So, you just bought yourself a “works like a clock” used car in Norway and it turned out to be a wreck? It sucks, right? Trust me, I know what you are going through. I have been down that sunset boulevard before, my friend. But luckily, it’s not all dark and gloomy and I will tell you everything you need to know about how to increase your chances of getting your hard-earned money back.
As a used car buyer in Norway, you have consumer rights
Ok, first of all, as a buyer you got some rights. Actually, as it turns out, quite a lot of rights. Of course, this depends on whether you buy the car from a dealer or a private person. Totally different rules. Basically, you are a lot better off if you buy your car from a dealer.
BUT, even the private seller’s responsibility to inform you of your possible new car flaws supersedes your responsibility to inspect the car.
What does this mean? Well, we all know we are supposed to inspect the car before we buy it. But even if you do a shitty job at this and the fault should have been seen by you, then it should have been known to the seller as well. Thus, you should have been informed.
If he doesn’t inform you that two out of three metal attachments of the fuel tank are rusted away and that the compression chamber is all muddy and rusty then you basically have a good case. And especially, as in our case, if the seller is actively trying to hinder your inspection and tries to hide flaws, then you are off to a running start! Great!
Our experience with buying a used car in Norway and how it went wrong
Let me tell you a short version of what happened to us over a year ago. We wanted to buy a used car in Norway. Particularly a used van. Our dream was to convert it to a campervan, ship it to South America and travel the Panamerican highway from Chile to Alaska.
So, obviously we wanted something that would last us a long, long time. When we inspected the car, it looked fine as far as we could tell, but we are no car mechanics. At the end of our amateur inspection, we wanted to have a look at the expansion chamber for the coolant, but the seller said it was a bad idea.
Big warning signs are probably already going off in your head already, right? Well, it’s different when you are there, trust me. He said since the car had a warm engine it would splash boiling coolant in our faces if we opened it. Made sense I though. So, against our better judgment (Big hindsight tip: follow your judgment and get it written down that the parts that you didn’t get to see are in good shape. Written or it didn’t happen!) we trusted his word that it was in good shape. And since everything else looked good, we bought it right there.
Of course, little did we know that a couple of hours later we would seriously wonder if we did the right thing and by the end of that week we definitely knew we didn’t.
After the purchase, we went to the nearest city (20minutes) to do some sightseeing. Coming back to the car we noticed something was hanging under the car. Under closer inspection we realized that it was the second of three metal attachments, that was keeping the fuel tank from getting grinded by the road, that had eroded away and finally had to give in. The first one had already been rusted away completely.
So we were left with one seriously rusty last attachment holding our fuel tank. What did we do? Well, we did what any sane person would do and bought a ratchet strap and strapped it as tight as we could and drove 800km home, carefully.
Do we need to exchange the whole engine?
At home, we left the car standing for a few weeks because we didn’t have time to drive the car to the repair shop to get a more permanent solution for the fuel tank, even though to this day, the strap seems to work beautifully!
On the way over to the shop I got a spike on the temp gauge and it started smelling burned. Yellow engine lights and the whole nine yards. Over at the car mechanic, he could tell right away that the gasket was caput! Which basically means, for any low-value car, that its time to think about retirement for this metal cage. He, and other professionals we talked to later, would also comment that this car doesn’t have much more life to it and “did you pay 30.000 NOK for this?” and other similar uplifting comments.
And about the metal straps, 3.000 NOK (350$) for three new straps. So we just said let’s wait with the straps and let’s call the seller and hear what he has to say about discussing a refund or a discount.
I contacted him and he simply said “FORGET ABOUT IT! You knew what you bought and you even signed a contract that says “sold as it is (selges som den står)”. So, he claimed we had no rights for a refund since we signed a contract that stated the car was sold as it is.
Buying a used car in Norway “as it is”
This is a thing that people might try on you, claiming that the sentence “sold as it is” exempts them from any and all responsibility after the deal is made. Not so fast. It is true, this sentence has some weight, but still, what trumps that is the consumer purchase laws (Forbrukerkjøpsloven) that say it’s illegal to sell something that is in substantially worse shape than the buyer is led to think. Then it’s up for debate what “substantially” means.
What is Forbrukerrådet and how can it help when you cannot agree with the seller?
We had no experience with this form before so I contacted the Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet). Most foreigners don’t know about them. They are the guys to talk to when you want to complain about any purchase you did. Whether it was from a vendor or a private person. They were super helpful to us and told us EXACTLY what to do. And upon reading similar stories it became clear that we were not the first ones to have gone through this. That was a big relief I remember, especially when those people would get their money back, which we at this time wanted. We were no longer interested in getting a small refund or anything like that. It was clear that our van was not going to make it through the Americas, let alone to the nearest Toyota dealer.
Ok, the seller is not interested in listening to you or you cannot come to an agreement? Here are the steps laid out for you what to do next:
First: Stay calm. It might take some time to get your case tried, just be patient. This whole thing will probably take more time than you like. On our part, the first complaint to Forbrukerrådet took about 4 months. The next complaints to Forbrukerklageutvalget took 7 months. And finally, the letter I sent to Namsfogden took about 4 months. So about 1,5 years in total.
If you are already tearing your hair off in frustration and don’t feel like it’s worth all this time, then stop reading and accept your losses. If not, keep reading and realize you might be able to solve this a lot faster than we did.
Get written statements from car workshops
Ok, next step: get the whole car inspected for damages, at a brand-specific workshop. So if you have a Toyota, go to a Toyota workshop. They have more authority than Joe Schmo streetcorner car shop. You are interested in getting a “tilstandsrapport”, which is a written statement of the condition of the car.
The “tilstandsrapport” comes in at least two versions. One cheap (around 1000NOK) and one more thorough (around 3,500 NOK). Which one you go for is something you have to agree on with the workshop after you have told them what you want to inspect in particular. We went for the expensive version after the first version didn’t show anything. We should have talked to them more specifically about what we were looking for.
What should the tilstandsrapport include?
So, have the car shop write you a written statement that says that this and this is wrong with the car. That the broken part(s) likely happened before the purchase (very important!). And that it will cost so and so much to fix it (especially important if you are looking for a discount).
If it’s true and they want to write it, have them write that it’s possible/likely that the owner knew about this. They will of course never write that the seller for sure knew about it. But any hints and suggestions as to whether the seller might have known are good for your case. Make them stamp and sign it. You will use this for later complaint writing.
Another place you can get a written statement for a fairly small amount is through NAF. Every city has at least one of these places. Especially if you are a member. They charge only around 500NOK for a tilstandsrapport and it is a great addition to the written statement of the brand-specific workshop.
Write a complaint to Forbrukerrådet
This is super important that you get right. So sit down and write a proper complaint!
- Use dates, use fancy words, use pictures, use receipts, use the copy of the contract, use screenshots of your communication with the seller.
- Put all of the screenshot pictures into a Word document and convert it to a PDF-file to make it easier to go through
- Incorporate quotes from all the professionals you have talked to and got their written statement from to back up all your claims, or else it’s just you making stuff up
- Add all of this as attachments to the complaint document. I had 18 attachments.
What should the complaint include?
It should include EVERYTHING. That means everything from your first contact with the seller to what happened on the day you bought it and when you first found out something was wrong to what it is that you want as well as any professional statements.
Having your claims backed up by one or several professionals improves your case so much more than just you making accusations taken out of thin air. When it comes to what it is that you want you are supposed to have three outcomes put in the order of what you most want to what you might be ok with.
Something like this:
1: canceling the purchase
2: compensation for the repair of the defect(s)
Get all communication with the seller in writing
It’s maybe too late now, but try to get as much communication with the seller in writing. Have the seller write you how good shape the car is in instead of telling you over the phone. So even though it might be tempting to call him, don’t. Email or SMS is the way to go. If it’s not written it didn’t happen!
We basically won our case because the seller had written that the car was in great shape in the add. So then we could document it. Had he said it over the phone it would have been a totally different thing. And later, screenshot all of that communication into a Word document and use it as an attachment in your complaint. And name the attachments by a number from 01 and up. “Attachment #01 etc”
Send in your complaint to Forbrukerrådet
Forbrukerrådet is a neutral mediator that will help the buyer and seller come to a reasonable agreement. Their job is to suggest a solution. But you or the seller are by no means obligated to follow through with it. In our case, the seller was not even interested in talking. So, we went quickly to the next step after getting their answer.
So, now you might think, why can’t I just save time and go straight to the next level if it doesn’t have any legal weight anyway. No, you can’t do that. You always have to first try to solve it between you and the seller, then contact FR and THEN, if that fails too, take the next step. This has to do with resource-saving on their side. This is all for free so they have limited resources to spend on helping us out.
Sometime after the complaint has been sent to Forbrukerråder you will get a phone call from them where they want to get stuff clarified and if there is anything else they can do for you. Then you just have to wait. Hopefully, they will come to a satisfactory conclusion and the seller and you will come to an agreement already now. If not, let’s have a look at the next step.
What is Forbrukerklageutvalget and how can it help you?
Next step: Consumer Disputes Commission or Forbrukerklageutvalget. Decisions made by the Consumer Disputes Commission are binding, and final judgments can be enforced by the enforcement authorities. This means that you are more likely to recover any money owed to you.
They might reach a different conclusion than FR or the same. In our case, they got to the same conclusion and decided we should get our money back with interests. Including all the money we spent on going to various car repair shops to get the damage inspected and confirmed. When you contact them, just use the case number you got from FR and they will get all the documentation sent over, so you don’t have to worry about that. You can write a new complaint IF you have important new information to share, but you don’t need to. It will basically run on its own. Just lean back and trust that slowly, slowly things are actually happening. Did I tell you to be patient?
They will again contact both you and the seller, and then they will spend a few grueling months (up to 6-7) to come to a conclusion. But just realize there is NOTHING you can do and go on with your life and try to forget about it.
In our case, after 7 months they sent us a letter saying we won the case and the seller even had to come and get the car himself! Which we were glad to hear since the car would not make it all the way back that 800 km. Hopefully, you got a positive verdict and the seller will agree on the demands. If not, keep on reading.
To this new verdict, our seller wrote: Forget about it!
If everything else fails: contact Namsfogden
Next and final step. Contact the local police in the sellers home town. Or rather Namsfogden. A branch of the police that will be responsible for collecting your money. They have jurisdiction to break into a person’s house/business offices. And if necessary, take their possessions. Or freeze money or assets until they pay.
So we sent 4 copies of this document to the Namsfogd in his town including a copy of the document you got from FKU. You can find the appropriate Namsfogd for your case here. We never got a reply from Namsfogden. After 3 months I called them and they apologized that it took an unusually long time. A month later we got a letter saying he owed us an exact amount of money (value of car included all expenses and interests as stated by FKU) and they said they had frozen some assets that he owned until he paid us.
A few days later the seller called me and asked for my account number and he transferred me the money the next day.
Use this link to calculate the interests you will use in the form above.
What was the end of our story after buying a used car in Norway?
The seller was not very interested in coming over to pick up the car so he tried to push down the price if I would want to keep the car. I told him to come and pick up his car and forget about any deal. He later sent me a contract where he gave us the car for free. So now we can sell the car as a parts car for a decent sum. If it will pay off for the added wrinkles and lost time of my life, time will tell, but at least the story had a happy ending. Hopefully, armed with this information I can only hope, yours might too
What lesson did we learn from buying a used car in Norway?
We actually bought another van while we were going thought all of this with the first van. That one is so far working great and we are writing this article as we drive south on the Panamerican highway in our converted van. So, if anything, we learned how to be patient, because these things can take time.
We also learned that you get what you pay for. We paid over 3 times as much for the second van we bought than the first one. This is a fairly universal concept but this may be especially true when it comes to buying used cars in Norway because of rust and a lot of salt on the roads. Metal gets eaten up fast so checking for rust is a must!
- Check the compression chamber!
If we just had checked the compression chamber, it would have been clear that this was not a van we wanted. The coolant was completely muddy and thick and rust-brown. In general: Inspect the car.
- Get the Tilstandsrapport!
It is possible and highly encouraged to get a tilstandsrapport on the car you want to buy. When we were looking for our second van we asked everyone for a rapport. Most sellers didn’t have it or were unwilling to get it. That is a great way of excluding future bad experiences. It’s also possible to ask the seller to get one after you have inspected it or to get it done if you show some serious interest. If someone has a car they know is good, then, of course, they would want to get a tilstandsrapport that they can use as an argument for a slightly higher price. Some had it and we finally ended on a van that had a good one from a serious car salesman.
- Take the car for a test drive!
Especially if you know your way around cars, this can tell you a lot.
- Get all communication with the seller in writing from the start.
Screenshot any adds from FINN or similar. They might remove it from the web as soon as they see that you are serious about wanting compensation. Have the seller tell you in writing about the condition of the car.