Citizens Advice Bureau Jersey

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If you have a problem with a second-hand vehicles 

Extent: Jersey
Updated 23 July 2019

Words you may need to know

Second-hand – this is not new, it has been used by someone before you

Vehicle – is a mechanically driven vehicle for use on a road and any trailer attached to the vehicle.  Vehicles can be cars, lorries, tractors, motorbikes etc

Unroadworthiness – all vehicles have to be safe to be on the road. If it is not safe it is unroadworthy

Guarantee / warranty – this is a promise that something is as it’s supposed to be and an agreement to put things right after something has been bought. It is usually valid for a period of time such as three months, a year, or longer.

Guarantor – the person who makes a promise under a guarantee

Impounded – taken off you

Prosecute - legal action taken against someone who it is believed has broken the law

Registration document – every vehicle has a registration document which provides information about the vehicle including the type of vehicle it is and who the owner is

DVS – The Driver and Vehicle Standards department is a States department which deals with all matters related to vehicles e.g. testing, registration etc . It is at La Collette in St Helier.

Commercial  something running as a business


There are a number of areas in which you can get problems after you have bought a second-hand vehicle:-

1. Unroadworthiness,
2. Faulty straight after you have bought it,
3. Keeps breaking down,
4. Guarantee / warranty.



What does 'unroadworthy' mean?

Under Article 81 of the Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956 it is an offence to sell or drive an unroadworthy vehicle. In deciding if a vehicle is not roadworthy five areas of the vehicle are looked at:-

1. tyres
2. brakes
3. steering
4. lights
5. bodywork and exhaust

A fault in any of these areas could result in an offence. All of them have a direct effect on the vehicle's roadworthiness. Mechanical faults such as in the engine or fuel system, do not affect the vehicle's roadworthiness.

A decision on whether a vehicle is roadworthy is made by the Motor Traffic Officers following an inspection. Inspections are conducted at the DVS Department  at La Collette, St Helier for a number of reasons:-

1. as a result of being stopped in a road-side check
2. when a registered vehicle is brought into the island (so as to check chassis/engine number against documentation)
3. following an accident at the request of the police
4. following a complaint to the police, usually by the person who bought a  faulty vehicle

A vehicle owner can’t refuse to have a vehicle inspected. It can be impounded by law if an offence is suspected.

A person who has bought a vehicle who feels that it may be unroadworthy should contact the police who will arrange a vehicle inspection - a member of the public can’t go straight to the DVS to ask them to inspect a vehicle.

When a vehicle is found to be unroadworthy the police may decide to prosecute the seller, or owner, depending on the circumstances. If the seller was prosecuted and the vehicle scrapped, the person who bought the vehicle would have to claim compensation for any loss through a civil action in the courts. Depending on their circumstances, legal aid may be available. Sometimes the person who sold it may agree to pay back what the buyer paid for the vehicle after the Police and DVS have been involved.


Sale for spares

If a vehicle is 'sold for spares' its registration document should be filled out on the back saying that the vehicle has been scrapped. The registration document is then sent to the DVS by the seller for the car registration to be cancelled and the registration plates need to be removed because the vehicle is then officially 'scrapped'. Driving it on the road after the sale is an offence.

DVS suggest that a written agreement should be drawn up by the seller and buyer saying that the vehicle has been sold for spares only. The agreement should be signed by both and the seller and buyer should keep a copy.

If an agreement has not been drawn up and if the buyer then carries on driving the vehicle on the road and the vehicle is then found to be unroadworthy, the seller could be prosecuted for selling an unroadworthy vehicle unless there is some proof that the sale was for spares - eg a JEP advertisement, or a statement on the receipt to that effect.


Vehicle faulty straight after sale

If you have bought a vehicle which straight away shows signs of serious faults it should be returned to the person who sold it to you. The faults may mean that it is not roadworthy ( see above), in which case you may get your money back rather than having to make a complaint to the police.

For information on your legal rights when buying goods see 13.1.0.L1  Consumer Complaints

If you bought the vehicle from a garage you can check whether the company is a member of the Jersey Motor Trades Federation (JMTF), If you are not happy with the outcome of discussions with the garage owner or the garage owner does not solve the problem you could contact the JMTF to try and resolve the matter. The JMTF can be contacted emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - but only if the trader is a member. You should also:-

1. get the support of a qualified mechanic who has inspected the vehicle.
2. put details of the complaint in a letter to the garage, keeping a copy
3. contact the finance company, if the vehicle has been bought by hire purchase or conditional sale, see  (‘Vehicles purchased by Hire Purchase’ below)
4. get legal advice, if all else fails


Private sales

Most vehicle sales sold by individual members of the public carry no guarantee or warranty, and the vehicle is 'sold as seen'. If the buyer does not have the vehicle inspected and checked, and the seller has made no false claims, then the buyer can’t expect any refund if a breakdown happens at a later stage.


Commercial sales

Vehicles bought from traders with commercial premises are often offered for sale with a guarantee or warranty covering parts and/or service for a set period ( see above). When there is no such guarantee the buyer has to rely on the goodwill of the trader if there is any problem after purchase, or it may be possible to exchange the faulty vehicle for another vehicle. Usually a vehicle carrying no guarantee is 'sold as seen', and the price is usually at the lowest end of the market. In such cases, the 'buyer must beware'.


Guarantee / warranty

Most commercially sold vehicles carry a guarantee or warranty covering parts and/or labour for periods such as three or six months. Where the trader or person who sold the vehicle does not have a garage himself the guarantee or warranty is often 'sold on' to another firm to carry out the work. The vehicle owner does not have any right to choose who does repair work under a guarantee or warranty, and it is important that the buyer reads the wording of any written guarantee or warranty to check the terms. Often misunderstandings happen when the terms of a guarantee are not clear. In Jersey 'verbal' warranties do have the force of law but the problem is proving that such a 'verbal' warranty ever happened. Sometimes a salesman may give the impression that a warranty covers everything in the hope that he will reach a deal, so get something in writing if you can and study it carefully.

Problems usually happen when you have had the vehicle fixed and are not happy with the quality of repair work done, or when a vehicle has the same or other problems. You should take the vehicle to another garage (preferably the manufacturer's 'main dealer'), to have the problem identified, or ask the Guarantor to arrange for an independent inspection of the vehicle at the manufacturer’s garage. You may have to pay for any inspection, but you should get a written report on what the problem is.

You must then write to the vehicle seller (keeping a copy) asking for any faults listed in the written report to be put right under the guarantee. If the work is not carried out to your satisfaction, you should then consider the following:-

1. if the seller is a garage and a member of the JMTF, the Federation should be asked to step in
2. if the vehicle has been purchased by conditional sale, or hire purchase, the finance company giving the loan should be told of the problem
3. the garage can be warned that the work will be done by another garage and if they do not pay for it, legal action probably in the Petty Debts Court, will take place.


Vehicles purchased by hire purchase or conditional sale

Under a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement the garage sells the vehicle to the finance company which then makes an agreement to hire or sell it to you. The company has an 'interest' in the vehicle and can bring pressure to bear on the garage if there are any faults which could affect how much the vehicle is worth.

The finance company will want you to have put the complaint in writing to the garage giving them the chance to put matters right before becoming involved.

Should you have to sue the garage, the finance company will be part of the action as an 'interested third party' unless your lawyer has agreed with them to keep them out.