I just found hidden damage on a friend's two-year-old car. Is the dealer liable after this long?

My friend asked me to look at the grill on his car the other day. It looked like it suffered damage and was covered up with plastic body treatment. On further inspection, I found the front bumper mounting was broken and the front chassis beam was bent. Somebody had tried to disguise the damage to the chassis with paint. If I had not removed parts, this damage would never have been seen on a look around. My friend bought this car from a reputable main dealer almost two years ago, but is now very disappointed with this car and is afraid the main dealer will not be interested. The car is less than three years old and with only 19,000 miles on the clock. What course of action do you suggest?

Asked on 19 November 2020 by Derek Eames

Answered by Georgia Petrie
That sounds like a case of mis-selling to me, though the dealer could easily say they didn't know about the damage either. I'd also argue that the dealer may have breached the Unfair Trading Regulations (2008) - which prohibits them from engaging in unfair business practices like giving false information and giving insufficient information about a vehicle. Your friend is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so they theoretically can take action against the supplying dealer. The issue will be proving that this damage was caused before they purchased the vehicle, rather than causing it themselves. There will also be the issue of the wear and tear over the last two years of ownership. The law states that after six months, the burden is on the buyer of the vehicle to prove that the vehicle was faulty at the time of purchase if you want to pursue a claim for repair or replacement. But you have legal rights for up to six years (five years if you bought the car in Scotland) due to the statute of limitations (The Limitation Act 1980 and The Prescription and Limitation Act (Scotland)). But the longer you’ve had the car, the harder it'll be to prove that the problem was there when the trader sold it.

I would advise your friend to contacts Citizen's Advice. This won't be a clear cut case, but it will require contacting the supplying dealer to notify them - as well as a potential independent report on the damage for evidence. Everything your friend needs to know about their consumer rights and potential legal action can be found here: www.honestjohn.co.uk/problems-with-a-new-or-used-c...#
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