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Legal rights: What to do if your car has a fault after you’ve bought it from a dealer

Everything you need to know about what to do if your car has a fault after you've bought it from a dealer

Buying a car is one of the most important decisions that many of us will make. The process can be a challenge, especially with so much choice and competitive deals on the market. What many drivers are still unaware of when searching for and deciding on a car, is their legal consumer rights.

If there are any problems with a car bought from a dealer (motor trader), it’s in the driver’s interest to know about their rights. This can help to resolve issues in the most effective ways and to the consumer’s satisfaction.

Before we delve into the driver’s legal rights and what to do if your car has a fault after you’ve bought it from a dealer, it’s imperative to check some of the statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

What does the Consumer Rights Act 2015 state?

The Act refers to the sale of both new and used cars from a dealership. It states that the car must be:

“of a satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”.

If it’s a used car, “satisfactory quality” considers the car’s age and mileage too.

The consumer also has the right to reject a vehicle with any faults.  In many cases, the consumer is entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

If you go over the 30 days, you’ll lose your short-term rights to refuse the vehicle. At this stage, you’ll only have some rights, such as only being able to ask for a repair, a replacement, or a partial refund.  

Legally, you’re allowed to return a car for up to six years after purchase. In Scotland, this is five years since the date of first noticing the fault. However, a problem with a car gets difficult to prove as time goes on. The dealer could respond by saying that the fault is down to normal wear and tear.

Nevertheless, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 offers better protection for car buyers. It states clearer selling terms for dealers and ensures that the car you’re purchasing is as described.

If you do find that the car you’ve bought from a dealer has a fault, or that it comes without a warranty, this is what you need to do for a favourable outcome.  

How long ago did you purchase the car?

It’s highly recommended that you ensure the car that you’re buying comes with a valid warranty. In the case of your car not having a warranty, the rules are different. If you purchased the vehicle from the dealer more than six months ago, it is the owner’s liability to prove that the fault was there when they bought the car.

Prior to approaching the dealership with a fault that needs fixing, make sure that you have proof of the problem existing at the time of purchase, otherwise the dealer is not responsible for repairing any problems or replacing any parts of the car.  

In most cases, you can always approach the dealer and try to come to an understanding. If a cordial agreement can be reached, you may be able to get the repair work done. With that in mind, it’s advised that you always maintain a professional and friendly approach with dealers as shouting back and forth is unlikely to help matters.

You have the right to reject the car within the first 30 days

If your car was bought in the last 30 days, and you’ve driven it for a short time only to find that there was a fault, you have the right to reject the vehicle on the grounds that it’s “unsatisfactory”.

Maybe the gear box is grinding, or the car doesn’t respond well when in gear, or that the brake pads are worn out and brake time has been affected, these are faults that fall under “unsatisfactory” and you’re entitled to receive a full refund. As long as the fault is identified within 30 days of buying the car.   

What to do if your car has a fault after you've bought it from a dealer - yo have 30 days to reject the car

That is what the Consumer Rights Act 2015 states, however, the fault may be something that you’re happy to get fixed or replaced, which is also within your right to request.  

On a much bigger scale, if the problem you find is with the engine or an electrical malfunction, this may be more testing for the dealer to repair. Rather than waiting around for them to find and fix the root cause of the fault, drivers are advised to reject the car and get a full refund.  

It’s important to remember that if the vehicle has been kept in a workshop for any time, these days do not count towards the 30-day limit.

Right to repair the car after 30 days

Once you’ve passed the 30-day threshold, the rules change a little. But, if you are still within six months of owning the car, you still have greater protection. According to the Consumer Rights Act, the dealer has one attempt to repair the car, instead of issuing a refund for the purchase price amount.

If this first repair fails to resolve the problem, the buyer has the right to reject the car and request a full refund. The driver may also decide to give the dealer another attempt to fix the fault. However, this gives the dealer permission to subtract an amount of money from the original purchase price. The sum is determined by how long you have had use of the car.  

The best practice for notifying the dealer

The dealer’s role is to help their customers. More importantly, their reputation relies upon good customer service and safe, quality vehicles. Professional dealers will want to retain customer loyalty and ensure that word of mouth reviews remain appealing in the community. Plus, building a good relationship with customers to ensure their return is a big part of the motor trade industry. Dealerships should be as eager as the customer in ensuring an agreeable result when it comes to repairs.

When you identify a fault, telephone, or visit the dealer at the earliest. Notify them of the problem you’ve been experiencing with the vehicle, and what you would like to do next. Follow the call up with written notice via email or post. And keep a record of all your correspondence.

Who should I contact to resolve any disputes?

In some cases, if it’s hard to reach an amicable agreement with a dealer, you can get in touch with the Motor Ombudsman. The organisation is an impartial service that helps to resolve automotive disputes. It operates under the Motor Industry Codes of Practice  which are approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

Did you find this information useful? Read more helpful advice here…

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