Considering buying a car?

  • check the MOT history of the vehicle on the GOV.UK website
  • check the vehicle description against DVLA records for free
  • make sure you test drive the vehicle
  • examine the vehicle carefully in daylight on a dry day – does the bodywork look in good condition? Are there any areas where the paint doesn’t match or are there any traces of paint on windows or the plastic trim? If there are this could be a sign the car has been re-sprayed following an accident
  • make sure you see all the relevant paperwork associated with the car, including the V5 (vehicle registration document) and service book
  • find more advice on where to buy a used car from the Money helper

Unroadworthy cars

The Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence to sell an unroadworthy car. However be aware that the Act doesn't distinguish between private sellers and motor traders.

What’s an unroadworthy car?

A vehicle is unroadworthy if you have issues with the following:

  • steering and steering gear
  • brakes and braking systems
  • tyres
  • exhaust systems
  • seatbelts and seatbelt anchorages
  • general condition (corrosion, suspension etc)

What can trading standards do?

It's a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. If you sell one, you could be prosecuted and if found guilty may be subject to a fine of £5000 on summary conviction.

When will trading standards act?

A prosecution will only be considered if we've evidence to show that the vehicle was dangerously unroadworthy at the time of sale.

It's our policy not to prosecute private individuals for selling unroadworthy cars.

If your car has been purchased from a private individual, you may be able to take action against the seller yourself.

Where does this evidence come from?

The vehicle needs to be examined by someone who will be credible in court and is prepared to say that the vehicle was dangerously unroadworthy when it was sold.

The vehicle therefore needs to be examined by following these steps:

  • Have an MOT test carried out on the vehicle. 
  • If the MOT examiner’s comments indicate an unroadworthy state of the vehicle, an expert engineer’s report which can be used as evidence may be commissioned by us.

These steps should be completed within four weeks of your purchase of the vehicle.

What can I do if the engineer says the car is unroadworthy?

You should stop using the vehicle on public roads immediately - otherwise you could be in danger of committing criminal offences and your insurance will be invalid.