Buyers’ Rights: What to Do When Things Go Wrong with a Newly-Bought Used Car


Apr 12th, 2020

Buyers’ Rights: What to Do When Things Go Wrong with a Newly-Bought Used Car

After purchasing your new ride, the last thing you want is for something to go wrong or for your newly-bought car to turn out a “lemon.” If this happens, you should be aware of the rights that you have as a buyer. 

The law protecting car buyers in Australia is the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). So, if anything wrong happens with your newly-bought used car, you are entitled to remedies under the ACL by consumer guarantees, statutory warranty or extended warranty. Here’s how the ACL protects you.

Consumer Guarantees

These are rights acquired automatically by the consumer upon buying the car. These rights cannot be excluded or restricted even by the dealer.

When do consumer guarantees apply?

• They apply for a reasonable time after buying the car

• They apply despite the existence of any other warranties

• They apply even if other existing warranties have run out

What amounts to a reasonable time?

• The amount of time is not standard and varies with different cars.

• The reasonable time also depends on the quality as well as the price of the car.

• It is not based on other existing warranties running out.

What are the consumer guarantees?

Buyers are guaranteed that the vehicle they get is of acceptable quality, matches the description given by the seller, and is fit for the purpose made known before the purchase. The car can be sold legally. It comes with the right that you can own and use it and that it has all the car parts, repairs are available for a reasonable time, and it will live up to the promises made about its quality, condition, and performance.

Consumer guarantees do not cover accidental damage caused by the owner's negligence or misuse and anything that the owner fitted to the car after the sale.

What remedies are available?

Under consumer guarantees, a violation of consumer guarantees is corrected by either returning the vehicle to receive a replacement or a refund, getting the car repaired, and compensation for loss in value.

Statutory Warranty

In certain circumstances, you as the consumer are also entitled to a statutory warranty. It is a warranty that protects you from financial loss if the used car seems to be faulty after purchase. These warranties come in addition to consumer guarantees.

The statutory warranty is offered at no extra cost to the current car owner and granted when one buys a used car from a licensed motor dealer. Statutory warranties are required by state and territory motor car trading licensing laws. The criteria to be met for a used vehicle statutory warranty vary between states and territories.

There are two types of statutory warranties, namely; Class A and Class B.

Class A

When does it apply?

Class A applies when the car's mileage is less than 160,000 km on the day of its sale and if it has a built date of not more than ten years before its sale date.

When does it expire?

It expires after three months or the first 5,000 km, whichever occurs first.

Class B

A 'class B' statutory warranty is granted if you buy a vehicle that has travelled for 160,000 km or more on the day of sale or has a built date of more than ten years before the day of its purchase. It expires after one month or the first 1,000 km, whichever occurs first.

Exceptions to statutory warranties

There are exceptions to the application of statutory warranties. Cars bought privately, caravans used for camping, business or dwelling, commercial types, and those that can't be registered because of their design or if they had been written off are not covered by these warranties.

Dealers or auctioneers need to inform you if a vehicle does not come with a statutory warranty by clearly saying so in advertisements, placing signs at the main entrance to the dealership, or putting such notice on the windshield or price tag.

What do statutory warranties cover?

They cover most defects if a part isn’t working as it should or is too worn-out to function.

What don't they cover?

Excluded are tyre defects, batteries, airbags or radiator hoses, lights (other than hazard lights or indicators), radio, spark plug, oil and filter. Also not covered are the air conditioner as well as accidental damage caused by the owner's negligence or misuse and anything that the owner fitted to the car after the sale.

What happens upon the expiry of the statutory warranty?

The consumer still has rights to a remedy under the ACL if the car has a problem. 

Resolving Problems

You can visit or call the dealer and explain the issue. It may be for a refund or an exchange. Another option would be to write a complaint to the dealer. In the event the first two options fail, you should consider contacting your state or territory office of fair trading and taking legal action in a court or tribunal.

Extended Warranties

Some car dealers offer such at an extra cost to the purchaser. Extended warranties provide a cover that's longer than the standard dealer guarantee or manufacturer's warranty for used cars. This warranty does not replace the buyer's rights under the consumer guarantees in the ACL.

Private Sellers and Auctions

These two options do not offer the rights guaranteed under the statutory warranty, which is only available if one buys a used vehicle from a car dealer. Thus, the seller is not obliged to provide a remedy even if the goods are not fit for their intended purpose, do not meet the description, and are not of merchantable quality.

Conclusion respects your rights as a buyer. In this article, we remind you of your remedies in case a new purchase turns out a lemon and several ways to enforce your rights in case the dealer fails to honour their promise. 

By Eric Anyega