Unroadworthy cars

The Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence to sell an unroadworthy car. The Act does not distinguish between private sellers and motor traders.

What is an unroadworthy car?

If a vehicle is not satisfactory in any of the following areas it may be unroadworthy:

  • 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 is a criminal offence for selling 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 have evidence to show that the vehicle was dangerously unroadworthy at the time of sale.

It is 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. The first step is for you to have an MOT test carried out on the vehicle. If the MOT examiner’s comments give an indication that the vehicle could be dangerously unroadworthy, an expert engineer’s report which can be used as evidence may be commissioned by us.

These steps should all 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 might commit criminal offences and your insurance will be invalid.

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