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I bought a car from a private seller, whose ad said the car was “fully serviced.” I had problems right away and my mechanic now says the car is unsafe to drive. What are my rights?

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I bought a car from a private seller, whose ad said the car was “fully serviced.” I had problems right away and my mechanic now says the car is unsafe to drive. What are my rights?
I bought a 15-year old Honda Acura from a private seller for $4,500. The ad said the car was in “great shape” and “fully serviced and ready to go.” When I went to test drive the car, the seller said it wasn’t properly insured and so they drove. Within days of buying it, the car wasn’t running well and was leaking oil. My mechanic tells me the car has significant oil leaks, a cracked drive belt, and improper alignment (it’s “way off centre”). My mechanic says the car isn’t safe to drive.

I bought a car from a private seller, whose ad said the car was “fully serviced.” I had problems right away and my mechanic now says the car is unsafe to drive. What are my rights? - Mario Garcia

When you buy a used vehicle, the seller must not tell you something about the vehicle which isn't true. If they do, they are said to have misrepresented the vehicle. This applies to their advertising and any statements they make at or before the time of the sale. 

In order to show misrepresentation, you would need to show: 

  • the seller made a representation that was untrue or misleading,
  • they knew or should have known — the representation was untrue or misleading, and
  • you relied on the misrepresentation in buying the vehicle.  

In showing the seller should have known their representation was untrue or misleading, you could point to:

  • they were reckless in making the representation — they recklessly made it without knowing it was true or false, or
  • they failed to use reasonable care to ensure the representation was accurate and not untrue or misleading.  

If you can show the seller misrepresented the vehicle, you have options:

  • You can ask for the seller to pay for any repairs.
  • You can cancel the agreement, return the vehicle, and ask for your money back. Act immediately if you want to pursue this option. If you wait, it gets more difficult to prove that a fault is the cause of any problem, and not just normal wear and tear.
  • You can ask for a discount if you still want the vehicle.
Written June 11, 2019

For more detail, see our page on if you have a problem with a used car you bought from a private seller. It includes steps you can take to deal with the problem. For example, it includes a template for a complaint letter you could send to the seller, and options for bringing a legal action.