A car I bought from a dealer broke down within a week. What are my rights?

It’s a 12-year old Acura with 180,000 kms. My mechanic says the engine is shot. The dealer says the car was in good working order when it left the lot, and they’re not willing to take it back or fix it. I thought I was playing it safe buying from a car dealer rather than a private seller.



Kamloops, BC

When you buy a used vehicle, certain conditions are implied under the law. One of them is that the vehicle must be durable for a reasonable period of time. The dealer can exclude this implied durability condition, but they must state they’ve done so in clear and unambiguous language. 

Let’s say the condition wasn’t waived — when it comes to durability under the law, what is a reasonable amount of time? Consider these factors:

  • the age and condition of the vehicle  

  • the price paid for it

  • the nature of the problem

  • the discoverability of the problem

  • the use of the vehicle after the purchase

An undetected problem that comes out of regular wear, tear and age of a used vehicle isn’t enough for a successful claim. 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’s an argument that the durability condition has not been met. In this case, where a used car was 10 years old and said to be in good condition and with around 102,000 kms on it, the dealer was ordered to pay for repairs.

How long after you left the lot did the engine fail? How extensive is the issue, and how much will the repairs cost? These things are important in determining whether the dealer can be held liable. 

Our page on if you have a problem with a used car you bought from a dealer has more detail on your rights and options. For example, it includes a template for a complaint letter you could send to the dealer. If they still refuse to pay for the repairs, you can apply to work out your dispute with the Civil Resolution Tribunal if the claim is less than $5,000. If it’s more, you’ll have to go to Provincial Court.

There’s a lot to consider in these cases, so it’s very tough to make a “call” as to whether you’ll be successful. Consider asking a lawyer’s opinion; here are some free or low-cost options for legal advice. Also, check out our webinar about buying a used car in BC for more information.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in September 2023

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