Buying and Selling

Reading between the lines of a used vehicle advertisement

Many of our members ask us how to describe and market their vehicle when they want to sell it. They often have difficulty describing their vehicle even when they’ve been behind the wheel of their 1984 Ford Laser since new.

When we’re on the hunt for a vehicle, usually the first thing we read is the blurb describing the car advertised. Sometimes there’s a series of confusing acronyms for features within the car which can be tricky to get your head round. It’s important to do some further digging though to find out what features the car comes with and to avoid being misled.

Buyers should be cautious when searching the private market as sellers might not always be truthful when describing a vehicle’s performance, condition and specifications. While some sellers may be doing this to mislead you, others simply might not have the expertise to accurately describe the vehicle. Some sellers may advertise their vehicle as fully serviced, but they could be referring to the service that they’ve had done at some point during their ownership, rather than an annual comprehensive service history. Stating that a vehicle has great performance and is zippy off the line could come from an innocent, passionate driver but have you ever stopped to think that this could also mean that the owner has been constantly abusing the vehicle to its limits over the years?

These are typical examples of statements from private sellers that can be misinterpreted by buyers.  If you buy a vehicle and you believe that you were deliberately mislead by the private seller you can dispute this in court, but you will need good evidence to prove this under the Contractual Remedies Act 1979.

Dealers have greater obligations when it comes to accurately describing the condition of a vehicle as they’re seen as the professionals. However, they can get it wrong sometimes too. In the heat of the moment, a sales person could end up overstating a vehicles towing capacity or they could falsely advertise a vehicle’s features by incorrectly filling out a consumer information card (CIN) card. These can often be a careless mistake but dealers need to be extra careful and factual when it comes to vehicle statements and claims.

If you’ve bought a vehicle from a registered vehicle dealer and feel that you have been misled by false or misleading statements about a vehicle, we’d recommend approaching the dealer and giving them an opportunity to resolve any issues in the first instance. If you can’t reach an agreement, try seeking some professional advice as you may be able to take matters further by discussing the situation in a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.

Simple pre-purchase checks like a history report can make you aware of any skeletons in the closet, such as if a vehicle still has outstanding finance or is stolen. Take the time to really discuss a car with the seller and ask lots of questions around its use and history. It’s always a good sign if the car has been regularly used, travelled reasonable distances and hasn’t had any recent breakdowns or unscheduled maintenance.

Not everything is black and white. Mistakes do happen and features can be left out or added by mistake. It’s vital to read the description of a vehicle carefully to ensure that you’re getting everything that you’re paying for. Situations tend to get trickier once money has been exchanged, so if you’re searching the used car market, do so with caution and always carry out plenty of investigation before you decide to buy.

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