Car clinic: A car dealer owes me money from a sale but there was no written agreement - what can I do?

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Car clinic: legal advice

Q. A dealer agreed to sell my car for me while I was away for a few months and give me £2,800 from the sale. There was no written contract. Several months after the sale — and countless texts, calls and emails later — he still owes me more than £1,000. What can I do?
JS, Cardiff

A. A verbal contract is legally binding, which means that you seem to have a straightforward claim for monies owed. You can pursue the dealer in the small-claims court, but you may not need to enter a courtroom, or even a solicitor’s office, because you can begin by filing your claim online. The relevant forms are on the site at The initial cost of taking action will be £70 or £80.

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The dealer will have 14 days to respond to your claim. If he admits owing the money, or fails to respond, the court is then able to demand payment. If the dealer still does not pay, you could ask the court to send bailiffs to reclaim the money you are owed.

However, you may need to attend court if the dealer mounts a defence. This will incur additional costs, and it would be advisable to seek legal representation at this stage. The lack of a written contract means it will come down to your word against his, although email and phone records may back up your case. If you go on to win, or the dealer accepts that he owes you the money at any stage, you can ask for your court costs to be paid by him, although the full cost of lawyers’ fees is rarely met.

For that reason, consider using a mediation service first. A mediation provider is an impartial person officially accredited by the Civil Mediation Council, who aims to help both parties come to an agreement and avoid going to court. Go to for more details.
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Nick Freeman is a solicitor who runs a legal practice in Manchester specialising in road traffic law – read more from Nick here.

Email your question to or write to Car Clinic, Driving, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST, with a daytime phone number,
your address and as much detail about your car as possible. We can’t reply in person, so don’t send original documents or SAEs. Advice is given without legal responsibility.