Cars are probably the most complicated pieces of equipment we own. It’s therefore unsurprising that even brand-spanking new motors go wrong from time to time.
Yet they don’t have to malfunction for drivers to want to hand them back. Sometimes, disorganised dealers order the wrong features on a new car – such as a manual gearbox when an automatic had been requested.
Fortunately, the law is on the side of the customer. Since the Consumer Rights Act came into force in October 2015, car buyers are better protected than ever. But you need to know where you stand in order to act correctly and ensure any problem is resolved to your satisfaction.
30-day quibble-free refund period
The 2015 Consumer Rights Act has made things simpler for car buyers.
In the first 30 days of ownership, you now have the right to reject an unsatisfactory car and are entitled to a full refund. So if you’re really unhappy with the car, whether it’s poor paintwork, a mechanical fault that renders it unworthy for the road, or the wrong gearbox, it’s vital that you don’t delay and reject the car within the 30-day window.
Understanding what ‘unsatisfactory’ means
The goods – in this case the car – must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
If something with the car isn’t working, or it’s preventing you from using it, or you ordered a three-door hatchback with an automatic gearbox but a five-door model with a manual gearbox turns up, that’s unsatisfactory.
Do you really want to reject the car?
Rejecting a new car can be an arduous process.
For example, you may have to go to county court to have your case heard and the law upheld. It can be worth considering any suggested solutions that the dealer proposes, before deciding on rejection.
If a problem arises, stop using the car and phone the dealer to alert them of your intention to reject the car
Notifying the car dealer
Once the problem arises, stop using the car and phone the dealer to alert them to your intention to reject the car.
Follow this up in writing, using email or a letter. Detail the fault and make clear that you wish to reject the car and that you’re entitled by law to claim a refund for the original purchase price. Set out a 14-day period for the refund, and explain that beyond this point, you will issue a claim against the dealer in county court.
Rejecting a car after the 30-day period
Let’s face it; the chances of faults rearing their head within the first 30 days of owning a new car would be far too convenient. So what happens when problems arise after the first 30 days of owning a new car?
Your rights to a full refund are lost. Instead, for cars between one and six months old, the dealer must be given one chance to repair the car or offer a replacement.
Should the former fail to get to the root of the problem, or the latter isn’t to the customer’s satisfaction, then the dealer must offer a partial refund.
Typically, the refund will be a value that’s reflective of the car’s age and condition. Unfortunately, this inevitably means you stand to lose money: even two-month old cars can depreciate substantially from their original showroom prices.
Problems with cars over six months old
When a new car is more than six months old, the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty is there to help put things right for drivers. New cars typically have three years of protection, but some offer warranties of five, and even seven years.
Not all items on a car are covered by the warranty – you have what’s known as wear and tear exclusions. That means components such as the tyres, parts of the brakes or exhaust probably won’t be covered. Contact the dealer that you bought the car from and make arrangements for them to examine the fault and carry out repairs.
If you need more information about your rights when rejecting a vehicle, be sure to check out these links:
Consumer Council (Northern Ireland)
Motorcycle Industry Association
Retail Motor Industry Federation
Trading Standards Institute