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Warning issued over used car sales

car problem: 1998 Hyundai Atos was sold with number of faults

Buyers in the market for a used car should beware, the founder of a motor repair shop warned yesterday.

Fernando Oliveira said almost a quarter of second-hand vehicles examined by his Noble Automotive in the last 18 months had serious problems.

He said: “About 50 per cent we would say were in good shape, and about 25 per cent were horror stories. We have had people come to us in tears.

“I would say every couple of months we get some sad story about someone who has either been purposely taken advantage of or someone who knew there was an issue and tried to patch it over.”

Mr Oliveira was speaking after the Supreme Court ruled against a man who sold a car which broke down minutes later.

He said buyers should do their homework before they parted with cash.

He said Noble Automotive in Devonshire and sister firm Peugeot Bermuda in Pembroke would examine cars for prospective buyers to help them make sure they get a good deal.

Mr Oliveira said: “It is a community service that we do. And if someone tells you they don’t want their car examined by a garage, that should be a red flag.”

The Supreme Court heard that in a recent case that driver Janice White bought a 1998 Hyundai Atos from Damon Burgess in 2015.

She said Mr Burgess told her he was still working on the vehicle, which he said needed a new windshield and rusted areas repainted.

But Mr Burgess added he would need to be paid in full before he tackled the jobs.

Ms White paid Mr Burgess $4,500 in cash for the car.

The receipt said: “As is, after repair to windscreen and rust.”

The court heard Ms White was forced to pull over after the brake warning light came on minutes after she picked the car up in November 2015.

She found the brake fluid reservoir was empty. She filled the reservoir with two bottles of brake fluid and contacted Mr Burgess. Ms White asked him to take the car back and refund her money, but he refused.

Ms White filed a legal action against Mr Burgess after more problems surfaced but Mr Burgess still refused to refund her money.

An angry Ms White had the car examined by a mechanic a month after she took delivery.

The mechanic found it needed at least $4,420 worth of repairs and that it was “not fit for daily driving”.

He also said some of the problems could have developed after she bought the car.

Mr Burgess told the court the car had been transfer tested, passed by the Transport Control Department and Ms White was satisfied with the condition of the car when she bought it.

But Magistrates’ Court found there were “major latent problems” with the car and it was not in satisfactory condition at the time of sale. The magistrate also found that the words “as is” on the receipt were not enough for Mr Burgess to avoid liability.

He awarded Ms White $2,285, about half the cost of the car, to reflect her use of the car for a month and the fact the car was destroyed and could not be returned to Mr Burgess.

Mr Burgess launched an appeal last year on the grounds that the magistrate had “overlooked relevant facts”.

But Assistant Justice Delroy Duncan backed the Magistrates’ Court decision. He said: “Mr Burgess confirmed he has been in the business of buying and selling used cars for four years and at the time of the appeal hearing Mr Burgess said he had sold 250 cars over the last four years.

“Mr Burgess was subject to the implied term that the car he sold Ms White under their agreement was of a satisfactory quality.”

He added: “I do not accept the words ‘as is’ on a sales receipt for a second-hand car sold in the course of a business to mean that a seller can sell a second-hand car with latent defects.”

Glen Smith of Pembroke car dealers Auto Solutions said anyone in the market for a used car should use caution. Mr Smith said: “When you are buying a car from ourselves or another reputable dealer there is a warranty so in the event that something goes wrong, the warranty will back the car.

“When you are buying a second-hand or pre-owned vehicle there’s no guarantee. You have no idea what is the history of the vehicle.”