Consumers who purchase used vehicles must be careful to make sure that they know exactly what they are buying. A car is a specialty item for which most buyers do not have the expertise to evaluate independently. For that reason, consumers who buy a used car should take it to a mechanic in order to ensure that the car is fit for sale. Xabi saw an ad online and found that the description of the car fit his needs. He relied on that ad when he purchased the car. Unfortunately for Xabi, the car he purchased did not fit the description as advertised, and this is the source of his dilemma.
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the purchased goods must correspond with the description. The description of the car included many details that were later determined to be false due to the fact that the car was actually two cars that had been put together. Xabi relied on the description of the car when he decided to purchase it. The first was that the car only had 10,000 miles on it. Giving a specific mileage provides a warranty. If the seller had stated only that the car had “low mileage”, Xabi would not have grounds to sue on that basis. The next important detail was that the car had just been serviced and that the seller could provide a full service history, both of which were false. Finally, the car description stated that the seller had a 12-month title. The title is not legitimate because, having been made up of two cars, the vehicle would also have two VIN numbers which would make it impossible to register. Most importantly, Xabi is a consumer and not an expert, so he could legally rely on the description of the car that the seller had provided.
The next consideration would be the implied term of satisfactory quality and fitness. Because the seller was selling the vehicle as a previous owner and not as a business, this part of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply to Xabi. He cannot use this part of the law to invalidate the sale based on a lack of merchantable quality. Had the seller sold the car as part of a company transaction, he would have been responsible to ensure that the vehicle was fit for sale, which the vehicle in question was not.
Xabi made several mistakes upon purchasing the vehicle. The first was that he chose to view the vehicle on an occasion where his time was limited. Xabi should have set aside enough time to take a good look at the vehicle, ask the seller questions, review the service history, and take it to a mechanic. It is important when buying a used vehicle from an independent seller to have it checked over by an expert. An auto mechanic can spot problems that a layperson would not know to look for. A mechanic would have discovered that the car was not the same as advertised.
Based on the implied term as to description, Xabi is entitled to seek a remedy from the seller. Under most circumstances, the seller would have the option of repairing or replacing the vehicle until it meets the description of the car that Xabi wished the purchase. Unfortunately for the seller, it is impossible to repair the vehicle because half of it is missing and Xabi did not agree to purchase a car that had been reconstructed with new parts. If the seller has the car described in the ad, Xabi could be given that car as a replacement. This possibility is unlikely, so the seller will have to refund Xabi’s $7,500 and take back the car.
In conclusion, it is the blatant inaccuracy of the vehicle’s description that will entitle Xabi to a full refund. Ads for used vehicles are usually less specific, using attractive terms which cannot be used as a warranty of fitness such as “low mileage”, “runs good” and “in good condition”. The fact that Xabi was careless in his purchase of the vehicle will not hurt him financially – this time. However, he still must sue the seller, and this can take time and become expensive.
Wikipedia, Sale of Goods Act 1979, retrieved 17 January 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sale_of_goods_act_1979