Problems with cars

The advice sheets below have the lastest information on problems with cars. If you need more advice, please call the Citizen Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Buying a motorcycle

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

When you buy a new or second-hand motorcycle from a trader you are making a legally binding contract, which is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This law gives you rights and remedies against the trader if the motorcycle fails to meet your expectations, possibly because it is faulty. An older motorcycle with high mileage may not be as good as a newer motorcycle with low mileage, but it should still be fit for use on the road and in a condition that reflects its age and price. Fair wear and tear is not considered to be a fault.

If you buy a motorcycle from a trader by distance means, such as from their website, you have extra rights under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. You have the right to cancel most 'distance' contracts and the cancellation period is 14 days.

A trader must not mislead you - for example, by telling you the motorcycle is 'sold as seen' or by advertising it as 'one owner' when it has had several. Aggressive commercial practices, such as a trader pressurising you into going ahead with a purchase are prohibited. 

You do not have the same legal rights if you buy a motorcycle from a private seller as you do when you buy from a trader

What you should consider?

You must ensure that you are the correct legal age to ride the type of motorcycle you want to ride. You can ride a moped (a motorcycle with a maximum design speed of 45km/h / 28mph) from the age of 16, and a motorcycle up to 125cc from the age of 17. The requirements for a full licence are compulsory basic training (CBT), theory and practical tests. There are minimum age requirements in place if you want to ride motorcycles larger than 125cc. If you are 24 or over and have passed the CBT, theory and practical you can obtain direct access to more powerful motorcycles under a category A licence; this age limit is reduced to 21 if you have had a category A2 licence for at least two years and also complete a practical test.

Motorcycles ridden on the road must be 'type approved' (which means compliant with construction regulations for use on the road), have road tax and, if they are over three years old, have a valid MOT. They must also carry a registration plate and have lights, brakes and an exhaust that meet requirements.

To ride on the road, you must have insurance. There is also a legal requirement to wear a protective helmet. It is also advisable to wear protective clothing and aids to protect you and make you more visible to other road users.

What are your legal rights?

It is an important element of a contract that the trader must give you specific pre-contract information as set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. The 'Buying from business premises - on-premises contracts explained', 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order - distance contracts explained' and 'Buying at home - off-premises contracts explained' guides explain what these pre-contract requirements are. If a trader does not provide the required information, you can make a claim to have your costs (if you have any) reimbursed.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out what you are entitled to expect from a motorcycle supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. The law also gives you remedies against the trader if your rights are not met. 

Key rights:

  • the trader must have the right to supply the motorcycle to you. If they do not, perhaps they did not actually own it and could not therefore legally sell it to you. If this is the case you would be entitled to a remedy
  • the motorcycle must be of satisfactory quality. The description, price, condition of the motorcycle, fitness for purpose, appearance and finish, safety, durability and freedom from minor defects are all important factors when considering quality. Public statements (such as those in advertising or on labelling made by the trader, the producer or their representative) about the motorcycle must be accurate and can also be taken into account when deciding if it is of satisfactory quality. If the motorcycle is not of satisfactory quality then you would be entitled to a remedy
  • if you make a trader aware that you want the motorcycle to be fit for a particular purpose - even if it is something that it is not usually supplied for - then you have the right to expect it is fit for that purpose. If the motorcycle is not fit for a particular specified purpose then you would be entitled to a remedy
  • you have the right to expect that the motorcycle is as described. For example, does it have all the features claimed? If the motorcycle is not as described then you would be entitled to a remedy
  • if you see or examine a sample, then the motorcyle must match the sample. If the motorcycle doesn't match the sample then you are entitled to a remedy
  • if you see or examine a model, then the motorcycle must match the model. For example, the model you are supplied with must be the same as the one you examined and agreed to buy. If the motorcycle doesn't match the model then you are entitled to a remedy

Key remedies:

  • short-term right to reject (30 days) the motorcycle and obtain a full refund
  • right to a repair or replacement
  • right to a price reduction or a final right to reject the motorcycle
    - note: under the final right to reject (where you are entitled to reject the motorcycle for a refund) a trader can make a deduction from the refund for the use you have had from it (applies if the motorcycle is a 'motor vehicle' as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988)

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not entitle you to anything if:

  • you were told of any faults before you bought the motorcylce
  • the fault was obvious and it would have been reasonable to have noticed it on examination before buying it
  • you caused any damage yourself
  • you made a mistake - for example, you ordered the wrong engine size
  • you have changed your mind about the motorcycle or seen it cheaper elsewhere

See the guide 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' for more information on your rights and which remedy you are entitled to if the motorcycle is faulty. 

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibit commercial practices that are unfair to consumers. If a trader misleads you or engages in an aggressive commercial practice, and you make a decision to purchase a motorcycle that you would not otherwise have done, the trader may be in breach of the Regulations. For example, a trader may fail to inform you that the motorcycle has previously been accident-damaged or may claim it is 'sold as seen' to try and avoid their responsibilities to you. If you have been misled or the trader has behaved aggressively, report your complaint to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.

If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. See 'Misleading & aggressive practices - your rights to redress' for more information.

Do you have any rights when you buy a second-hand motorcycle?

Yes, you have the same rights when you are supplied with a second-hand motorcycle as you do when you are supplied with new. However, because it has been used you should be realistic and have different, possibly lower, expectations when deciding if it is of satisfactory quality. Check the motorcycle thoroughly before you buy; you may not be entitled to make a claim for it not being of satisfactory quality if the defect is something that you ought to have discovered or was pointed out to you before you bought it.

What about your guarantee?

There are rules that apply when a trader or a manufacturer offers a free guarantee with the motorcycle that is supplied to you.

So what is a guarantee? This is a statement given by a trader or a manufacturer that the motorcycle will meet certain standards and that you will be entitled to claim a refund, replacement or repair if it does not meet those standards. There is no obligation on a trader or a manufacturer to offer a guarantee but if they do so, it is legally binding. For example, if a trader refuses to repair the motorcycle when the guarantee states that they will, the trader will be in breach of contract and you can make a claim. This might be for the cost of getting it repaired elsewhere. The 'Guarantees & warranties' guide gives more information on these rules.

Do you have the same protection when buying privately?

You do not have the same legal rights when buying from a private seller as you do when buying from a trader and the general rule is 'let the buyer beware'. You are entitled to expect that the motorcycle is 'as described'. You do not have the right to expect that it is of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose, unless the seller informed you that it was. For example, if an advertisement says 'low mileage, one previous owner', it must be correct. This also applies if you buy from a private seller online or through an internet auction. You should check the motorcycle thoroughly before you buy it.

Whether you buy privately or from a trader, you are entitled to expect that the motorcycle is roadworthy, unless you and the seller clearly agree it is bought for scrap or for spares and repair.

You are also entitled to expect that the private seller has 'good title' to the motorcycle. This means the person selling the motorcycle must own it. If you buy a motorcycle that you later find out is stolen, you do not have the legal right to keep it. You will have to try and get your money back from the seller.

The Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives 'good title' to the first innocent private buyer of a motorcycle that later turns out to be 'owned' by a finance provider. This means that if the previous owner sold the motorcycle to you when there was finance (hire purchase or conditional sale) outstanding and you were unaware of this, the finance provider cannot repossess the motorcycle from you. Remember, this does not apply to motorcycles that have been stolen or motorcycles that were subject to a lease or hire agreement.  

You should be aware that a trader may mislead you by pretending to be a private seller (for example, selling motorcycles at the roadside or via an advertisement) to avoid their legal obligations to you. If you come across a situation like this, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.

What about internet sales?

If you decide to buy a motorcycle from a trader by distance means, such as from a website, you have the same legal rights as you have when buying from a trader's premises. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 give you extra protection because the contract you enter into is concluded at a distance and without face-to-face contact. You have the right to cancel most 'distance' contracts and the cancellation period is 14 days. See the guide 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order - distance contracts explained' for more information.

Are motor auctions covered?

A court may not consider a motor auction to be a consumer sale, in which case most of your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 would not apply. An auction at which you are present (or able to be present) is not considered to be a consumer sale. It is very important that you check the motorcycle thoroughly before you bid on it. The auction will have terms and conditions setting out the role of the auctioneer and the obligations of the buyer and seller. Check these terms and conditions carefully before you bid. You are entitled to expect that the seller has the legal right to sell the motorcycle. If you think it might have been stolen, report it to the auctioneer. The auctioneer must accurately describe the motorcycle. 

What about internet auctions?

Most internet auctions only provide the site for the auctions to be held and are not generally liable for goods bought and sold privately. You should check the terms and conditions of the internet auction for full details.

You have the same legal rights when buying from a trader via an internet auction as you have when buying from their premises. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 also apply to internet auctions. You may have the right to cancel a purchase from a trader if you change your mind, regardless of whether it is sold through the auction or via 'buy it now'.

As you have fewer rights against private online sellers, research the seller carefully before you go ahead with a purchase, for example check their feedback.

Do you have any more protection?

If you paid for the motorcycle on finance arranged by a trader, or if you paid using your credit card and it cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, you have rights under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the finance / card provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or misrepresentation. This could include supplying a faulty motorcycle, non-delivery or making false claims about it. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the finance / card provider or both.

If the cost of the motorcycle exceeds £30,000 and is less than £60,260, and the finance was arranged specifically to buy that motorcycle, you may be able to claim against the finance company under section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If you are unhappy with the finance provider's response, seek the advice of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Paying on finance

A motorcycle can be an expensive purchase and you may wish to arrange finance to pay for it. Look at what you can afford and remember you will have running costs to consider. Here are a few things to remember:

  • most traders do not usually give credit themselves, they simply introduce you to finance providers who lend you the money in one way or another
  • always shop around to compare different deals available
  • if a trader offers you credit, you are entitled to pre-contract information. This means you should get all the information about payments and interest rates in writing so that you can take it away and think about it
  • read the credit agreement carefully BEFORE you sign it. Make sure you understand what you are committing yourself to

MOTs & mileage

An MOT certificate simply confirms that the motorcycle passed the test on the day it was submitted. It only covers the specific tests required and does not provide an absolute guarantee of the general quality of the motorcycle. If you have a problem with an MOT, contact the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which enforces the law relating to these tests.

You can check the MOT history of a vehicle (test date, expiry date and test result and mileage) on the GOV.UK website. Take note that mileage readings are only available for MOTs done from 1 August 2011.

If the website does not have the details of the motorcycle you want to buy, check to see if the trader is using a disclaimer stating that the mileage is not guaranteed and so cannot be relied on; this may be on the odometer itself and/or on the contract. If there is no disclaimer, it could be argued that the trader is stating that the mileage is correct and you can rely on it. However, it is wise to ask the trader for specific information on the motorcycle's mileage regardless of whether it is disclaimed or not. If you believe the mileage has been altered on a motorcycle you have bought contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for the matter to be referred to trading standards.

Tax

When you buy a motorcycle, the tax cannot be transferred with it; you will need to buy new tax before you can drive it away. You should notify DVLA when you sell your motorcycle and you will get a refund on the remaining full months' tax; it cannot be transferred with the motorcycle as part of the sale. For more information on vehicle tax can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Insurance write-offs

If a trader sells a motorcycle that has been classified as a category C or D write-off without making this clear to you before you agree to buy, or if they mislead you about any accident damage, they may be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (see the 'What are your legal rights' section of this guide for more information on these Regulations). Ask the trader if the motorcycle has had any accident damage before you buy. For advice you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service.

What else should you check?

Make sure all the documents are in order. Ask to see the V5C vehicle registration document (log book), any service records, repair bills, inspection reports and handbooks. Read all the documents carefully and check the details against the motorcycle.

Remember that a V5C vehicle registration document is not proof of ownership; it records who the registered keeper is for legal purposes.

What to do if things go wrong?

This guide gives you the information you need on the rights you have and the remedies you are entitled to. The 'Sale & supply of goods - what to do if things go wrong' guide explains the practical steps you can take when complaining to a trader about a faulty motorcycle.

If attempts to resolve the dispute fail, consider using an alternative dispute resolution scheme. Check to see if the trader is a member of a trade association that has such a scheme. The Retail Motor Industry Federation runs a National Conciliation Service at 2-3 Allerton Road, Rugby, CV23 0PA tel 01788 538317.

As a last resort, you can take legal action in court. You should write to the trader and finance provider (if there is one) to notify them of your intentions. The 'Thinking of suing in court' guide gives further details and you can obtain information from your local court or online.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: August 2017

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.