Problem with a used car

Introduction

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 don't have the same rights if the car is 'sold as seen'. You should 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 are not entitled 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, you should complain first to the person who sold you the car. You can get more advice in our document 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)

You can 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. You should 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 can give 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.

Find out more information in our document 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 provide 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. You should 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)

You should still contact the seller to try to work out a solution to the problem. If you can’t resolve the problem you can take a civil case or use the small claims procedure.

How do I take my complaint further?

You should 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.

Where the trader is not a member of any trade or professional body or you bought the car from a private seller, you may need to consider taking a civil case or using the small claims procedure.

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

You should 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 you should ask a solicitor about taking a civil case.

Further information

You can get more advice about your rights in our document on buying a used car.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has more advice about buying cars.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 or 402 5500
Locall: 1890 432 432

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry

5 Upper Pembroke Street
Dublin 2
D02 EN22
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 5.15pm
Tel: +353 (0)1 6761690
Fax: +353 (0)1 6619213
Page edited: 22 June 2020