A consumer complains that a used car that failed eight months after he got it was not of satisfactory quality

Consumer Credit

Peter got a used car through a conditional sale agreement. He experienced an issue with the car’s water pump and head gasket, which caused a lot of damage to the engine. He got in touch with us when the finance provider refused to take responsibility.

What happened

Peter got a used car through a conditional sale agreement for £6,000. The car was around eight years old when he got it and it had travelled around 80,000 miles. Peter said he had problems as soon as he’d collected the car. He emailed the dealer to complain straightaway, and a copy of that email showed that Peter said the car was losing water. Peter took the car back to the dealer. He said he got it back two weeks later and was told all the problems had been fixed under the warranty.

A few months later, the car’s head gasket failed which caused a lot of damage to the engine. Peter had driven the car another 4,000 miles at this point. Peter wanted to give back the car and get a refund. 

When Peter complained to the finance provider, they said that they weren’t responsible for the problems because it was over eight months since the car was supplied and it had travelled 4,000 miles.

What we said

We thought that a car of this age and mileage would show signs of wear and tear and that it’s unreasonable to expect it to be in perfect condition. We said the finance provider wouldn’t be responsible for any wear and tear issues, but they would be responsible if the car was sold with defects that you wouldn’t expect on a car of this age, mileage and price. We noted that the car was around eight years old, had travelled around 80,000 miles and had a cash price of £6,000.

We thought it was clear that Peter had reported the water loss problem immediately. Given the importance of water in a car’s engine we thought that supplying the car with a leak was likely to mean it wasn’t of satisfactory quality when it was supplied.

Peter had emailed the dealer straight away about the problem, and we thought he was credible in his account that the car went back to the dealer for work to be done, particularly as he had an invoice for a hire car covering this period.  We thought it was disappointing that the dealer couldn’t find any record of having the car in for work. Overall, we thought it more likely than not that the car had a water loss problem when he got it and that he returned it to the dealer for that issue to be looked at.

We then considered whether any repair may have resolved the issue and whether the failure of the head gasket was likely to be linked to the initial water loss problem.

When the head gasket failed the car had driven a further 4,000 miles and it was eight months on from when it had been supplied. So we asked for the car to be inspected by an independent inspector. He prepared a detailed and persuasive report, which in summary noted that the likely cause of the failure of the head gasket was linked to a poorly installed water pump.

We didn’t think it was likely that Peter had installed the pump himself, and thought it's more likely that this work was done when the car went back in for repairs. We didn’t think that the head gasket failure in this instance was simply a wear and tear problem just because of the age and mileage of the car. We thought the poorly installed water pump was the probable cause for the engine overheating leading to the head gasket breach.

As the water pump was likely to have been installed to fix the water loss issue that Peter noticed when he got the car, we thought that it was more likely than not that the car was of unsatisfactory quality when it was supplied and that the attempt to repair it had been unsuccessful and led to the head gasket failure.

Because of the damage to the car and the fact that it had already had one repair, we asked the finance provider to take back the car at no cost to Peter and end the finance agreement with nothing further to pay.

We also asked them to refund the deposit, the cost of the independent inspection, the hire costs he’d incurred and to pay 8% interest on the refunded amounts. We didn’t ask them to give back any monthly payments as Peter had been able to use the car without issue until it broke down. We also suggested a payment of £150 to compensate Peter for the inconvenience he’d suffered. And we asked the finance provider to remove any adverse information from Peter’s credit file.