What are your consumer rights when buying a second hand washing machine – or any other appliance – from a private seller or a local trader?
Buying a second hand washing machine privately (from a non trader) carries a risk. There is relatively little consumer protection. The washing machine must match their description of it though. So for example if they said it had a 1400 spin, or a 6Kg drum, but it turned out to have only a 1200 spin or a 5Kg drum they have misled you. You then have the right to reject it or claim compensation (e.g. a reduction in price).
It must also be in "good working order". It does not have to be in perfect condition because it’s second hand. It has to work as anyone would expect it to. Maybe if it’s a bit noisy you might have to accept that it’s a used appliance. If on the other hand they described it as nearly new, or you paid a lot for it, you should expect it to be in better condition.
Second hand washing machine breaks down soon after buying
Unless you can prove the seller must have known about a fault then it’s one of those things if it breaks down soon after buying. There’s no guarantee with a second hand appliance from a private sale. So watch out for traders posing as private sellers to avoid having to give a guarantee. This is illegal. Tell tale tips on how to find them and a full description of buyers rights can be found in the “related links” below.
Stay calm if it doesn’t work or seems to have a fault
Don’t immediately assume you’ve been done if a washing machine fails to work properly. Start from the point of assuming it’s unlikely anyone would advertise a washing machine that just did not work. It’s possible for a fault to be introduced through transit, or through problems caused by the installation at your home. Before demanding your money back you need to carefully check all the points in this article Getting faulty washing machine exchanged: Is the washing machine actually faulty? Also check out this article – 5 things to check for after repairing or installing a washing machine.
Related link: How to transport a washing machine properly
If you buy an appliance from a genuine private seller and it breaks down they might only be responsible if you could show that the fault was obviously present when sold. Everything depends on what has gone wrong, how soon after you bought it, and what it cost. A private seller is not expected to be an expert. Nor are they expected to carry out repairs to make it in great condition before selling. They are really only obliged to point out any issues they are aware of and to describe it accurately.
If it worked perfectly okay for two weeks and then broke down it might be argued that they could not have known this was going to happen. So it’s bad luck unless it could be shown that the fault must have been displaying symptoms before they sold it.
Should you have noticed the fault?
If a fault could, and probably should have been seen by reasonable inspection before purchasing, or straight after taking possession of it, you may not have any rights. For example, if you found it was extremely noisy on spin but still accepted the machine. Then two weeks later the bearings collapsed. In such a case you should have rejected the machine straight away. Another example may be if when you opened the door you could see that the door seal was all sticky and worn. It then subsequently started to leak. Again one might argue you should have realised it was worn and rejected it or negotiated a lower price.
Bought a second hand washing machine from a trader? What are your rights?
We have a lot of the same rights when buying a second-hand washing machine as we do when we buy a new appliance from a trader. This is why some traders used to pretend to be private sellers. This practice is now illegal. Although you have the same rights, you still have to take into account the fact it is not new. Expectations should be reduced accordingly. If the washing machine is faulty right away, or very soon after buying, the trader needs to put it right. If the price paid was very low, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it to last for years. For example, if you only paid £50 how long would you really expect it to last?
An appliance might be guaranteed for a short amount of time. But even it it fails outside that time (as with guarantees on brand new appliances) you may still have rights. These rights depend on how much you paid for it, how it’s been used, and how long it has lasted. For example if you paid £150 for a washing machine with a 3 month guarantee and a few weeks over 3 months it suffered a very expensive breakdown or was even not worth repairing you should seek consumer advice.
Related link: Citizens Advice (pdf) file Buying goods – your rights
If the appliance was sold as refurbished or reconditioned
If the appliance was refurbished or reconditioned this implies that it should be in better condition than one sold simply as “used” or “second hand”. Such an appliance should have been thoroughly checked. All worn or faulty parts should have been replaced and properly tested. It would be fair then to expect it to last longer than one that has just been sold as in working order. However, it is still not brand new. So expectations need to be reasonable. Again, how much it cost and how many times it’s been used need to be taken into account. It should last a “reasonable” time. Sadly, the term reasonable is open to argument. You may need to seek consumer advice if you have a dispute.
What if seller is a trader posing as a private seller?
If the seller is a trader but advertising as a private seller they are breaking the law. Anyone posing as a private seller can be prosecuted by trading standards under the Business Advertisements (Disclosure) Order 1977. If this is the case you should contact trading standards, who may very well already know about them. People blatantly flouting consumer law will often get reported many times. Trading Standards could be slowly building a case against them.
If the seller still refuses to repair or look at the machine after you’ve pointed out they may be breaking the law you may need to get an independent engineer to repair it. Then take the seller to the small claims court to recover costs. However, this is a little risky with people blatantly flouting the law. They may well be equally contemptuous of the small claims court. With relatively small amounts it may be difficult to get them to comply. It may make more sense to reject the machine and try to get your money back. You would be wise to seek professional advice from Trading Standards.
Instead of buying second hand why not rent?
My affiliate Forbes Rentals are a national company specialising in renting out many different appliances and products. Rent a washing machine at Forbes