Second Hand Cars

13.5.2 Updated on:


Under Article 81 of the Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956, it is an offence to sell or drive an unroadworthy vehicle. In deciding if a vehicle is not roadworthy, five areas of the vehicle are looked at –

  • tyres
  • brakes
  • steering
  • lights
  • bodywork and exhaust

A fault in any of these areas could result in an offence. All of them have a direct effect on the vehicle’s roadworthiness. Mechanical faults such as in the engine or fuel system do not affect the vehicle’s roadworthiness.

A decision on whether a vehicle is roadworthy is made by DVS at La Collette, St Helier for a number of reasons –

  • as a result of being stopped in a road-side check
  • when a registered vehicle is brought into the island
  • following an accident at the request of the police
  • following a complaint to the police, usually by the person who bought a faulty vehicle

A vehicle owner can’t refuse to have a vehicle inspected. It can be impounded by law if an offence is suspected.

A person who has bought a vehicle who feels that it may be unroadworthy should contact the police who will arrange a vehicle inspection. A member of the public can’t go straight to the DVS to ask them to inspect a vehicle.

When a vehicle is found to be unroadworthy, the police may decide to prosecute the seller or owner depending on the circumstances. If the seller was prosecuted and the vehicle scrapped, the person who bought the vehicle would have to claim compensation for any loss through a civil action in the Petty Debts Court. Sometimes the person who sold it may agree to pay it back.

Sale for spares

If a vehicle is sold for spares, its registration document should be filled out on the back saying that the vehicle has been scrapped. The registration document is then sent to the DVS by the seller for the car registration to be cancelled and the registration plates need to be removed because the vehicle is then officially scrapped. Driving it on the road after the sale is an offence.

DVS suggest that a written agreement should be drawn up by the seller and buyer saying that the vehicle has been sold for spares only. The agreement should be signed by both and the seller and buyer should keep a copy.

If an agreement has not been drawn up and if the buyer then carries on driving the vehicle on the road and the vehicle is then found to be unroadworthy, the seller could be prosecuted for selling an unroadworthy vehicle unless there is some proof that the sale was for spares.

Vehicle faulty straight after sale

If you have bought a vehicle which straight away shows signs of serious faults, it should be returned to the person who sold it to you. The faults may mean that it is not roadworthy, in which case you may get your money back rather than having to make a complaint to the police.

For information on your legal rights when buying goods see How to make a complaint.

If you bought the vehicle from a garage, you can check whether the company is a member of the Jersey Motor Trades Federation (JMTF), If you are not happy with the outcome of discussions with the garage owner or the garage owner does not solve the problem, you could contact the JMTF to try and resolve the matter, but only if the trader is a member. You should also –

  • get the support of a qualified mechanic who has inspected the vehicle.
  • put details of the complaint in a letter to the garage, keeping a copy
  • contact the finance company, if the vehicle has been bought by hire purchase or conditional sale
  • Speak to Trading Standards
  • Consider Community Mediation
  • Get legal advice, if all else fails.


Private sales

Most vehicle sales sold by individual members of the public carry no guarantee or warranty and the vehicle is sold as seen. If the buyer does not have the vehicle inspected and the seller has made no false claims, the buyer can’t expect any refund if a breakdown happens at a later stage.

Commercial sales

Vehicles bought from traders with commercial premises are often offered for sale with a guarantee or warranty covering parts or service for a set period. When there is no such guarantee, the buyer has to rely on the goodwill of the trader if there is any problem after purchase or it may be possible to exchange the faulty vehicle for another vehicle. Usually, a vehicle carrying no guarantee is sold as seen and the price is usually at the lowest end of the market. In such cases, the buyer must beware.

Guarantee and warranty

Most commercially sold vehicles carry a guarantee or warranty covering parts or labour for periods such as three or six months. Where the trader or person who sold the vehicle does not have a garage themselves, the guarantee or warranty is often sold on to another firm to carry out the work. The vehicle owner does not have any right to choose who does repair work under a guarantee or warranty and it is important that the buyer reads the wording of any written guarantee or warranty to check the terms. Often misunderstandings happen when the terms of a guarantee are not clear. In Jersey, verbal warranties do have the force of law but the problem is proving that such a verbal warranty ever happened. Sometimes a salesman may give the impression that a warranty covers everything in the hope they will reach a deal, so get something in writing if you can and read it carefully.

Problems can happen when you have the vehicle fixed and are not happy with the quality of repair work done or when a vehicle has the same or other problems. You should take the vehicle to another garage to have the problem identified or ask the Guarantor to arrange for an independent inspection of the vehicle at the manufacturer’s garage. You may have to pay for any inspection, but you should get a written report on what the problem is.

You must then write to the vehicle seller asking for any faults listed in the written report to be put right under the guarantee. If the work is not carried out to your satisfaction, you should then consider the following –

  • if the seller is a garage and a member of the JMTF, the Federation should be asked to step in
  • if the vehicle has been purchased by conditional sale or hire purchase, the finance company giving the loan should be told of the problem
  • the garage can be warned that the work will be done by another garage and if they do not pay for it, legal action in the Petty Debts Court may take place.

Vehicles purchased by hire purchase or conditional sale

Under a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement, the garage sells the vehicle to the finance company which then makes an agreement to hire or sell it to you. The company has an interest in the vehicle and can bring pressure to bear on the garage if there are any faults that could affect how much the vehicle is worth.

The finance company will want you to have put the complaint in writing to the garage, giving them the chance to put matters right before becoming involved.

Should you have to sue the garage, the finance company will be part of the action as an interested third party unless your lawyer has agreed with them to keep them out.