I discovered our privately bought van has accident damage - what are my rights?

I bought a used van privately in October 2022 (5 months ago). It has developed several faults during that time which I have put down to bad luck and had repaired — bad battery, faulty alternator, coolant leak. More recently, it has been overheating and turns out it needs a new head gasket. The car was advertised as having a reconditioned engine, which is clearly not true. Worse still the mechanic has told me that the van has been in a bad front-end collision and, although roadworthy, it has been repaired poorly and will need further work. I understand I have limited rights in terms of returning the van, but am I within my rights to ask the seller for a partial refund to cover these repairs?

Asked on 9 April 2023 by Richard Chevin-Dooley

Answered by David Ross
As you bought the van from a private seller, rather than a dealer, then you have limited rights. Private sales are generally "buyer beware", which means that it's up to you to do your own checks and make sure you're happy with the condition of the vehicle before you buy it.

In general, when buying a used vehicle privately, you have the right to expect that it's roadworthy, as described and that it matches any representations the seller made. If the vehicle doesn't meet these standards, then you may have a case for a refund or compensation, but you'll need to prove that the faults were present at the time of sale, rather than developing afterwards.

If the seller made false claims about the vehicle, such as advertising it as having a reconditioned engine when it doesn't, then you may have a stronger case for a refund or partial refund. However, you'll need to prove that the seller made the claims and that you relied on them when making your decision to buy the van.

If you do decide to pursue a refund or compensation, it's a good idea to get legal advice and to keep records of any communications with the seller, as well as any receipts for repairs or other expenses related to the faults. Citizens Advice may be able to help you further.
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