund however only for the bike and not for the delivery costs. This means I will be out of pocket by £300.00 for a bike which was falsely described in the advert.
    Could you offer please any advice regarding this matter?
    Kind Regards

  2. Luke Hubbard 18/09/2020 6:59 PM

    Hello I Brough a brand new moped from a lexmoto dealership, since the 2 month I have had nothing but trouble with it, first was the head lights not working to the motor cutting out first thing in the morning and whilst I’m driving and just recently I.e this week the starter motor has seized up whilst in the dealers garage shop as they was fixing my head lights, so I been using the kick start, there was an awful sound coming from the engine they said its normal as the starter motor isn’t running….. And today it dies on me in the middle of a dual carriage way, they say cutting out in morning is normal… Now the bike is less than 7 months old just done over 2500 miles, am I in my right to ask for a new bike in place as its disrupted my work An personal life, can I get any advice.

  3. samantha durn 27/03/2023 12:30 AM

    Hi purchased a second hand motorcycle described as a 1975 but after paying I get told it’s a 1976 model year not explained before paying this is from a dealer

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