As a general rule, the vendor is responsible for any defect in a used car if
- the car does not conform with the information provided by the vendor. The vendor is also responsible for aspects that can be considered defects of which it was unaware.
- the vendor did not mention essential facts, of which the vendor was aware, concerning the properties or use of the car, or
- if the car is in worse condition than the consumer had a right to expect based on the age of the car, the mileage driven, the price, and information provided by the seller on the car in general.
The vendor is not responsible for a defect in a used car, if
- the defect discovered was mentioned before the sale.
- the defect is due to an accident, improper handling of the car or neglecting its appropriate servicing.
- the defect in question is due to normal wear and tear in view of the expected service life of the car or any of its parts. Faults due to use and natural wear and tear may therefore be present in a used car, but cannot be classified as defects.
Repair of a defect
Distribution of liability in the sale of a used car
When a used car is bought from a car dealer or another business, the buyer’s rights are protected under the Consumer Protection Act. The buyer must always complain about defects first to the vendor, but consumer advisors may be contacted in the case of a dispute.
The importer or another previous link in the sales chain is responsible for defects in the car, if the warranty granted by it remains valid.
If a used car is bought from a private individual, it is not the Consumer Protection Act but the Sale of Goods Act that applies. Provisions on defects are largely similar in both acts. In this case, the buyer of the car cannot seek assistance from consumer advisors or refer the case to the Consumer Disputes Board. If there are defects, the buyer should complain to the seller first. If this is unsuccessful, the matter can be referred to a district court.
As long as the manufacturer's warranty is valid, the consumer can demand that the warrantor assume liability for the defect in accordance with the warranty policy. For instance, a rust-through warranty or coverage constitutes a long-term policy. The buyer must inform the warrantor about the defect first. Should any disputes concerning warranty arise, consumers may contact the national Consumer Advisory Service and file a complaint with the Consumer Disputes Board.
Establishing a defect when the warranty is valid
The vendor is liable for any warranty it issued in accordance with the warranty policy. The vendor is also responsible for the warranty granted by the manufacturer or importer, unless the vendor has specifically stated otherwise prior to the sale.
The party granting the warranty is liable, at its own expense, to repair any defects that arise during the warranty period. The liability will be voided, however, if the warrantor can prove that the defect was caused by the buyer, as, for example, in the case of:
- improper use of the car
- failure to carry out proper maintenance in accordance with the maintenance instructions provided by the manufacturer
- external damage or an accident.
During the warranty period, the buyer cannot be required to pay for diagnostics (i.e. measures undertaken to find the fault or defect). This does not apply if the buyer has clearly brought the car in for repair groundlessly, or has caused a fault or defect of which he or she should have been aware.
Establishing a defect when the warranty has expired or no warranty applied
The vendor's liability for defects does not end when the warranty expires. However, once the warranty has expired, the buyer, not the seller, must be able to prove that the fault in question is a defect.
The seller company's liability period is defined on a case-by-case basis, on the basis of the expected useful life of the car or defective part. A fault due to natural wear and tear or improper use is not considered to constitute a defect.
If no warranty applies, the consumer must be able to prove the existence of a defect for which the company is responsible. The seller company is responsible for faults that were present in the car at the time it was transferred to the new owner, even if the fault only appears later. The seller company's liability period is defined on a case-by-case basis based on the expected useful life of the car or defective part. A fault due to natural wear and tear, an accident or improper use is not considered to constitute a defect.
If diagnostics prove the car to be without defects, in most cases the company is entitled to charge the customer a reasonable sum for diagnostics, as long as this has been mentioned or agreed in advance.
Repair of a defect