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We will try today to give you some practical guidelines on what to do when you have bought a “lemon!”


As a consumer forum and as consumers lawyers; we are often involved in cases where clients of ours have bought a defective motor vehicle and refer the matter to us for legal advice on their rights in these circumstances; and also sometimes to provide them with proper professional legal services to resolve and mediate the matter with the dealer or private seller.

Here are some of the common questions sent to us.

  1. What do I do if I have purchased a defective or damaged motor vehicle from a  dealer?
  2. How does the Common Law protect me when I have bought a defective vehicle privately?
  3. How does the Consumer Protection Act No 68 of 2008 (CPA) protect me as I  bought a damaged and defective vehicle three months ago and the dealer it is not his problem?  

We all know that buying a car is a big financial decision as a motor vehicle is usually one of the most expensive items that a consumer will buy.

We also know the reputation that motor car dealers in general have.

One, therefore, cannot afford a mistake or one will have to carry the cost yourself of expensive repairs to a recently bought vehicle; whether it is a new vehicle or one bought second hand.

To incur such repair costs is not fair and is also not always your responsibility.

You have the right in certain circumstances to either a repair or a replacement or a refund at the dealer’s expense.

So; if you have bought a brand new motor car or a good quality “used” vehicle and within a short period of time you realise that the vehicle you bought is defective, damaged or not fit for the purpose for which you bought it; or worse still you discover that it was previously involved in an accident and this fact was not disclosed to you by the seller at the time of the sale; you may well have legal protection against the seller.

At The Legal Advice Office, we get numerous queries from consumers with exactly this type of scenario.

Well, the question is then.

What exactly DO you do in these circumstances or perhaps in similar circumstances?

Here are some guidelines:

10 clear steps and tips as to what you should do in these circumstances.

  1. Go back to the dealer from whom you bought the car and advise them immediately of the problem and allow them to inspect the vehicle and report back to you on their findings.
  2. At the same time request them to do a thorough inspection of the entire vehicle from bumper to bumper to check for any other possible problems or defects.
  3. If you feel it is necessary to get another full diagnostic check done of the vehicle from an independent service provider ( AA or Dekra); and get that report in writing.
  4. Discuss the findings of the above inspections with the dealership from whom you bought the vehicle, and ask them what they intend doing about the various issues you have now discovered.
  5. Do NOT simply agree to or allow them to repair the vehicle.
  6. Remember that it is your choice as a consumer to choose the remedy namely; either a repair; or a replacement vehicle in the event that the defect/s are material; or a refund also only in the event again of the defect/ being material.
  7. Get proper professional legal advice as to what you should do in the circumstances before giving any instruction to the dealership.
  8. Always remember that you as the consumer have the protection of Consumer Protection Act No 68 of 2008.
  9. If, for whatever reason, you do not have the protection of the CPA; you may well have the protection of the common law depending on the facts of your particular matter and the remedy may well be similar.
  10. The above should be followed as soon as you are aware of the problem and not weeks or months later or you may have lost your legal remedy.
  11. Be practical and astute in making your decision as to either a repair, replacement or refund in terms of the CPA or a refund or quanti minoris in terms of the common law.

The above 10 guidelines should apply in most circumstances although the facts of each particular matter will be different; and these steps, as outlined above, may well have to be adjusted accordingly.

The same intervention processes and procedures apply to the purchase of all major consumer items in addition to and not only to motor vehicles.

You would be strongly advised in any of the above circumstances to contact The Legal Advice Office to attend to this or any intervention process for you; and not to attempt to do so on your own, as you do not normally have the necessary legal or practical experience; or even expert knowledge to do so.

If you have experienced difficulties with buying a new or used car in the last six months; contact The Legal Advice Office at or at one of our email addresses; either This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About our author:

Hugh Pollard (Legal Consultant), has a BA LLB and 42 years’ experience in the legal field. 22 years as a practising attorney and conveyancer; and 20 years as a Legal Consultant.

082-0932304 (Hugh’s Cell Number)

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Legal Advice Office

South Africa

Kandelaar Street, Vermont, Hermanus
Phone: +27 (0) 82 093 2304