Car enthusiast Martin Port has several classics in his fleet, including a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle and a 1953 AC Buckland. They’re all lovingly maintained, but don’t exactly provide the day-to-day family-focused practicality that Martin and his wife need.
Martin is a seasoned used car buyer so had no qualms travelling from London to Portsmouth to buy an eight-year-old Volkswagen Touran he’d seen advertised on the internet.
The Touran had 200,000 miles on the clock but the dealer agreed to replace its ageing cambelt, so Martin was feeling positive when he arrived to view the car.
Although the Touran was showing its age rather more than the photos suggested, Martin decided to reserve judgment for the test drive.
‘It drove like a new car,’ he said. ‘Everything seemed tight; there were no rattles or shakes, and the engine pulled strongly.’
Reassured, Martin sealed the deal and drove away but just a few miles into his journey home, the acceleration started to falter. The fuel gauge was nearing empty so he limped to a fuel station, filled up the tank and continued on his way. Performance improved for a while, but then the throttle started to lag again.
Martin called the dealer, who told him to return the car for diagnosis and repair. However, after mulling things over for the weekend, Martin’s misgivings grew. He voiced his concerns to the dealer, who wasn’t having any of it – the car would be fixed at no cost to Martin; what was the problem?
Then came the killer news: the car needed a new turbo.
The dealer said he’d ordered a reconditioned part, which was on its way, but this major fault tipped Martin’s remaining faith that the Touran was a sensible investment over the edge. In addition, the dealer’s warranty would only cover the car for three months and £300.
The dealer still refused to discuss a refund. ‘My eBay listing states I don’t do returns,’ he said.
Martin wasn’t convinced and called Helpdesk. We assured him he was right to stick to his guns. He was, as he’d argued, protected by the Sale of Goods Act, and had the right to reject the faulty car.
Buoyed, he went back to the dealer, only to discover the reconditioned turbo was being built in Poland, and the supplier wouldn’t sign off the order until it received the old unit. This would mean the car ‘sitting dead’ for weeks in the garage. The dealer then agreed to a refund.
It took two attempts and two weeks for Martin to get his money back, but eventually he was able to buy a low-mileage, five-year-old Vauxhall Zafira from a local dealer.
‘It may not be the most exciting option but it has a full dealer service history and a comprehensive two-year warranty,’ he said.
What if this happens to you?
- Even experienced buyers can get caught out. The key is to stay calm and act quickly.
- As soon as you notice a fault, tell your dealer. If the problem is minor, it may be wise to accept a repair, but if the car isn’t fit for purpose, you are entitled to a full refund.
- If the seller refuses, make your case for rejection in writing, outlining your rights under the Sale of Goods Act. If this fails, you can threaten legal action.
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