I’m looking to purchase a new car but I’m not sure if it’s best to buy from a company or a private seller. What do I need to keep in mind?

Depending on whether you are purchasing from a company or an individual, you will have different rights available to you. Because there aren’t as many requirements set by law, buying privately can be very risky.

What are the legal requirements?

When buying goods from a trader, the law states they should be of satisfactory quality, free from any faults and durable.

However, this is not a requirement when you buy goods from a private individual. The only requirements in a private sale are that the goods belong to the seller and that they match the seller’s description.

The seller’s description includes the description in any advertisement or verbal discussions you have had with that seller.

When a private individual sells goods, they must have the legal right to sell those goods. Therefore, they should be the rightful owner of the goods or have express written consent from someone else to assume ownership or have permission to sell those goods.

Keep a copy of the vehicle description

Please note that it is always advisable to try to obtain physical copies of any description at the time of purchase, as it can be difficult to prove what one person has said to another.

In such a situation, and in the absence of any evidence, it may ultimately come down to a courts interpretation of a dispute based on the word of both parties.

For example, if you purchase a used car from a private individual and then discover later that the car needs a number of repairs, unless the trader has described the car as ‘without fault’ or ‘in excellent condition’ for example, then you would potentially have no rights to pursue a misdescription claim.

Making a complaint

If you find that the vehicle is not as described, you should try to speak with the seller about your problem if you haven’t already done so, to see if you can come to an agreement.

You can then follow this up with a more formal letter of complaint. It’s best to send this by signed for mail which will allow you to check that it’s been received. Alternatively, you could send an email with a read receipt.

You should also give the seller a reasonable timescale to reply.

Pursuing legal action

If you do not receive a reply or are not satisfied with the seller’s response, you may have to pursue legal action.

If the product is valued at £5000 or less, you can use the Simple Procedure to cover the costs in court.

If the value of the vehicle is greater than £5000, you may have to pursue an Ordinary Cause Procedure. This type of procedure will require legal representation from a solicitor.