How we helped our client get their money back after purchasing a defective vehicle - Jonathan Lea Network
Author: George Harrison | Trainee Solicitor
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How we helped our client get their money back after purchasing a defective vehicle

Buying a new car (whether brand new or second-hand) should be an exciting moment. However, it is very important to get things right and make sure you purchase your vehicle from a reputable dealership or private seller. There are too many unscrupulous sellers preying on those uninformed about cars, thus making it more likely for these dealers to sell a complete lemon which really should have been scrapped a long time ago, and unjustly enrich themselves as a result. We were recently successful in assisting a client who had purchased a defective vehicle from a second-hand car dealership. Although the vehicle was advertised as ‘perfect’, it was in fact completely unroadworthy and obviously dangerous to the safety of our client and other road users.

We followed our normal client onboarding process, including requesting all relevant information from them (sales invoice, V5C documentation, inspection/oil reports, photographs of the defects, WhatsApp messages, email trails et cetera). We then held a zoom call with our client to gain a full understanding of all the material facts of the case. Such a zoom call is imperative to understanding the client’s situation and finding the best way to help them. Our client had bought the defective vehicle for a high four-figure sum, and shortly thereafter found there was an alarming engine rattle and oil leak. To make matters worse, the engine warning light suddenly illuminated in yellow, indicating a serious malfunction.

To gain a greater understanding into what was going on, our client instructed the RAC to conduct a comprehensive vehicle inspection, and had a sample of oil sent to a lab for testing. The subsequent damning RAC report (alongside the oil inspection report) concluded that the vehicle had a myriad of serious and expensive defects, ranging from the engine to the cosmetics. Our client remitted this information to the dealership, but they were unresponsive and unwilling to help. At this point, our client instructed us to draft a formal letter of claim requesting a refund of the purchase price of the vehicle. In our letter, we mentioned that should such a refund not be forthcoming in a reasonable period of time, court proceedings would be instigated. It was evident that our client could rescind the contract for a repudiatory breach of contract and would be entitled to a full refund.

Because the vehicle was bought for commercial purposes, the relevant legislation in relation to this breach of contract is the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Had our client been a private customer, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 would have been appropriate. Under sections 13 and 14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the seller (second-hand car dealership, as in this case) has a contractual duty to ensure that the vehicle is as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. Pursuant to section 14(2) of the Sale of Goods Act, the definition of ‘satisfactory’ includes:

  • fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied;
  • appearance and finish;
  • freedom from minor defects;
  • safety; and
  • durability.

The dealership misrepresented the vehicle to our client, initially describing it as ‘perfect’ and advising our client prior to the purchase that it had a quality certification from the AA. The vehicle was in fact completely unroadworthy and obviously dangerous to the safety of our client and other road users. Upon paying for the vehicle, our client found that no such AA certification / inspection had been undertaken. Our client relied upon the misrepresentation to their detriment (and would not have bought the vehicle had it not been inspected by the AA).

Our letter was drafted in a clear, concise way and in line with our client’s instructions. We highlighted the wide-ranging defects in relation to the vehicle, and noted that it probably only would be worth scrap value: a significant amount less than our client paid for it. We gathered all the key evidence together (including the helpful pictures our client took of the engine warning light and oil leak, WhatsApp messages, and RAC reports) and placed these key documents within the appendices of the letter as exhibits. For ease of reference, these exhibits were referred to at various points in the letter to aid the intended recipient’s understanding of the facts of the instant situation.

Within days of our sending the formal letter of claim on our client’s behalf by email and post (as is custom), we received confirmation from our client that they had been refunded the purchase price of the vehicle in full. Clearly, the dealership realised they were at fault in selling our client a defective vehicle and were responsible for refunding our client. Ultimately, our well-considered and eloquent letter of claim ensured that court action was avoided and our client’s desired outcome was reached.

If you have recently been sold a defective vehicle (whether as a private individual or business), we would be more than happy to advise you on the next steps regardless of the perceived complexity. We will ensure that your matter is dealt with expeditiously, diligently and effectively.


Image credit: photo by Steve Freling of Motor Oomph 

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