How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Jo C. Your Own Question
Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71041
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
Type Your Law Question Here...
Jo C. is online now

Hello, We purchased a van from a private seller on Saturday

This answer was rated:

We purchased a van from a private seller on Saturday and transferred the money by bank transfer there and then. The van was described as having done 92,000 miles in the advert, wich seemed to correspond to the latest MOT certificate and Odometer reading. On getting home and looking in more detail through the paperwork, we found a reference on the MOT document to a previous mileage check for 156,000 which made us suspicious. We investigated further and now know that the van has done far more mileage than advertised, perhaps as much as 220,000 miles. We notified the seller the next day but he is refusing to reverse the sale. We have not yet registered the van in our name.
According to my sister who is in her final year of a law degree, we should have a case under Sale of Goods Act and also common law relating to misdescription of goods.
Could you please confirm if this is the case and if so, how likely it is that we would be successful if this were to go to court? Incidentally the seller is pleading ignorance - i.e. he believes he listed it in good faith and that any issues with the vehicle are historical and relate to previous owners. I take the view that even if this was the case, he has a responsibility to do the right thing now the issue has been pointed out, and so immediately after the sale.
Appreciate your help.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Sorry but why should the SGA apply? He is a private seller?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Perhaps it doesn't - this is where we need your assistance please. I believe my sister was trying to do her best for us but she's not qualified. Thanks.

If he is a private seller then it doesn't apply. The SGA only covers commercial sellers.
Of course, sometimes commercial sellers do masquerade as private sellers to avoid the SGA so the mere fact that he says he is a private seller doesn't mean that he is.
However, if there has been a misdescription about the mileage then you do still have a claim against him under the general law of misrepresentation. The question really is what remedy is appropriate. Generally speaking, with mileage alone, you would not necessarily be entitled to a full refund but just the dimunition value - the difference in the price the vehicle would have been worth if the truth had been known and the sum that you paid for it.
That said, this is a fairly recent purchase and a court could well feel that a full refund and return of the van is appropriate.
Also, the practical reality is that if you sue him at the small claims court on the basis of misrepresentation then that might well encourage him to negotiate. Its a very difficult issue. If he has doctored the mileage himself then he will not want to go to court and explain himself. If he has bought the vehicle already doctored then he might well dig his heels in and go into court arguing that he was not responsible. That is not a defence actually but lay people quite often cannot see beyond the fact that they themselves have not known of the misrepresentation.
Overall though, you would get something back if the facts are as you say.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Jo, this makes sense.

We would like to take this forward...what would you suggest as the next steps please? I assume any correspondence to the seller should be drafted by a legal representative and it would be insufficient for me just to state these facts in a letter of my own?



Not necessarily. You can write to him yourself. It is obviously more likely to be intimidating if it comes from a solicitor or a barrister under public access but it does rack up costs.
I would send him one letter and give him 14 days to issue a refund.
If he will not then sue him here
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Great, thank you for such a prompt reply.


No problem and all the best.
Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

One last thing, is there a specific clause I can refer to please or is it sufficient just to say 'general law of misrepresentation'?



Its S2[1] Misrepresentation Act here
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

For Jo C

Dear Jo,

Regarding the claim above, we have now gone through the process. The seller has chosen to ignore a formal letter from us and subsequently a small claims request which gave him 14 days to defend himself or to settle with us. We will now be asking the court to make a default judgement.

However, we are at the stage where it is no longer practical to have the vehicle in question sat in our driveway unused and unregistered. Where do we stand please at this point in the legal process if we start to use the vehicle? And how long could we expect a default judgement to typically take in a case like this?

Best regards,


It doesn't affect your claim really whether you use it or not.