What if a car I sold privately goes wrong?

A reader asks if he's liable for a fault his second-hand car developed just after he sold it to a private buyer...

Used car of the week: Volkswagen Golf

I recently sold my 2011 Volkswagen Golf to a private buyer. It broke down the same day and he had it towed to a garage. The mechanic said the catalytic converter had failed.

I had no issues with the car while I owned it and I was as shocked as the buyer about it developing a fault.

buying secondhand car privately

I have offered to pay for the car to be repaired out of good faith, but I cannot afford to give the buyer a refund for the car because I'm in the costly process of moving house. 

What are my legal obligations as the seller and what rights does the buyer have?

Ian Bright

What Car? says…

You have fewer rights when a second-hand car is bought privately than from a dealer because important elements of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 don’t apply to privately sold cars.

This means there is no legal requirement for the car to be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

However, contractual rules about misrepresentation do apply. So, as the seller you must accurately describe the car and not tell the buyer something about it that isn’t true, such as saying it has full service history when it hasn’t or is in excellent condition if it’s only just scraped through its MOT test with a long list of advisory work. The car also has to be in a roadworthy condition and you must have the right to sell it.

It’s generous of you to have paid for the car to be repaired, but there is no legal onus on you to give the buyer a refund and let them return the car. In a private sale, the onus is on the buyer to ascertain if the car is of satisfactory quality, which is one reason why some buyers opt to have potential purchases inspected before parting with any cash.

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