Problem with a used car
When you buy a car from a trader (a car dealer or garage), your consumer rights are protected in law. The car must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for any stated purpose. If something goes wrong, you may be entitled to a repair, the cost of a repair or some or all of your money back.
If you buy at an auction you do not have the same rights if the car is 'sold as seen'. Check the auction's conditions of sale before you buy.
If you buy from a private seller, you also have fewer legal rights. This is because consumer law applies to contracts between a trader and a consumer and does not cover consumer-to-consumer deals.
Read more about your rights when buying a used car.
Situations not covered by law
In some cases, you do not have a right to a repair or refund when there is a fault with your used car, including where:
- You were told about the fault when you bought the car
- You (or your mechanic) inspected the car and should have spotted the problem, for example, a dent
- You caused the fault
- The fault is from normal wear and tear. This means it is normal considering how much the car has been used (for example, change of tyres or brake pads)
I bought my car from a garage or car dealer
If you bought the car from a garage or car dealer and there is a problem, first complain to the person who sold you the car. Get more advice on how to make a complaint.
If a used car you bought develops a fault, you have the right to ask the garage or car dealer to fix the problem (with no further cost to you) by:
- Repairing the faulty part(s) - this must be done within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you
- Providing a replacement part or a car of similar quality or value (whichever is the more appropriate to the situation)
- Giving you a refund – this may not be the full price paid and usually includes a deduction for the use you have had (also known as recission)
Find out more about getting a repair, replacement or refund.
Car is still under warranty
If your car was sold with a manufacturer’s warranty, this provides extra protections. Check the terms and conditions to see if the warranty is still in date, what problems are covered and what the seller’s obligations are.
Used car warranties are agreed between you and the dealer when you are negotiating the sale. They are usually non-transferable. This means that you will have to go back to the garage or car dealer you bought the car from to get repairs done under that warranty.
A warranty or guarantee gives you extra protections but it does not replace your statutory rights when goods are faulty. The seller still has a legal duty to provide you with a repair, replacement or refund if the car turns out not to be as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for the stated purpose.
Read more about guarantees and warranties.
I bought a car under a finance agreement
In all Hire Purchase and Personal Contract Plan (PCP) agreements, the car remains the property of the finance company and ownership of the car does not pass to you until the final instalment is paid.
If a car you bought under a Hire Purchase or PCP agreement is or becomes faulty, both the seller and the owner (finance company) are responsible. You can claim against either party in this situation. You cannot claim against the car manufacturer.
If the seller agrees to give a refund, this will be provided to the finance company who will usually:
- End the finance agreement
- Pay you back your deposit plus any payments you have already made
- Deduct a certain amount for use of the vehicle
Find out more about hire purchase.
I bought my car at auction
When you buy a car at auction, it is usually ‘sold as seen’. It is up to you to do the necessary checks by inspecting it before bidding (for example, by getting a mechanic to examine the car before you buy).
If something goes wrong after you buy, the auction firm is not responsible. Check the auction's conditions of sale before you buy.
I bought my car from a private seller
You have very few legal protections when you buy a car from a private seller. Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to deals between a consumer (a person who buys a good or service for personal use or consumption) and a trader (a person acting for purposes related to their trade, business or profession). It does not apply when you buy from a private individual who is not a trader (for example, someone who is selling their own car to you but who does not sell cars as a profession)
How do I take my complaint further?
Always complain first to the person who sold you the car.
If your complaint cannot be resolved by the seller themselves, you can make a formal complaint to the relevant trade or professional body.
Unresolved dispute with garage or car dealer
If your complaint cannot be resolved and the garage or car dealer is a member of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), you can make a formal complaint, for free, to SIMI through its consumer complaints service or arbitration scheme. SIMI will try to mediate between you and the trader to resolve the issue.
SIMI deals with complaints relating to:
- Used car you bought from SIMI members
- Service or repairs of cars by SIMI members
Make your complaint to SIMI within 3 months from the date your problem started.
To check if the garage or car dealer is a member of SIMI, search the SIMI directory or ring 01 6161690. If a dealer is a member of SIMI, they will have the current logo displayed on their premises along with the current year of membership.
SIMI members have to follow the code of ethics and offer a high standard of customer service. This includes doing checks on second-hand vehicles and sorting out any issues that arise.
Unresolved dispute with private seller
If you cannot resolve your dispute with a private seller you can consider taking legal action. If the amount involved is less than €2,000, you can take a case to the small claims court using the small claims procedure. For amounts over €2,000, ask a solicitor about taking a civil case.