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How to Have a Dealer Repair or Replace a Faulty Car

Nobody buys a used or new car planning for it to go wrong. But as cars grow in complexity, so do the chances increase of something playing up. If any car suffers problems it pays for drivers to know their rights. Following changes to consumer law in 2015, there are clear guidelines for consumers and motor traders (dealers) that mean both parties know where they stand. This was seen as an important step. It cleared up a grey area, removing ambiguity. Here, we explain those rights and the steps consumers should take when there’s a fault with their car.

James Mills
Written by James Mills
Edited on
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About the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Introduced in October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act replaced the Sale of Goods Act. The current act applies to new or used cars bought from a motor trader – whether they’re a franchised dealer or independent garage.

However, it does not offer protection against vehicles bought from private individuals or cars bought at auction.

This is an expansive piece of legislation, but in summary it states that a car must be ‘of a satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’. For a used car, ‘satisfactory quality’ takes into account the car’s age and mileage.

It gives drivers 30 days to reject a new car if a fault develops, and receive a full refund. The same applies to a used car, because the law says the fault is presumed to have been present when you bought the car, unless the dealer can prove otherwise.

If the fault occurs after the first 30 days of ownership, but within the first six months, then the motor trader is entitled to fix the vehicle. If they can’t rectify its problem, consumers can then reject the car. However, any refund may have to allow for the use of the vehicle to date.


Which faults give drivers grounds to reject their car?

Defining a serious fault is the stuff that keeps lawyers in jobs. It can be best summed up as something that prevents the car from doing its job properly. If the engine cuts out, or a cabriolet’s roof won’t close, your car has a serious fault.

However, if you find the seats uncomfortable, or have changed your mind about the colour of the car, you’re not allowed to hand the car back and demand a refund.

Similarly, if a headlight bulb blows, or a heated seat stops working, these are things that can be easily repaired under warranty, or for used cars, under the dealer’s Consumer Rights Act obligations.


image of person on mobile phone alongside a broken down vehicle


Act fast: you can reject a faulty car outright within the first 30 days

If you believe your car has a serious fault, and wish to reject it, act fast. You have 30 days from taking delivery of the vehicle to make your case.

Contact the dealer that sold you the vehicle, and put your complaint in writing. Email is ideal for this and ensures all correspondence between you and the dealer is recorded.


Repairing or rejecting a car after 30 days but within the first six months

If a new or used car goes wrong after 30 days but within the first six months of ownership, contact the dealer that sold you the vehicle. Put your case in writing (again, email is ideal for this) and ask for the fault to be repaired. This gives the dealer its chance to make things good.

If the fault cannot be fixed, then the driver is entitled to reject the car and have a refund. However, this is where things can get complicated. Depending on the age of the vehicle, there may have to be allowances made for the use that the driver has had from the vehicle.


Consider a replacement rather than a refund

It can be more practical and less expensive for a dealer to exchange a faulty vehicle for another, comparable car. For example, if you bought a new Volkswagen Golf, and it developed serious faults but you fundamentally still liked the model, consider asking the dealer for a replacement Golf.


What if you bought a faulty vehicle on finance?

You should approach the car dealer first. Once it has been agreed that there is a serious fault and grounds for rejecting the vehicle (rather than a repair), the dealer can liaise with any finance provider involved.


Did you know the Consumer Rights Act lasts for six years?

Not many people realise that this act lasts for six years. However, for cars, it is difficult for consumers to prove that rather than natural wear and tear, a fault has been present from purchase.