Rejecting a new or used car: top tips

If you’ve been sold a dud by a new or used car dealer, then rejecting the vehicle is the ultimate sanction

Making the decicion to buy a new car is one of the biggest financial commitments there is, although taking that step has been made far easier in recent years thanks to the rise of the finance deal. However, while the vast majority of new car purchases are smooth and hassle-free, we’ve all heard horror stories about buyers that have bought a car that isn’t fit for purpose.

But what happens if you have serious problems with the car you’ve bought? We’re talking about faults such as engine, gearbox or electrical failures, paintwork problms, non day-to-day issues such as seat comfort or simply not liking a car’s colour. If there is a serious issue, than it’s up to the dealer that sold the car to put things right.

However, sometimes the parties in dispute won’t be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion, and as the owner of the car, the final option at your disposal is to reject it. Thankfully, there are UK consumer protection laws in place that are designed to protect your rights.

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When you’re buying a new or a used car from a dealer, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – which replaced the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act – protects your statutory rights. But for a comprehensive overview of the process of rejecting a car, read on…

What the Consumer Rights Act says

The Consumer Rights Act contains three clauses that apply to every car purchase made from a new or used dealers; the car must be “as described”, “fit for purpose” and “of satisfactory quality”.

If you’ve bought a used car, then obviously the age of the vehicle and the mileage it has covered will affect any judgment on what qualifies as ‘satisfactory quality’. It’s worth noting that if you buy privately, then the Consumer Rights Act doesn’t apply. Instead, the only obligation is that the car is ‘as described’ in its advert.

This guide deals with problem cars bought from dealers, but you might be surprised to learn the Act applies for six years after a car has been purchased (unless you live in Scotland, in which case you only have five years). However, if something does go wrong with a car that far down the line, you’ll be hard-pressed to prove it hasn’t been caused by normal wear and tear, rather than a vehicle fault.

If something goes wrong within the first 30 days of delivery, then you have more of a leg to stand on. In fact, if your car fails to meet one of the three relevant criteria during that period, the dealer is required to take the car back and give you a full refund. It’s worth noting the request must be made in writing and you must set out your reasons for wanting to reject the car.

Furthermore, if there’s a fault with the car after the 30-day period but within the first six months of delivery, the dealer c an still be required to either repair the car, offer you a replacement or issue a partial refund, but while making a deduction for any wear and tear on the car in the time you’ve owned it.

What you should do before rejecting the car

Rejecting a car should be a last resort, once you’ve pursued all other avenues of getting the car fixed. The first thing you should do if you have a problem is contact the selling dealership and take the car in for an inspection.

If the dealer offers to fix the problem, make sure that you’re aware of any potential costs and keep a record of any work and correspondence. All agreements and offers should be confirmed in writing, rather than just verbally.

You should be fair when giving the dealer a chance to fix a car, because sometimes it may take more than one attempt before you’ve got a valid and strong claim to reject a car.

Consider, too, asking for a replacement model. This can sometimes be easier than handing the car back, as manufacturers and dealers are always keen to keep customers in one of their cars. Plus, it saves you hunting around for a new model that suits your needs.

If, however, the dealer is unable to rectify the issues or they refuse to help, then it’s time to use the Consumer Rights Act and apply for car rejection. 

How to reject a car

There are certain steps that you have to take when rejecting a car. The first is to stop using it. If the car’s not fit for purpose, you shouldn’t still be using it as a runaround, as this will severely weaken your case.

Next, write to the supplying dealer giving your reasons for rejection. This should be within the first six months of ownership and outline the case so far.

If the dealer refuses to accept your rejection of the car, contact the customer care department of the manufacturer for further support. It’s worth sending a copy of your original rejection letter to the manufacturer’s head office, too.

If you’re still getting nowhere, then consider contacting the Motor Ombudsman on 0345 241 3008 or the Financial Ombudsman on 0800 023 4567.

What to do if it’s after six months

The Consumer Rights Act focuses on the first 30 days and then the first six months of ownership, but all is not lost if you’re outside the latter period. Follow the same steps and contact the dealer, giving them the option to inspect the car and put any problems right if possible. After six months, though, the responsibility is on you to prove the car was faulty when sold.

To prove this, consider an independent report, although this can carry a cost – sometimes up to £500. Visit the Institute of Automotive Engineer Assessors (IAEA) – www.iaea-online.org – to find a local inspector.

Presenting a dealer with a written report containing findings that support your claim will put you in a much stronger position.

Rejecting a car bought with finance

If you’ve bought your car on finance, car rejection can be a little trickier, but not impossible. That’s because you don’t legally own the car until you’ve paid the final instalment of your finance plan. This could be some three or four years away.

Instead, the car belongs to the finance company. If you didn’t organise the arrangement though the manufacturer (e.g. Ford or Toyota), then you’ll need to contact the finance company directly with a letter of rejection. They’ll then be involved in the process along with the dealer.

Now read our full guide to car finance and how to get the best new car deal…

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