Buying a used car: greater safety thanks to a checklist

The purchase of an auto-occasion usually presents the buyer with major challenges: before the final purchase decision is made, not only the condition of the vehicle but also the completeness of the documents and the contractual agreements must be checked.

Because there are many technical and legal points to check when buying an occasion (used car), it’s best for buyers to proceed systematically: a checklist can ensure that all legally and technically relevant questions are answered. You can be even more sure that the vehicle is free of defects if you consult an expert or commission a neutral body such as the TCS to assess the used vehicle.

Are you protected even without warranty service?

If you buy an occasion, you can generally expect a roadworthy and roadworthy vehicle. However, this qualification must take into account the given circumstances such as age, mileage and price of the vehicle. If the vehicle turns out to be defective after purchase despite careful inspection, you as the buyer must act quickly. If a warranty was agreed upon in the sales contract, you can refer to it. Even if the occasion was sold without warranty, you are protected as a buyer to a certain extent: the legal warranty applies in switzerland to every transaction – so also to the sale of a used car. The seller is obliged to hand over a vehicle that is free of defects that reduce the value or make the use of the vehicle impossible. However, the legal warranty obligation can be excluded by contract (cf. further below).

Defect discovered – what to do?

If the purchased vehicle exhibits a significant defect or if a warranted characteristic ("accident-free," "no sheet metal damage") proves to be false, the statutory warranty provides for two options:

  • In the case of minor defects, you can demand a reduction in the purchase price. As a rule, this reduction corresponds to the necessary repair costs.
  • In the case of serious defects, you can demand the rescission of the purchase contract (conversion).

A reduction or conversion can only be demanded if you have immediately inspected the purchased vehicle and immediately reported any defects. The complaint must contain a precise description of the defect and express that you require the warranty. It must be sent to the seller by registered mail immediately after becoming aware of the defect. If the immediate inspection of the purchased vehicle and/or the subsequent immediate notice of defect is omitted, the vehicle condition is considered tacitly approved and you lose your claims.

Exception: "hidden defects" that cannot be detected during the normal inspection of the vehicle can be reported up to two years after purchase.

Where "minor defects" end and "serious defects" begin is ultimately at the discretion of the judge. Experience has shown that in borderline cases it is difficult to enforce a conversion in court.

Adjustment or. Exclusion of the legal warranty obligation

The legal warranty obligation can be adjusted or even completely excluded by the seller in the purchase contract. In this way, attempts are often made to exclude the above-mentioned right of reduction (which allows you to demand a reduction in the sales price in the event of a defect) and the right of conversion (rescission of the purchase contract). As a buyer, you should not accept a complete exclusion of the legal warranty obligation. If the seller is inflexible in this respect, you must reconsider the sale.

Good to know

The legal warranty obligation cannot be excluded for fraudulently concealed defects and for the absence of warranted vehicle characteristics. Such defects must also be reported in writing immediately after they are found.

Buying a used car: greater safety thanks to a checklist

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Author

Lukas raggenbass

Lukas raggenbass is a lawyer and expert in the field of contract, inheritance, family and personal law. He gives them helpful tips on how to behave in a legally correct manner when buying a defective product or in the event of an inheritance claim.

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