The right to warranty for the sale of used cars

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Is it worth "investing" in new cars straight from the showroom? It depends mainly on the wealth of the portfolio or the possibility of crediting the purchase of the vehicle, e.g. by leasing. The manufacturer's warranty is an undeniable advantage of new cars over used cars - Kia grants a 7-year warranty without any additional payments, and Hyundai provides a 5-year warranty. Against their background, German brands such as Mercedes or BMW fare much worse - these companies provide only 2-year manufacturer protection. Even so, even 2 years of relative peace are better than nothing. In turn, in most cases, when buying a used car, you do not have to count on a warranty. However, does this mean that the seller is in no way responsible for selling a used car with mechanical or legal defects? The answer is simple - of course it does! When buying a car (also used), the buyer is entitled to a warranty for defects in the purchased item.

The warranty is not an institution imposed on the manufacturer or seller by law. It is established voluntarily and on the terms set by the producer or seller, e.g. in the warranty card. In turn, the warranty is the seller's statutory liability for defects in the goods he sells. Therefore, the claims of car dealers such as "they saw what they took" have no justification in Polish law. The buyer of a car, even if it is very old, is not deprived of legal protection during the warranty period and may demand compensation from the seller or even withdraw from the contract.

What exactly is a warranty?

The Civil Code Act (i.e. Journal of Laws of 2 hereinafter referred to as the Civil Code) regulates the principle of the seller's liability to the buyer for physical and legal defects of the purchased item. It should be remembered that the warranty may be exercised only in the event of liability prerequisites, which have been strictly defined in the provisions of Art. 5561, art. 5562 and art. 5563 of the Civil Code.

A physical defect of an item consists in the non-compliance of the item sold with the contract. Pursuant to Art. 5561 of the Civil Code, an item is inconsistent with the contract if:

  • does not have properties that this kind of thing should have due to the purpose specified in the contract or resulting from the circumstances or its destination;

  • does not have the properties that the seller has assured the buyer;

  • it is not suitable for the purpose of which the buyer informed the seller when concluding the contract, and the seller did not raise any objections to such use;

  • was delivered to the buyer incomplete.

However, the legal defect of the item will take place if it turns out that the purchased goods are not owned by the seller, despite his assurances. In addition, a legal defect exists in the event that the item is encumbered with the right of a third party or is characterized by limitations in using or disposing of it as a result of a decision or judgment of a competent authority.

What is the seller's responsibility?

At the outset, it should be emphasized that it basically does not matter whether the seller is a natural person or an entrepreneur (e.g. a commission agent). The warranty works both if we buy a car on a VAT invoice and a VAT invoice, a margin or on the basis of a civil law contract, where the seller does not sell vehicles professionally. At the same time, due to the fact that the law in many respects extends the legal protection of consumers, the contract concluded with the entrepreneur gives the buyer the greatest room for maneuver.

The seller's liability under the warranty is a statutory liability and arises by virtue of the law itself when the vehicle is handed over to the buyer. You should be aware that this type of liability is based on the principle of risk. This means that the seller may not even know about the defect. In particular, to claim the seller's liability under the warranty regulations, it is not necessary to prove the damage suffered by the buyer, the seller's fault or any causal relationship in any form.

The protection period of the institution in question is 2 years. However, if the purchase is for a used vehicle, the seller may limit the warranty period to one year, with the buyer having to clearly inform the buyer, preferably in writing.

On the other hand, the statute of limitations of the buyer's right to demand removal of the defect or replacement of the vehicle with a vehicle free from defects expires after one year from the date of finding such a defect. In the case of a buyer-consumer (a person who does not run any business), the limitation period is at least 2 years. This period is counted from the date of purchase. In addition, in a situation where the buyer is a consumer, and the physical defect was found within one year from the date of delivery of the sold item, it is presumed that the defect existed at the time of purchase of the item.

The seller is released from liability under the warranty if the buyer knew about the defect at the time of concluding the contract, which means that if the seller informed the buyer about the defects known to him before releasing the item, and the buyer still made the purchase, then there can be no question of the seller's liability for revealed defects of the vehicle.

What rights are the buyers entitled to?

The immediate goal of the provisions on the warranty is to restore the equivalence of benefits or to eliminate a legal relationship with no equivalence. In a situation where the purchased car has a defect, the buyer may request replacement of the vehicle with a defect-free one, removal of the defect (repair), price reduction or withdrawal from the contract.

It should be emphasized that the provisions on the warranty for defects are an instrument of special protection of the buyer's interests in the event that a defect in the item is discovered. The special protection of the buyer is manifested in the fact that the seller's liability takes the nature of absolute liability, the sole condition of which is to determine the defectiveness of the object of sale. This means that the liability in question operates on a strict basis - it is possible even if the seller could not have known about the defect. In particular, to claim the seller's liability under the warranty regulations, it is not necessary to prove the damage suffered by the buyer, the seller's fault or any causal relationship in any form. It is also irrelevant whether the seller knew about the defect, whether he could find out about the defect, and whether he caused the defect. According to the judgment of the Supreme Court of November 28, 2007, V CNP 124/07: "the mere finding of a defect that reduces the value or usefulness of the item is a sufficient condition for the buyer to take advantage of the provisions on warranty”.

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Therefore, the disclosure of a defect in the purchased vehicle gives the buyer the right to demand a price reduction or to withdraw from the contract. However, the latter option may be limited if the seller immediately and without undue inconvenience to the buyer removes the defect or replaces the defective item with a non-defective one (in the case of used vehicles it is usually impossible). However, please note that the right of withdrawal may only be limited when the car is first repaired. If, after removing the defects, it turns out that the car is still not functional, the buyer is entitled to immediately withdraw from the sales contract.

Any costs of removing defects or replacing a defective item are always borne by the seller. The seller cannot transfer this responsibility to the buyer.

Seller's powers

The seller has the right to refuse to perform the service required by the buyer if it is impossible to bring the car into conformity with the contract in the manner indicated by the buyer or would require excessive costs compared to another possible alternative. If the buyer is an entrepreneur, the seller may refuse to replace the vehicle with a vehicle free from defects or to remove its defect also when the costs of such service exceed the price of the sold item.

When do vehicle defects give the buyer the right to the warranty?

The buyer has the right to use the warranty if four conditions are met in total. First, the car must have a physical or legal defect concealed by the seller or one that the seller did not know about. Secondly, the defect is not the result of normal, average use of the vehicle or its existence is against the seller's previous assurances. Third, the buyer was not aware of the defect when purchasing the vehicle. Fourth, the defect or its cause existed on the vehicle at the time of sale.

Referring to the essence of "normal, average use of a vehicle", it should be considered that such elements of the car as brake discs and pads or elements of shock absorbers will not be covered by the warranty. It is different when it comes to a non-burning or "leaking" engine, an unevenly running gearbox, a sticking or jerking gear lever or a lack of airbags.

The position of the buyer changes if the seller assured him of the efficiency of the consumables, and after the purchase it turned out that they are defective. For example, the seller informed about the recent replacement of the dual mass flywheel or the timing gear, and after driving a thousand kilometers by the new owner, these elements were damaged.

In addition, the buyer has the full right to a warranty if the content of the advertisement regarding the vehicle equipment was in some way false, e.g. the vehicle offer provided about safety systems, cruise control or heated seats, and the purchased vehicle did not have such convenience.

Consumer sales and sales between individuals

As previously mentioned, the warranty applies to both the purchase of the vehicle from the entrepreneur and the natural person. However, both of these activities have some minor differences in terms of liability under the warranty.

As a rule, the parties to the contract are free to set all provisions and then modify them, hence the liability under the warranty can be extended, limited or even excluded. However, the exclusion or limitation of liability under the warranty is ineffective if the seller has fraudulently concealed the defect from the buyer. In the case of consumer contracts, this rule is limited - modifying or excluding the seller's liability is impossible. The only limitation may be the provision on shortening the warranty period to one year.

Another difference is the different distribution of the burden of proof. In the case of consumer sales, if the buyer finds a defect within one year of the transaction, in the event of a dispute before the court, the seller will have to prove that the car was operational at the time of its release. On the other hand, if the seller is a natural person, then the buyer must prove that the vehicle had a defect at the time of delivery.

The right to warranty - summary

People who buy a used car often believe that after collecting the keys, they become fully responsible for the technical condition of the purchased car, even if it turns out that the vehicle had defects at the time of purchase. Such people spread their hands helplessly when they learn that their new purchase has a false course or that it has been a participant in a serious road accident in the past. Be aware that the purchase of a vehicle, including a used vehicle, is protected by law. In any case, regardless of whether it is a five- or fifteen-year-old car, the buyer has the right to receive what the seller has paid for and assured him. Of course, it would be ridiculous to argue about minor scratches on the body or a replaced windshield in a 10-year-old car, which is intended for long highway routes. However, if the purchased vehicle, after driving 5, 50 or 500 km, suddenly stops firing or if it turns out that the accident-free "needle" is in fact a cluster of two different cars, the buyer should without undue delay demand compensation, a new vehicle or a refund from the seller vehicle.