Your rights when buying a used car

used cars in a dealership

After hours of research, you finally get your new car. But then the worst happens – there’s a problem. Here are your legal rights.

Through no fault of your own, things can go wrong.

Luckily, as with most other purchases, consumer rights are there to protect you.

These rights depend on where you buy the car.

Looking for finance on a new car?

Jump to...


Your rights when buying a used car from a dealership

If you’ve bought a used motor from a dealership, you have the right to return the car within the first 30 days of purchase. 

This is the “short-term right to reject” rule under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

If you find a fault with the car within the 30-day period, you have the right to ‘reject’ it. You’re entitled to a full refund, or you can ask for a repair.

But you’ll have to prove that the problem was there when you bought the car.

Buying through a dealership also means you have some rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

The car you’re buying must:

  • Be fit for purpose
  • Be of satisfactory quality
  • Match its description

Before you part with your money, make sure you’re happy with the condition of the car for its age and price. 

If the car has any defects or known faults, the dealer must make you aware of them when viewing and before buying the car.

Find out how much a car is worth with our free car valuation tool.

Your rights when buying a used car from a private seller

You might get a cheaper price buying from a private seller, but it’s more of a risk - you have fewer rights if something goes wrong.

Your rights are:

  • The seller must be legally allowed to sell the vehicle
  • The car has to match its description. Whether that’s a written ad or a verbal description, you should make sure the description matches.

The car must be roadworthy and safe to drive. If it’s not, by law, the seller must tell you, and you must both agree it’s being bought for scrap.

Tips on buying from a private seller

  • To avoid buying the car from a fraudulent seller, always try to view the car at the owner’s property. You may be asked to meet at a mutually convenient location, but try to avoid that.
  • When the viewing takes place, record the address. This is in case something goes wrong and you need to take legal action.
  • To get rid of dodgy cars quickly, dealers sometimes pose as private sellers. When viewing, keep an eye out for other cars for sale parked around the property. And be on guard if you contact the seller about a car and they don’t know which one you’re talking about.
  • If you aren’t motor savvy, take someone more clued up with you to carry out checks on the car.
  • Get a car check to make sure the car’s history is clean. This will probably cost you money but could save you a lot of hassle.
  • Check the status of the car's MOT. Our free MOT checker can help with this


Your rights when buying a used car online

If you buy online, consumer rights will still cover you.

But your rights will depend on who the seller is.

If you’re buying from an online dealer, you have the same rights as if you bought in person.

The ‘cooling-off’ period will also cover you - under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

You have the right to cancel from the moment you place the order until 14 days from when you get your car.

But you’ll have to return the car within 14 days. You should then get a refund within a fortnight of the dealer getting the car back.

If you’re buying from a private seller online, you have the same rights as if buying in person.

READ MORE: Questions to ask when buying a used car


Your rights when buying a used car from an auction

The fast and exciting pace of a live auction can be exhilarating but they’re dangerous if you’re not clued up.

At a live car auction, you may not have any rights under the Consumer Rights Act.

You’ll need to check the terms and conditions of the auction before bidding.

And if the seller doesn’t have the right to sell the car – if it’s stolen, for example - then the auctioneer generally won’t be liable.


Your rights if you buy a used car on a credit card

If you’ve bought a used car from a dealer and things go wrong, you’re protected under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If the car you’ve bought is above £100 but below £30,000 then you should be covered.

Buying through your credit card means the credit card company has equal responsibility with the seller if there’s a problem.

You’ll only be protected if:

  • The car is faulty or not of satisfactory quality
  • The car has not been delivered
  • The seller has misrepresented the car.

How do I claim money back on my credit card?

Your first step should always be to contact the company you bought from.

If they don’t reply or refuse to give you a refund, then contact your credit card company and follow their set steps.


Your rights if you buy a used car on a debit card

It’s sometimes possible to get a refund through your bank – which is known as a chargeback application.

It’s not a legal right and it’s only possible if there’s enough money in the company’s bank account to meet the cost.

Your bank will try to reverse the transaction.

You can use this if the car doesn’t match its description or if the seller is no longer in business.