/ Motoring

Brief cases: used car warranty woes

When a member’s car became faulty after only a month since buying it used from a dealer, they turned to Which? Legal for help. Have you ever had issues with a used car’s warranty?

Which? Legal member Paul bought a used BMW for £8,350 in summer 2018. After only a month, the car began losing coolant, and the dealer identified that the issue was caused by a seal or O-ring leak.

However, during the time Paul was trying to arrange a repair with the dealer, the car overheated and needed to be towed to a different garage. Paul had to have his car fixed immediately to get back on the road, at a cost of £841.

Unfortunately this repair by a third party was not covered under the terms and conditions of his warranty, and he was stuck with the bill. He contacted us for advice.

Third-party repairs

The team advised Paul to contact the dealer and ask it for a contribution towards the repair that was carried out by the third-party garage. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, it’s the dealer’s responsibility to ensure that the cars it sells are of satisfactory quality.

Read our guide to second-hand car rights

Arguably, the car was not up to standard, as it suffered a coolant leak so soon after purchase. The dealer should have carried out the necessary repairs within a reasonable time, and without charge.

Paul was in a difficult position legally because the dealer had initially offered a repair, but this was carried out by a third party without its authorisation.

Considering the circumstances, the dealer offered Paul £504 towards the cost of repairing his car. Paul was willing to accept this amount in order to resolve the matter swiftly.

‘Satisfactory quality’

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that if anything you’ve bought is not of satisfactory quality, then you’re entitled to have it repaired or replaced.

It’s advisable to give the supplier the opportunity to do this first, before taking the matter further.

By accepting the dealer’s offer towards the cost of his repair, Paul avoided the time and expense of going to court.

It can prejudice a claim if a repair is done without the trader’s knowledge, so accepting the offer also avoided the risk of litigation.

Have you ever had issues with a used car? If so, did the dealer deal with the problems in a satisfactory way? Let us know your experiences.


I purchased a second hand Subaru Outback. This was bought from a dealer some 160 miles from where I live. At the time of actually sealing the deal the garage stated that they would cover any necessary repairs for 3 months. At this stage I stated that as I lived so far away I would seek the expertise of an official Subaru agent in the event of any problems. A short time later I did have a problem so took the Subaru to a Subaru agent who stated that the replacement front wheel bearing would be around £1200. I telephoned the seller garage. They were surprised but I told them that this was what had been agreed. They spoke to the Subaru reception and authorised the necessary repair. All good, that is until the other front wheel bearing also went the same way as the other front. I telephoned the seller garage, this was within the guarantee period, but they refused to pay. I was left with the bill. Maybe I should have spoken to the Which Legal team?

As so often happens with ‘Brief cases’ we don’t have enough information to understand the case. If the dealer had identified a cooling leak, perhaps they should have advised the owner not to drive the car until the seal or O-ring had been replaced because overheating due to loss of coolant can cause severe engine damage.

Hi wavechange. We can be limited on what we’re able to publish when it comes to the dispute, the full advice the advisors gave and the full legal position. The amount of space the section occupies in the magazine can also be another reason we have to present a more ‘brief’ summary of the case.

Although we do not know the details of the conversations between Paul and the dealer, I agree that it would have been advisable to avoid driving the car until it was repaired. Continuing using the car could have contributed to it overheating, resulting in the need for the immediate repair.

This action could have further complicated a potential legal claim, which is another reason why settling for £504 was advisable.

Thanks for replying, Thomas. We do not know whether the dealer said it was OK for Paul to use the car until it could be repaired, offered no advice or advised him not to use the car, or whether the possibility of a loan car was considered. The offer of £504 towards the repair seems very generous.

Questions left hanging are why the car was not left with the dealer originally for repair or taken back to the original dealer when towed, and why it was driven whilst losing coolant. I wonder if the dealer was contacted to say the car was at a different garage for repair and to discuss the costs.

Hi Malcolm. In this situation, Paul chose to continue using the car out of necessity. Due to this personal necessity Paul also chose to get the repair done as soon as possible, instead of taking it back to the dealer. He contacted the dealer about this repair after the fact.

I agree that in an ideal world it would have been better to choose one of the following:

1 – leave the car with the dealer until it is repaired in the first instead, or
2 – transport the car back to the dealer when it overheated, or
3 – contact the dealer and ask for them to authorise a repair by a third-party with the promise that they will cover the cost

Often, we do find that the legal disputes we deal with rarely fall into an ideal situation. This may be because a person only has access to one car and needs it to get to work or care for family, or perhaps a variety of other possible reasons. Every case we deal with is different, which will always impact on the advice we’re able to give and how successfully we can deal with a case. I hope this helps.

Thomas, thanks for responding.
I agree with your comments about the real world. Nevertheless if the owner contributed to the problem by not getting a timely fix and exacerbating the problem then I think they share part of the responsibility. I don’t know how much it would have cost the original dealer to fix the problem but, under the circumstances, I think the settlement seems more than fair.

Thomas, the value of “Brief Cases” should be in informing us of the exact relevant circumstances of the case so that we can learn from them. Somewhere Which? say that lack of space prevents them from giving full information. I do not see this as a good reason – it is surely possible to give a concise list of the relevant facts. In this case it seems to me among the pertinent facts that are missing are:
1. Did the dealer advise against driving the car until it was fixed.
2. Did the dealer offer a repair in a reasonable time (given the availability of spare parts for example).
Without such information I’d suggest the article is not particularly helpful, although it does promote Which? Legal.

I have a nightmare story regarding warranty.
I purchased a BMW 318i from Imperial Car Supermarket in Chertsey. The car had done 49,000 miles and had full service history. They sold me a full maintenance and repair RAC Warranty and they arranged the finance through Santander. I took it back to them for its 55,000 mile full service. At 60,000 miles, exactly one year after purchase, the car went into limp mode and the onboard computer instructed me to drive to the nearest service station, so I did. they diagnosed timing chain issues.
I called RAC Warranty (The Warranty Group) and was told the fault was covered. But then they sent a DEKRA engineer to inspect the car. This meant dismantling it. I called RAC Warranty, they refused the claim stating the part – timing chain guide – was past its life cycle. Everybody I have spoken to disagrees. The service engineer has 10 years service at BMW under his belt, he says it’s premature failure. The DEKRA report said nothing to support the The Warranty Group’s claim.
Imperial Car Supermarkets did nothing! They offered no help and have stopped communication.
I made a Subject Access request to The Warranty Group and the recordings I received were of the internal calls in The Warranty Group as well as my phone calls. In them, a staff member can clearly be heard admitting I have a valid claim. Another says he was thinking of offering nothing to “see what comes back” . The Warranty Group are nothing more than chancers. I made a formal complaint, they took three weeks to consider it and then turn it down. I have hired an independent inspection firm to inspect my car, at great expense, then I will be forced to make a claim for damages far greater than the initial repair cost. I would be very interested in your thoughts and comments.

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When timing chains were heavy duty and sometimes duplex (i.e. double) they generally lasted very well. Having had a look at examples of those used on this BMW are very lightweight look more like bicycle chains. In discussions about premature failure of timing chains – irrespective of make and model – the importance of changing the oil is regularly stressed.

I suggest taking a subscription to Which? Legal and get some legal advice.

The main problem with these engines seems to be wear in the chain guide and tensioner which can be detected by rattling from the engine at switch off as the chain is rather loose. The chain may not need replacing. It seems that the warranty should cover it (unless it has passed a replacement date or not been serviced correctly) and it would be sensible to replace the chain at the same time.

What level of RAC warranty came with the car? You could claim from your finance company, I believe, if you do not get satisfaction.

A couple of years ago, my partner’s son had a timing chain issue having bought a BMW from a company called Big Motoring World – his engine needed replacement but fortunately, or so we thought he had bought a warranty for £1,000 and had a legitimate claim under that warranty. Turned out this was a non insurance warranty and despite being with Warranties2000 was in essence BIG’s own cover. Anyway as you’d expect they refused cover saying the damage was caused by it being driven whilst broken. We weighed up options and eventually went to the FOS and we were hugely relieved when they agreed it should have been covered. That relief turned to bitterness when we found out that the £1,000 warranty had a claim limit of …… £1,000 with a £100 excess. Yep, they told him he could claim £900 for a policy that cost him £1,000. As an insurance professional I got the FOS to agree that the limit applied after the excess so he got £1,000.

Yes, in theory further non wear and tear damage was covered but on a BMW would something that serious really go wrong again and we had already seen how difficult it was to make one claim let alone two..
Clearly they didn’t draw that limit to him when they sold it otherwise he would never have bought it. (and we ARE talking about second hand car dealers). He could have come home and spent a lot less on a policy giving cover for the full engine replacement cost but inexplicably, the Ombudsman said he should have read his warranty document cover to cover and found the limits. They did not think it was mis-sold and were pretty disparaging about him – suggesting he was at fault.

It left a very bitter taste as he ended up over £6,000 out of pocket having done what looked like the right thing.

Seems to me the government need to get to grips with any Point of Sale products and give more consumer protection.

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When we strike a trade deal with the USA, would you like to import US law as well? Or do you think it will be imposed? i’d like to exclude their gun law.

I sympathise, GfourB, but think your partner’s son bought the wrong warranty, since the cover was far too low to pay for a major repair. It’s ridiculous that a £1000 warranty should only allow two claims of this amount.

When a timing chain or timing belt (more common these days) breaks or an ancillary component such as a tensioner fails, the result is often expensive damage. A wearing timing chain may rattle, suggesting the need for prompt investigation, and timing belts should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s service schedule. It’s vital to find out about the service history when buying any secondhand car.

It would be good if Which? reported on the poor value of some warranties. Back in the 1980s they pointed out the cost of warranties on small electrical goods, which could exceed the cost of the item covered.

Duncan – Could you please explain how US [Federal] law would protect a consumer who bought an inadequate warranty? The Financial Ombudsman Service presumably did not judge it to have been miss-sold but did recognise that the seller had not applied the terms of the warranty correctly and ensured that the buyer obtained the full value available under the warranty . Does the USA have an equivalent of our FOS to protect purchasers of financial products from miss-selling and illegal contracts?

I agree with Wavechange that the warranty did not provide the cover that was ultimately required. However, unless its cover provisions and its terms and conditions were deliberately misrepresented by the car dealer, it was the responsibility of the buyer to check that it was adequate or to accept the consequences. It is not unusual for car buyers to feel that there has been an element of pressure selling but in itself that is not illegal so long as the customer has the opportunity to consider the offer, is given time to read any relevant documentation, is apprised of all material facts, and is treated fairly.

Car dealing is a sharp business and warranties are profitable adjuncts to the primary sale. We have to be very astute and well-informed to make sure we make the right choices at every stage. Unfortunately the customer is frequently at a disadvantage in any negotiations.

Although there is nothing illegal or unusual about a warranty being provided by the seller [so long as it is adequately funded and underwritten] there is a lot to be said for buying the warranty separately and independently (a) to hedge against any conflict of interest, and (b) to avoid the bundling of the warranty purchase together with the car purchase in a ‘deal’ in such a way that the customer might not get the most suitable cover. This security comes at a price, of course, and one of the salesmanship ploys is to convince the customer that such an arrangement is not beneficial and too expensive. There are training courses on how to sell but I have never seen one on how to buy.

It seems to me that the malpractices identified in the “auto dealer fraud” website cited by Duncan have their equivalents in UK law. However, I don’t believe for one minute that there are no ‘stings’ or rip-offs in America despite the reputedly superior legal codes. At least the buyer in this case had support and obtained a remedy through the Financial Ombudsman Service at no cost to himself whereas the American process seems to be dependent on employing a lawyer and taking proceedings through the courts.

GfourB – As you can see, a fair amount of consideration has been given here to your case but we are neither experts nor lawyers. One way of testing the likelihood of a successful action against Big Motoring World would be to see if your home insurance policy includes legal action cover; if so and you submit your case the insurer’s lawyers would indicate whether you have good grounds to pursue your case against the dealer.

Alternatively, for no charge, you could take your case and all relevant documents and statements to Citizen’s Advice for a legal consultation. You would probably have to make an appointment.

You could consult Which? Legal who would prepare a case for you if their lawyers considered it was worth while. There is a fee payable for that service but their people are specialists and experts in consumer rights and the law on the sale of goods and services. Go to –

I think this is the only viable approach, John, especially since the ombudsman has been involved.

There have been many problems with BMW timing chains, so it might be worth GfourB checking if there have been problems with the model involved. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/23p5j5wzPtYflS7kFvmKVZf/bmw-deny-engine-failures-are-due-to-manufacturing-fault

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I understand that while there may be good consumer protection laws, enforcing your claim may require the services of a lawyer – either costly, or on a contingency basis which I presume is where they take it on only if there is a pretty certain chance of winning. The same would happen here with legal protection insurance – take the case on of it looks an odds-on win. I do not know whether they have the equivalent of our small claims court where the fees are low and the process seemingly simple.

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I agree, Malcolm. The US does not “defend its citizens against unscrupulous dealers in car sales”, it merely provides a legislative basis on which a claim can be pursued through the courts. I would suggest that the full raft of consumer rights and protections in the UK, together with advisory services and dispute resolution facilities, are probably as good as you will find anywhere and better than in most countries.

I cannot see any criticism of the dealer as being “unscrupulous” in this case.

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duncan, as far as I can see we know no history of the car, mileage or age. Many used car dealers include a 3 month warranty (franchised dealers 12 months). Was the buyer free to read the terms of the warranty offered? It is extraordinarily bad value.

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Duncan – You are alleging that the car dealer was deceitful, dishonest and deliberately selling a car they knew to be seriously defective; serious accusations.

I saw no evidence of that in the comment from GfourB, but if that is in fact the case there are ample remedies available in the UK for such misconduct. A court would, of course, hear both sides of such a case whereas we only have part of the story; this limits the conclusions we can reach.

To add to Malcolm’s list of things we don’t know about this case, we don’t know the full text of the warranty documents and how they were presented, nor anything about the particular site from which the car was bought or any other customer experiences except some mixed reviews [some excellent] on TrustPilot, so until there is evidence of wrongdoing we have to accept that there was no illegal conduct. This might seem hard, although I sympathise with the buyer and his family, but I cannot see a line of legal action without a lot more information.

The question whether somebody would buy a car with high mileage depends on how much they are prepared to spend and how they wish to use it, but, as Malcolm has said, we have no relevant information in this case.

You drew attention to reviews on TrustPilot. They are available on line to be read in advance of proceeding with a purchase. If there are some unfavourable reviews that should be a warning to take special care.

I have looked at the Warranties 2000 website and can find no evidence of any formal link between the company and Big Motoring World. The ‘About’ section is quite informative. Most car dealers offer warranties from [and act as agents for] a preferred provider but there is no compulsion to take one. Even if there is a connexion, I am not aware that it is a legal requirement to disclose it although I have seen documents where such a relationship is declared in the terms and conditions. In respect of the condition of the vehicle purchased this point is not material. The dealer made a mistake in interpreting the provision made by the warranty and the status of the excess but this was corrected on further recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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As far as I can see Warranty2000 are a commercial company offering warranties through the motor trade and online. Various packages for which can get a quote. The warranty offered will depend upon car type, age and mileage and presumably the terns were available to the customer when the car was bought. This might be just a bad purchase decision.

Bjg Motoring World seem to give a 3 month warranty with a sale.

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Duncan – Since we have no direct evidence of the discussions that led to the purchase of the warranty that took place at the car dealer’s site it is not fair to speculate.

The Big Motoring World Group operates from two large sales sites in Kent and sells thousands of cars every year. If there are adverse reviews clearly available for public inspection in advance of purchase then potential buyers need to be cautious.

The company says it is one of Motor Trader‘s top ten independent dealerships in the country and has been in existence for over 30 years.

I cannot understand why you are trying so hard to make out that the company is corrupt or trading illegally without producing a shred of evidence to support those contentions. Personally I think that is an irresponsible misuse of Which? Conversation and cannot be of any help or comfort to the car buyer in this case or to other potential purchasers from the company.

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I have not seen a formal link between the companies but I think it irrelevant. A car warranty was sold to a car buyer. It just looks like a poor purchase.

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Alison Victory says:
20 May 2020

Bought a second hand Polo in 2018. Throttle valve housing broke just after warranty and rendered the car useless and cost £1000 to repair. Both the dealership and VW MD Andrew Savvas said it’s just bad luck but is it? According to a number of mechanics I spoke to this part should last for 100,000 miles. Mine broke at less than 35,000. Apparently this has become a common problem over the last couple of years with Polo’s. I am in the process of going through the small claims court as all I was offered was a token gesture by the dealership of money off labour costs should I pop my car in for a service. I live 103 miles away and yet the MD of VW Uk operations thinks this is a fair offer of compensation. Undoubtedly VW has nothing but contempt for its customers. Never again.

Paul Lander says:
30 June 2020

I’m purchasing a car from Big Motoring World, I’ve opted for the warranty but after reading this I’m having second thoughts, would you advise to avoid this.

Could always look for a warranty elsewhere