A faulty tow bar caused damage to our car - who is liable?

We purchased a used BMW X5 from Vines in Redhill. The car already had a detachable tow bar attached. BMW didnt supply the key for it so we never removed it.

We used the tow bar for the first time after owning the car for 3-4 months and the towbar came off while we had a trailer attached. The trailer smashed into the back of the car causing damage to the rear bumper and reverse sensors.

BMW asked us to go to an appointment they organised with a local tow bar fitting company to get this inspected. They said the tow bar was missing parts and the inside of the housing was very corroded and not fit for purpose.

They also asked us to get quotes for the repairs of the bumper so we went to our local Group 1 Worthing BMW dealer to get this.

Vines BMW have now said they would not take liability for the towbar or the damaged caused to the car, they offered to pay for the replacement part of the tow bar that was corroded as a good will gesture.

what are your thoughts on this? although tow bars do not appear in their used car warranty the item was already faulty and missing parts when we purchased the car. the car was advertised with a detachable tow bar.

What would be your recommended course of action to get this resolved and is there any organisation that would help our case?

Asked on 5 October 2023 by Darren Cooper

Answered by Craig Cheetham
While this is deeply unfortunate and you were very lucky not to have a more serious incident, from a purely legal perspective you probably don't have a claim against the BMW dealer and their goodwill gesture is just that. A tow bar is considered an accessory rather than a part of the car, and is therefore not subject to the same warranty conditions. It is always the driver's responsibility to ensure a trailer is securely connected to their vehicle and that includes an inspection of the tow bar itself to ensure it is safe. If you can't prove you did this before setting off and didn't notice any missing parts then unfortunately the law states that any liability lies with you. It may be worth an approach to BMW customer services (customer.service@bmw.co.uk) as they may consider a goodwill gesture on the basis of customer retention, but unfortunately there is no legal liability for them to do so.
Similar questions
When I bought a used car recently, I asked about the MOT and was told it was done on the 7 October. I then asked about advisories and was told it had none. The car is three years old with 9750 miles and...
I bought a used car from a dealer one week ago and it's come to light that the vehicle has been in a crash and repaired poorly. The rear nearside door and rear quarter panel, plus the bonnet, has been...
I bought a van off eBay which stated it had done 72,000 miles. When I went to collect it the owner said it was hard to find one with such low mileage. It turns out that the millage is closer to 200,000....