Buying a second-hand car is a transaction that most of us will engage in at some point in our lives. There is a big difference between buying a second-hand car from a dealer or trader and buying from another private individual. If you buy a second hand car from a dealer, you have some
protection under consumer law. However, if you buy a car from a private individual the consumer legislation does not apply, and the principle “buyer beware” applies.
Buying from a dealer
The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980 states that an individual is a consumer where:
– he or she is not acting in the course of a business and;
– the other party is acting in the course of a business and;
– the goods are of a type ordinarily supplied for private use. This Act also provides that when you buy from a dealer, there is an implied condition that the car should be:
– Of merchantable quality – it should be of reasonable quality given its age and history.
– Fit for the purpose intended and roadworthy.
– As described – it should match the description given verbally or in an advertisement.
The seller acting in the course of business cannot exclude the implied condition that the goods are of merchantable quality. However, the seller may contract out of this implied condition, specifically if:
a) any defects are specifically drawn to the buyer’s attention before the sale is concluded, or
b) the buyer examines the goods and any defects should have been revealed by that examination.
Buying from a Private Individual
Consumer legislation does not offer any protection to the purchaser in a private sale. Generally, private sales do not come with a warranty so you should ask a mechanic to check the car before you buy it. You should ask about the ownership and history of the car and whether it has previously been involved in any accidents. A private seller is under no obligation to give you all of the information in his knowledge regarding the car, so if you don’t ask the right questions you won’t necessarily get all the information you need. Keep a note of the questions and particularly the answers received and the seller’s contact details. If it transpires that the seller gave false information in relation to the condition of the vehicle and it is defective, this may form the basis for a case of breach of contract.
In summary, when you as a consumer buy a second hand car from a car dealer you have the protection of consumer legislation. When dealing with a private seller you should proceed with caution as if the vehicle turns out to be un- roadworthy, you may be unable to take any action against the seller.