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.

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.

buying secondhand car privately

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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Sell your car to a dealer online
You can also try Motorway to sell your car to a dealer for a better price than part exchange or selling direct. Motorway work with a network of 1,500 dealers UK-wide. If your car is eligible for their Premium Service, you can profile your vehicle, then let dealers compete for your car in an online auction. You can then proceed with the highest offer they find.

Best used family cars for less than £20,000

Once upon a time, buying a used family car meant ending up with a humdrum hatchback possessing less kerb appeal than a wet sock.

Happily, those times are long gone. There’s so much choice on the used family car market these days that you’re bound to find something to give you the practicality, reliability and space that you need combined with the style, comfort and quality feel that you want.

What’s more, many of today’s modern family cars feature high-tech infotainment systems that allow you to stream music from your phone, and some are even almost as much fun to drive as a sports car, proving that you really can have it all. But which one is best for you? To help you decide, we’ve brought together and ranked our top 10.

10. Honda Civic

Used Honda Civic 17-present

If reliability is your primary concern, you probably won’t do much better than the Honda Civic. It has a fantastic record, with owners reporting an extremely low number of faults.

What’s more, the Civic has a huge boot and a decent amount of rear leg room. Just be aware that there isn’t much rear head room for adults and the ride and steering aren’t as polished as some rivals'.

We found 2019 Honda Civic 1.0 i-VTEC EX, 2000 miles, £18,995

Read the used Honda Civic review here

9. Vauxhall Astra

Used Vauxhall Astra 2015 - present

Want lots of car for your cash? Well, the Vauxhall Astra offers just that, because it’s cheap as chips. We’d suggest going for the sprightly turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine over the noisy diesels but, on the whole, the Astra is reasonably comfortable, reasonably spacious, reasonably efficient and reasonably good to drive. A very reasonable car, in other words, even if it isn't one that will earn the envy of your friends.

We found 2019 Vauxhall Astra 1.4T SRi Nav, 1500 miles, £18,995

Read the used Vauxhall Astra review here

8. Hyundai i30

Used Hyundai i30 Hatchback (17-present)

The Hyundai i30 is softer than most of its rivals, giving a reasonably comfortable ride without being floaty. Its turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine dishes out decent rather than Earth-shattering performance but shouldn’t drain your wallet. Plus, the car offers plenty of equipment as standard, including air conditioning, alloy wheels, a DAB radio and automatic emergency braking. Also, every example should still have plenty of warranty coverage left, which is comforting.

We found 2019 Hyundai i30 1.4T-GDi Premium, 2000 miles, £18,995