Security and legal

Used car purchase: more safety thanks to the checklist

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The purchase of a used car is often a big challenge for the buyer: Before the final purchase decision is made, it's not just the condition of the vehicle that needs checking, but also the completeness of the documents and the contractual agreements.

When you buy a used car, many of the technical and legal points need checking. Hence, as a buyer, you should proceed at best systematically: With a checklist, you can ensure that all legally and technically relevant questions have been answered. You have even more security if you involve an expert or a neutral body such as the TCS in the assessment of the used car.

Are you also protected without a warranty?

Anyone buying a used car should expect to acquire a roadworthy and safe vehicle. Here, however, circumstances such as its age, mileage and price of the vehicle must be taken into account. If, following the purchase, the vehicle turns out to be defective despite careful examination, you as buyer must act quickly. If a guarantee has been agreed in the purchase contract, you can refer to this. And even if the used car was sold without a warranty, you as the buyer are protected to a certain extent: A statutory warranty applies for every transaction in Switzerland – and that includes used car sales. The seller is obligated to provide you with a vehicle that is free of defects that reduce its value or that make use of the vehicle impossible. The statutory warranty obligation may, however, be contractually excluded (see below).

Defects - what to do?

If the purchased vehicle has a significant defect or if an assured feature ("accident-free," "no bodywork damage") proves to be incorrect, the statutory warranty provides for two possibilities:

  • In the case of minor defects, you can demand a reduction in the purchase price. This reduction usually corresponds to the necessary repair costs.
  • In the case of serious defects, you can demand cancellation of the purchase contract. 

A price reduction or cancellation can only be demanded if you checked the purchased vehicle without delay and reported any defects immediately. The complaint must contain an exact description of the defect and state that you are making a warranty claim. It must be sent to the seller by registered post immediately after discovery of the defect. If the immediate examination of the purchased vehicle and/or the subsequent immediate notification of any defects is not performed, the vehicle condition is thereby tacitly approved and you lose your right to claim.

Exception: Complaints about "hidden defects" that are not recognizable through the usual inspection of the vehicle can be made up to two years after the purchase. The difference between "minor defects" and "serious defects" is ultimately at the discretion of the judge. Experience has shown that a cancellation in borderline cases is difficult to enforce in court.

Modification or exclusion of statutory warranty obligation

The statutory warranty obligation can be modified or even excluded entirely by the seller in the purchase contract. There is often an attempt to exclude the above-mentioned right of reduction (that allows you to demand a reduction in the selling price in case of a defect) and the right of cancellation (cancellation of the purchase contract). You should not accept the complete exclusion of the statutory warranty obligation as a buyer. If the seller is inflexible in this regard, you must rethink the purchase. 

Good to know

For fraudulently concealed defects and for assured vehicle features that prove to be missing, the statutory warranty obligation should not be excluded. But even for these defects, a complaint must be made in writing immediately after their discovery.

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