Sold a car privately with a dubious MOT - where do I stand?

I bought a classic 1990s car from a dealer for £1000 back in January. It was MOT'd in September this year and went straight through, but with an advisory for some minor rust underneath. I sold the car in October for £1200 and advertised it as being in good condition. The buyer went to get the car serviced this month and the garage pointed out to him that there was a large hole underneath. So much so that you could see through the underneath into the interior. There were also other signs of very serious corrosion. The buyer contacted the MOT station and the garage admitted that it couldn't have rusted that much in two months and that the tester must have had 'an off-day'.

Naturally, the buyer is very concerned and would like his money back on the sale, or at least a fair proportion. I certainly wouldn't have sold it or advertised it as such had I known, but also sold it in a private sale and in good faith - the buyer also didn't view and bought blind on my description. Where do I stand? Am I legally obliged to refund the buyer? Or does the garage have some liability?

Asked on 26 November 2020 by Graham

Answered by Keith Moody
Okay so there's an awful lot going on here - and as I'm sure you can appreciate quite a few chances where things could've been sorted. As it stands, while an MoT is valid for 12 months, it doesn't mean the vehicle will remain roadworthy for 12 months - just that the vehicle met the standard on the day of the test. There's also a rule of thumb that testers can only inspect what the can see. If you have concerns about the standard of the test carried out, then you can contact the DVSA and report the garage - that should be the first thing on your list. As for what happens next, it will depend on how much time and effort you want to expand on the situation.

The best thing to do here is to try and agree on something between you and the car's new owner. This could start with a third 'impartial' inspection if you have any concerns, you can then hopefully reach an arrangement. Buying a car privately doesn't give you the same protection of consumer rights you get buying from a dealer. If you buy privately, the car must match the seller’s description, be roadworthy and the seller must have the legal right to sell it to you. In this case, it didn't. However, the buyer is also responsible for ensuring the car is “of satisfactory quality’’ and “fit for purpose” before they buy it. Which in this case they didn't'. If you feel like you can't settle it between you, then you'll need to take legal advice and see whether or not the garage or the previous seller are liable.
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