Remember to inspect and test-drive the car carefully. You do not have a legal obligation to do so, but it is far easier to deal with problems at the time of the transaction than afterwards. Do not buy a car if you are not allowed:
- to inspect the car in detail
- to take the car out for a proper test drive
- to have the condition of the car tested professionally
Points to note in Germany
If you are shopping at a German car dealership, inspect and test-drive the car very thoroughly. If any defects are later found that should have been detected at the time, in general you will have no luck in trying to claim compensation for them. This is also true of any defects:
- observed during a test drive
- declared by the seller before the deal is closed
- declared in the sales agreement
Latent defects are another matter.
Points to note in Sweden
In Sweden, professional dealers are bound by law to declare any defects and shortcomings in the cars they sell. Even obvious defects must be specifically declared. However, not every scratch on an old car has to be documented, and normal wear and tear is assumed without comment. If the value of a car exceeds SEK 15,000, its condition must be assessed in what is known as a ‘goods declaration’ (varudeklaration). For cars of lower value, it is enough to provide information on the car’s safety.
The ‘goods declaration’ should be easily identifiable. It is often attached to the windscreen. If such a document cannot be found, you should go to another dealership. Ensure that you get the ‘goods declaration’ with the car.
Even the ‘goods declaration’ does not guarantee a flawless product, so you should test-drive the car anyway. Further information on the form and a template can be found on the website of the Swedish Consumer Agency.
When you inspect a car
When inspecting a car externally, pay attention to:
- rust damage
- odometer reading in relation to the general condition of the car
- the chassis of the car
Find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the vehicle itself and in the paperwork and make sure they are the same.
Be very careful with removal vehicles and damage-repaired cars. A ‘removal vehicle’ in this context means a vehicle brought to Finland by its owner who is moving to Finland.
There has been much discussion about odometer manipulation in Germany. Modifying odometer readings is not in itself illegal and it does happen, so you should be careful. However, the buyer should be told if the odometer has been adjusted. If a vendor manipulates an odometer reading for the purpose of getting a better price for the car, this is an offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment. In such a case, the buyer is entitled to demand that the transaction be cancelled.
To avoid problems, do this:
- check the odometer reading
- ask the odometer reading to be recorded in the sales agreement
- ask to see the repair log and documentation on previous vehicle inspections and authorised maintenance; odometer readings can often be found in the database of an authorised repair service
- estimate whether the condition of the car realistically matches its odometer reading
You could also contact the previous owner of the car.
On the test drive
- first check the engine oil level and other fluid levels
- drive the car until the engine has properly warmed up
- drive the car on various road surfaces
- run through all the gears
- drive the car at various speeds
- test the control equipment
- make a note of any unusual sounds
Have the car tested by someone else
In Germany, you can have the car tested by an independent operator named Dekra that has service points around the country and does not always require an advance booking. Dekra issues cars with an independent seal of quality. The German Automobile Association, ADAC, also carries out vehicle testing at various locations. These tests cost around EUR 70. You could suggest to the vendor that you split the cost of the test between you.
In Sweden, you can ask the seller to ‘M-test’ the car, which means having it tested at a test station run by the Motormännen consumer association.