What they are and how to defend yourself against them

There is always a fear when buying a second-hand car, which is that it may have some fault or breakdown that cannot be seen with the naked eye. But there is a legal figure that protects the buyer in these cases, hidden defects in cars.

What are hidden defects in cars (and what they are not)

Hidden defects are damages that are detected after the purchase and sale. These are serious defects that prevent the vehicle from being used normally and, if known, the transaction would not have been carried out or the final price would have changed.

There are several requirements (considered in Chapter IV, Section Three of the Civil Code):

  • It cannot be detected (or at least not easily) when the transaction is made (hence the hidden thing). If you are a connoisseur and, due to your trade or profession, you could know them, they would not be considered hidden vices.
  • The damage must mean a considerable change in the price (a minor damage is not worth it).
  • The ruling should have occurred before the sale and, if it had been known, it would not have been carried out under the terms that were made.

These aspects are key, since a defect, a breakdown… or a hidden defect are not the same. It is important to know the difference between the terms, since when making a claim it is important:

  • hidden vice: It is claimed through the Civil Code, about unreported problems.
  • Breakdown or defect: In that case, a claim is made through consumer and user regulations, the term used is breakdown, defect or lack of conformity.

Types of hidden defects in a car

The law already classifies some of the hidden defects in the car. By the way, it should be updated since some details of electrified propulsion systems are not discussed:

  • Those that affect the car gearboxwhich cause the vehicle to remain in neutral while driving, among others.
  • Those that affect the infotainment screen (if you have it)
  • Vices that affect the engine or cylinder head. In this case, remember that most vehicles, except very old ones, have an engine failure warning light on the instrument panel. If it remains on after starting, a sensor may have monitored a fault. This includes the timing belt (check if it is difficult to start or if it makes high-pitched squeaks during start-up, or if it vibrates a lot while you drive it)
  • Failures in the hood or anti-roll system.

How to demonstrate hidden defects in a car

It is not enough for the car to fail, it must be proven. For this it is necessary in most cases to hire a expert expert in hidden defects to prepare an expert report on the condition of the vehicle and what problems it has.

Once this report is obtained, it is possible to file a lawsuit if the seller does not accept responsibility. Here it depends quite a bit on where

Cars affected by hidden defects

There are two ways to buy a used car:

Purchase and sale between individuals

The Civil Code is what regulates the purchase and sale of vehicles between individuals. It establishes a six-month warranty framework and obliges the seller to deliver and repair the vehicle sold (due to hidden defects in the thing sold, if it is made inappropriate or diminishes the use for which it is intended). In addition, it must be free of charges or encumbrances.

Depending on the condition of the vehicle, the consumer is defended in two ways:

  • Unusable vehicle: if the damage is so serious that it cannot circulate on the road, after proving it, a claim for compensation can be filed. complete non-compliance due to inability of the object. You can demand the repair or request a full refund of the purchase.
  • Serious damage but that does not prevent its use: the seller may be requested to correct the defects.

Dealer vehicles

If you buy the vehicle from a professional, article 123 of the General Law for the Defense of Consumers and Users also comes into play. It establishes that the seller is responsible for any lack of conformity that appears within a period of two years from delivery.

In this case, attention must be paid to the purchase and sale contract, since a shorter term can be agreed upon, as long as it is not less than one year. Things about second-hand car warranties.

The law indicates that failures that appear within six months after the delivery of the product already existed when the transaction was made (unless it is incompatible with the nature of the product or the nature of the lack of conformity.

Claim hidden defects in cars

As you can see, the law protects the consumer in the event of purchasing a vehicle with hidden defects. The first thing to do is to record the situation, through written notification, to the seller. If the latter is not responsible, that is when the expert report comes into play, clearly indicating the damage suffered by the vehicle, its causes and the cost of the repair.

If the seller continues to ignore it, it is possible to file a lawsuit. Of course, we only have six months from the purchase to make it. After this period you cannot sue for hidden defects. In the case of professional sellers, the period for claims is one year from the delivery of the keys.

Once the claim has been made in application of articles 1,484 et seq. of the Civil Code, it must meet the aforementioned requirements. The procedure to follow depends on the amount of the vehicle

  • Greater than €6,000: ordinary procedure, with lawsuit, Prior Hearing and Trial.
  • Less than €6,000: verbal procedure, consisting of a lawsuit and a trial.
  • Less than €2,000: assistance from a solicitor is not required, but a lawyer is required.

It can be resolved in several ways. Since there is a refund of the amount paid, payment of consequences of the hidden defect, repair of damages or cancellation of the sale (with a full refund of the amount). In addition, the sentence may establish payment of interest, damages and losses (as established in article 1,486 of the Civil Code, there is a right to them if the contract is terminated) and payment of the costs of the procedure.

Sometimes the seller argues that the car has the ITV in order. However, this does not exempt the existence of hidden defects, since some failures cannot be detected in this inspection.

A lawsuit for hidden defects is not resolved quickly, especially in large cities where the Courts have a significant workload. There the sentence can take up to a year, but in smaller towns the time is usually less.

When filing a claim, it may be interesting to keep the car advertisement, usually published on the Internet. Portals such as autos.com where used vehicles are advertised have no responsibility for the products offered on them by individuals or professionals, but in the advertisements there is usually information about the condition of the property being sold that can be used as evidence.

Happy drivers

Client testimonials

Lisa D.


Theuth has completely changed how I follow automotive news. Relevant articles, thorough reviews, and an active community!

Hanna A.


I never miss a live show. It's like having front-row seats at every exhibition or race, but from my couch!

Andrew R.


As a novice in the world of motorbikes, Theuth's guides and analysis have been invaluable for my first purchase.

Ignite the drive, explore the ride