Your rights when buying a new or used car from a dealer or private seller, and when you’re entitled to a refund
What you need to know about your rights when buying cars
- When you buy a new or used car from a dealer it must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. You have a short-term right to reject and get a full refund if your car is faulty, not as described or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
- After 30 days, you have the right for up to 6 months for a full refund on a faulty car if it can’t be repaired or replaced. This starts from the date of purchase.
- Your car must also last a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. The law doesn’t define what this is but you have up to 6 years from the purchase date to claim some money back. However, you will have to prove the fault was there when you bought it.
- You have fewer rights when you buy from a private seller – cars must not be misrepresented but it is your responsibility to make sure it’s not faulty.
- Got a problem? Complain first to the dealer. This is who your rights are with. Explain the problem and be clear on whether you want a refund, repair or replacement. If you don’t get a response or you’re not happy with it then look next at the way you paid. You could have the right to claim your money back via your bank or credit card provider.
In this guide
Your rights when buying from a car dealer
You have certain consumer rights when you buy a new or a used car from a dealer. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stipulates that your car must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
What does this mean?
- Satisfactory quality Your car must be in a good condition and without fault or damage. It should be safe and durable during its expected lifespan.
- As described Your car should match the description given or shown to you at the time of purchase.
- Fit for purpose You should be able to use your car for the purposes it was advertised or described, and it should last a reasonable amount of time.
Fixing problems with cars bought from a dealer
You have a number of rights if your car is of unsatisfactory quality, not as described or unfit for purpose:
- Up to 30 days: You have a short-term right to reject your car from the date it is delivered to you if you find any damage or faults
- Up to 6 months: You can get a full or partial refund if your car can’t be repaired or replaced. The seller has one opportunity to repair or replace your faulty car
- Up to 6 years: You may be entitled to some money back if your car develops a fault after six months. You will have to prove the fault was there when it was sold to you.
There are exceptions to these rights. You won’t be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if you caused the damage to your car through misuse or accident, or if you knew about any problems before you bought the car.
If you bought a used car, you won’t be entitled to anything if you inspected the car before buying it without spotting obvious defects – like a dent or scratch. You also won’t be entitled to anything if the problem is considered to be ‘fair wear and tear’ – like worn brake pads.
14-day cooling off period for cars bought online
You have extra rights if you buy a car from a dealer online.
You get an automatic 14-day cooling-off period if you haven’t seen the car in person. This starts from the day after receiving your car and applies even if there are no faults. You can simply change your mind and get a full refund.
You have 14-days to return the car once you’ve told the dealer that you’ve changed your mind. You may have to cover the costs associated with doing this. The dealer should have told you about your right to return the car and who would cover the costs when you bought the car online.
Your rights when buying from a private seller
You have fewer rights when you buy a car from a private seller or car auction than when you buy from a dealer.
Cars must not be misrepresented by the seller – so you will typically have the right to a refund or compensation if your car doesn’t match the description advertised. But it is your responsibility to make sure the car is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or free from fault.
If you bought your car from an online marketplace then most will have codes of conduct in place but, legally, they are mostly exempt from liability unless they’re aware, for example, of illegal or stolen goods being sold.
If you have any problems getting your money back from a private seller on an online marketplace then do raise a complaint. See also Tips on getting refunds and putting problems right.
Jaguar Land Rover consumer claim
Jaguar Land Rover faces a legal battle over complaints that faulty parts are impacting the reliability of a range of its diesel cars. Up to 1 million customers could have been left out of pocket by a total of over £3bn. You could be eligible for compensation if you own a Jaguar Land Rover.
The complaint accuses Jaguar Land Rover of poorly designed diesel particulate filters (DPF) in a number of its cars. The impact of this could cause serious car performance issues and be potentially unsafe for drivers.
James Oldnall, the leading litigator for Milberg, the firm behind the claim, said:
‘We are standing up for drivers who have been short-changed because of the actions of Jaguar Land Rover. Our investigations have revealed that the poor design of the DPF system is causing significant reliability issues and potentially putting drivers in danger. We want to ensure no affected drivers are left out of pocket and urge them to join our claim.’
Tips on getting refunds and putting problems right
Contact the dealer first
- Contact the dealer as soon as you spot the problem – this is who your rights are with, not the car manufacturer.
- Explain the problem and be clear on whether you want a refund, repair or replacement. Be polite and stick to the facts. It helps to make reference to your legal rights.
- Keep a record of all your conversations and ask for verbal agreements in writing.
- If you don’t get what you want, file a formal complaint with the dealer.
Getting your money back from your bank or credit card company
There are other ways you can solve your problem if speaking to the dealer doesn’t work or they ignore your complaint
- If you paid by credit card, you can ask for your money back using Section 75 of the Credit Card Act if you paid for all (or some) of the cost for cars costing more than £100 but no more than £30,000. Speak to your credit card company to do this.
- If you paid by debit card, you can ask for your money back using ‘chargeback’ which is a way for your card provider (including credit cards) to claim money from your retailer’s bank. You have 120 days from the transaction processing date and will need evidence that there has been a breach of contract.
Escalating unresolved complaints
- You may be able to escalate unresolved complaints to The Motor Ombudsman – it helps with disputes against the 7,500 dealers signed up to its Codes of Practice.
- You can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you unsuccessfully tried to get your money back using Section 75.
- You can also do this for an unsuccessful ‘chargeback’ claim if your bank won’t appeal to the dealer’s bank. If they have and the appeal fails then there is nothing else you can do.
- As a last resort, you can take a seller to court to claim money you’re owed. This is known as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’ and it will cost you money and time. Fees will vary depending on the value of the claim you’re making.
Claiming compensation if your car causes injury or death
Cars you buy must be safe. You are entitled to claim compensation if your car causes injury or death. This applies whether you bought your car from the manufacturer or not.
Dealers and manufacturers (and sometimes others involved in the making of the product) are liable for their products under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. This product liability law gives you the right to sue for damage or injury caused by faulty products.
You have the right to make a personal injury claim if you have been injured by a faulty car. You must claim compensation quickly because there are strict time limits on making claims – for example, negligence claims must be made within three years of injury.
Personal injury claims can be expensive so check to see if your car insurance policy covers legal expenses like these. You might be able to get help using a no-win-no-fee arrangement with your solicitor. If you win, fees will be paid by the company you’re claiming from.
Finding a lawyer with the right experience is important. A good starting point is to look for a solicitor who is a member of a recognised scheme or body. For example:
- The Law Society’s personal injury accreditation scheme – www.lawsociety.org.uk
- The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers – www.apil.org.uk
Claiming compensation if your car is damaged by potholes
You shouldn’t suffer in silence if your car is damaged by a pothole. You may be able to claim compensation if you’ve hit a pothole in the road and it causes damage to any part of your car. Who you report the problem to and claim compensation from will depend on who manages the road.
Check your local authority’s claim procedure and gather as much evidence as possible to submit a claim. Typically you will need photos of the pothole and the damage caused, along with any estimates or receipts for the repair work.
Most A-roads and motorways are managed by National Highways, many major London roads (known as red routes) are managed by Transport for London and all other roads are typically managed by local councils.
More information on how to report a pothole or claim compensation for damage caused by roads can be found on gov.uk.
Get free advice from the consumer helpline
You can contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need more help dealing with tricky dealers or sellers.
Related claims where you could be owed compensation
Sign up to Consumer Voice if you have owned or own a Jaguar Land Rover. We will keep you updated on the group consumer claims that could mean you’re owed money.
- Jaguar Land Rover – you could be owed be owed up to £16,000 if you have owned or leased a Jaguar Land Rover diesel car.