There are several factors that go into determining the rights of the parties on the sale of a used vehicle that has a problem. They include who the parties are, what they discussed, whether they had a written contract, the age and condition of the vehicle, the price paid, and what the problem was.
When you buy a used vehicle from a car dealer, certain conditions are implied under the law. The vehicle must be:
- “fit for the purpose” you bought it for,
- of “merchantable” quality,
- “durable for a reasonable period of time,” and
- “as described” by the dealer.
These conditions are sometimes referred to as the “legal warranty.” They are established by a law called the Sale of Goods Act. They apply regardless of whether the dealer mentions them. They are in addition to any warranty the dealer or manufacturer provide. (Note that with a used vehicle, a contract of sale can exclude these conditions — as long as it clearly does so.)
If the conditions aren't met, the dealer is said to have breached the legal warranty.
In your situation, you could argue the vehicle wasn’t “durable for a reasonable period of time.” What is a reasonable time will depend on many factors, including:
- the age and condition of the vehicle,
- the price paid for it,
- the nature of the problem,
- the discoverability of the problem, and
- the use of the vehicle after the purchase.
An undetected problem that arises from the regular wear, tear and age of a used vehicle will not result in a breach the implied warranty of durability. For example, in one case an 8-year-old car with 140,000 kms, bought for $5,700, was found to be durable for a reasonable period of time even though its engine failed after one month of normal driving.
That said, when a vehicle with moderate use has extensive problems in a short period of time after the sale, there is an argument the durability condition has not been met. This case is an example.
If you can show the dealer breached the legal warranty, they can be required to pay for the repairs. For claims of under $5,000, you can apply to work out your dispute with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This is a cheaper and faster option than going to court.
Our page on if you have a problem with a used car you bought from a dealer provides more detail on your rights and options. For example, it includes a template for a complaint letter you could send to the dealer.