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Bought A Problem Vehicle?


Consumer law protects you when you buy goods – Citizens Advice Bureau will tell you…

What the Sale of Goods Act says

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 says that any item you buy from a trader must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose
  • match any description given.

If it isn’t, you can usually get one of the following:

  • a repair
  • a replacement
  • your money back (a refund)
  • some of your money back.

You will not have these rights if:

  • there is nothing wrong with the goods – you have just changed your mind about wanting them
  • you examined the goods, or a sample of the goods, when you were buying them, and the fault you want to complain about was so obvious that you should have noticed it
  • the trader pointed out the defect that you now want to complain about
  • you have damaged the goods yourself
  • the problem is the result of normal wear and tear
  • the goods have lasted for as long as could reasonably be expected.

What does Satisfactory Quality mean?

Goods are of Satisfactory Quality if they are of a standard a reasonable person would think was satisfactory at the time of sale. This should take into account their price and anything else that seems to be relevant, for example, whether they’re second-hand. Goods should:

Be fit for purpose

Goods should be fit for all the uses to which they are normally put. For example, a toaster must be able to make toast and a washing machine must be able to wash clothes.

Be of satisfactory appearance and finish

You can expect a new item to have a good appearance and finish. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not of Satisfactory Quality, even if it has no other faults. For example, a new car with scratches or a shop-soiled dress aren’t of satisfactory quality.

If goods are second-hand then you can’t expect their appearance and finish to be as perfect as that of new items.

Be free of minor defects

Something with minor defects is probably not of Satisfactory Quality, even if the defects could be repaired. For example, a new shirt with buttons missing isn’t of Satisfactory Quality, even if you could replace the buttons. A china dish with a small chip also isn’t of satisfactory quality.

Be safe to use

Something which is unsafe isn’t of Satisfactory Quality. A seller who is selling things that are unsafe may also be committing a criminal offence and should be reported to Trading Standards.

Last for a reasonable length of time in a reasonable condition

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 doesn’t say exactly how long goods should last. The general rule is that goods should last for a reasonable time and in reasonable condition. For example, a new car should last for several years in a reasonable condition but you may need to replace some of its parts over time.

If goods don’t last as long as they should, they probably weren’t of Satisfactory Quality when you bought them. For example, if the sole on a shoe comes away after a few weeks of normal wear, this suggests that it was never of Satisfactory Quality.

You may need an expert’s opinion on how long a particular item can normally be expected to last.

Advertising and statements by traders

Claims made by sellers or manufacturers about the quality of goods in advertising materials like brochures, leaflets and magazine adverts, must be true. If you were persuaded to buy something because of claims made in advertising material which turn out not to be true, you can use this as evidence to complain that the goods aren’t satisfactory.

Wear and tear

A seller isn’t responsible for fair wear and tear, so you can’t claim goods are unsatisfactory just because they’ve become a bit worn over time. For goods to be unsatisfactory they need to be faulty when you bought them, even if you didn’t discover the fault until later. If the goods don’t last as long as they should, this suggests that they were faulty from the beginning.

Faults brought to your attention

You can’t claim that an item isn’t of satisfactory quality if it only has faults you were told about before you bought it. For example, if you buy a coat which has a label saying there’s a hole in it, you can’t complain later about the hole.

You don’t have to examine items before buying them. This means that if you haven’t spotted something wrong before buying an item you can still claim it isn’t of satisfactory quality. This applies even if you would have spotted the defect if you’d examined it closely. However, if you don’t complain really quickly, you may have to accept a repair, replacement or partial refund, rather than a full refund.

What can you do if goods are not of satisfactory quality?

If goods aren’t of satisfactory quality you may have the right to return them to the seller and claim a refund. However, you may lose this right if you have accepted the goods. If this happens, you can still ask the seller for a repair, replacement or partial refund.


In order to persuade a trader or a Court to resolve a dispute which might have arisen over the condition of a vehicle you may need to put up a convincing argument that it was not of Satisfactory Quality, was unsafe or was not fit for purpose at the time you bought it.

My expertise is in producing evidentially strong reports which determine where they can that vehicles are:  

*    Of Satisfactory Quality

*    Fit for purpose

*    Safe & roadworthy

*    Free from defects which do not affect Satisfactory Quality

*    Clear of “at risk” markers on their recorded histories

*    Correctly MOT’d prior to purchase if that is the motor trader’s representation

*    Correctly described by the motor trader

*    Priced fairly according to their description

*    Accurately represented in terms of recorded and stated mileage

*    Of a satisfactory appearance & finish for the price paid

An evidentially strong report on my detailed examination  of a vehicle covering the points above and many others could be the difference between successfully negotiating terms which could justify rejection of a vehicle with a refund or satisfying a Court that finding in your favour is a fair and equitable judgement – see my Testimonials page for examples of what my Clients have said of my reports and the results they have helped them achieve.

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