Cars and garages

Car buyers alert: how not to get fobbed off

Protect yourself when buying a car

A sector which often appears a law unto itself and from which can be very difficult to gain redress.

How to choose where to buy your car

Garages often try to fob you off with “contact the manufacturer”. Don’t be fobbed off. Many garages are members of Trade Associations which you can contact and if you still don’t get any joy you can go to the Small Claims Court.

One red one blue car

When you choose a garage you should look to see if it is a member of a trade association and if any doubt about the authenticity of the sign you can contact the trade association to check. You can also look online to find garages which are members of the association.

The Motor Ombudsman is an impartial self-regulatory body. Its members follow codes of practice and these have been approved by the Trading Standard Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). The scheme approves Codes of Practice that set out a minimum standard for their members.

The New Car Code of Practice covers 99 per cent of all vehicles sold within the UK. It sets the standards for new cars which their members must follow. The code commits their members to providing honest and fair sales and warranties written in plain English.

The Service and Repair Code has over 7,800 garages subscribed. This code commits members to providing open and transparent pricing policies and honest and fair services.

The Vehicle Warranty Products Code aims to drive up standards across a wide range of automotive warranty and insurance products, by committing subscribers to higher standards than required by law. The code ensures members warranty products are clear and not misleading and that clear information is given at the point of sale.

Members of The Motor Ombudsman

If you have a complaint about a member of The Motor Ombudsman and they haven’t resolved your complaint satisfactorily, you can contact The Motor Ombudsman for advice. They will help you resolve your dispute for free using their own conciliation and advisory service. If the matter still can’t be resolved, The Motor Ombudsman can offer you legal arbitration for a fee, or of course you can go through the Small Claims Court.

How to reject a new car and get a refund

If you want to reject a new car you should do so very quickly. Unlike buying a faulty kettle that you could take back after a few weeks and expect a full refund, a car depreciates in value and this will be reflected in any refund and no doubt be a matter of argument. In court too the judge may say that you have kept the car too long to expect a full refund.

You are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so if it is not fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality or doesn’t fit the description then you are fully entitled to expect the retailer to come and pick up the vehicle and give you a full refund. You do not have to accept a repair. If you have had the car too long to return it you can reasonably expect a repair. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 entitles you to goods which are of satisfactory quality.

You should expect the dealer to pick the car up from you if you are getting the full refund but make sure the cheque has cleared first!

You might choose to accept a repair, or already have had to have a repair, for which you want redress. You can do this whilst retaining your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Story of how I fought to get repairs on a new car for my mother here. It can be hard work but it can be done.

How to complain about a second hand car

Undoubtedly you would not expect a second hand car to be in as good a condition as a new car! However, when buying from a dealer you still have the same rights as above.

If you find a defect that wasn’t pointed out to you at the time of purchase you should inform the dealer immediately (usually within less than a couple of weeks). After this time a refund will significantly reflect the difference between market value and the price you paid for the vehicle.

When buying a second hand car you might look more favourably at a warranty scheme to work like an insurance policy but check everything in it with a fine tooth comb.

Purchasing a second hand car

When buying a second hand car from a private seller your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 still cover you. However, a private seller is only bound to give you truthful answers to questions you ask about the car, unlike car dealers they are not obliged to give details of the car if those details aren’t requested. You can ask for a full refund or you ask the seller to pay for what is needed for the car to match the description. If the seller refuses to do either of these things then the only option open to you is the Small Claims Court.

More help and advice on purchasing and complaining about cars and garages

All you need to know about car purchasing, financing and garages How to buy and/or complain about a new or secondhand car and/or a garage

See How not to get fobbed off by a garage (and what to do if you have been!) if you have been fobbed off in a garage.

Templates to download to gain redress

Templates for complaining about vehicles and garages variety of templates to purchase to get the redress to which you are entitled. They also give further advice on what to do if you don’t get a satisfactory response!

Complain effectively resources

For more help on complaining effectively see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

The Small Claims Court process made simple full guide to taking a company to court.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo


For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!



Templates to download to gain redress

Templates for complaining about vehicles and garages variety of templates to purchase to get the redress to which you are entitled. They also give further advice on what to do if you don’t get a satisfactory response

By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

6 replies on “Car buyers alert: how not to get fobbed off”


I would like some advise please and would really appreciate it if you could if you could help. At the end of September last year I purchased a new Mercedes GLC 43 vehicle and paid in full upfront. The car was delivered to me on 17 October 2017. On about November 10 I was in touch with the Mercedes dealership who sold me the car re a knocking and shuddering noise when the steering was on full lock (I have a video I have taking which shows when pulling out of a side road the shuddering and knocking noise being made no less than 15 times). They sent me to another Mercedes dealership closer to where I live who advised this was a characteristic of the car and was a comfort issue and not a fault and I wouldn’t be able to reject the car.

Over the last few months I have taken my car back to the dealership I bought it from (200 miles away)who advised the same, emailed the Mercedes CEO who has his team send me back generic replies stating it is a characteristic of the car and I should put smaller winter tyres on the car. The official Mercedes statement is as follows;

The issue that you are referring to is in fact a characteristic which comes from flexibility within the tyre sidewall, the grip between the front tyres and the type of road surface being driven over. It is something which can be felt only at very low speeds, and when a certain percentage of wheel lock is engaged for turning. This is demonstratively more evident in colder temperatures due to the changes in the tyre rubber elasticity. The effect is also more pronounced when larger wheels and low profile tyres are fitted to the car.
We do appreciate your concern however, and would like to reassure you that this is a comfort issue and would not affect the safety or overall performance of your car.
That said, we recognise that for some customers comfort is the most important factor, and so have tested and identified alternative cost options that can be retrofitted in order to minimise this characteristic. These are:
· 18” and 19” All Season tyres
· 18” and 19” Cold Weather wheels and tyres
· 18” wheels with Summer tyres
Whilst we continue to investigate alternative ways to minimise this characteristic with the factory, I hope this explanation provides you with some reassurance.

Mercedes are now having all customers who buy the same vehicle as mine sign a waiver form at the time of purchase that they have been advised of this characteristic.

My concern is;

– I was not advised of this ‘characteristic’ when I acquired the new car (and did not receive the handbook until after purchase). As new purchasers are now being asked to sign waivers, I feel that I have a strong case of non disclosure at point of sale. This is strengthend in my view by my point below.
– When I bought the car I advised I wanted the bigger tyres (21 inch), after purchase once I have complained of the knocking noise I am told the only way to minimise the characteristic is to put on smaller 19 inch tyres, not what I said I wanted for the car and I was not advised that in winter this wouldn’t be possible

On online blogs and forums there are more than 100 others who have the same characteristic and who are being ignored by Mercedes. Most seem to have the smaller wheels which on a like for like basis Mercedes are stating put winter tyres on.

Please can you advise what I should do. I feel like I have been mis sold, if I was asked to sign the same disclosure document new customers are now being asked to sign there is no way I would have bought the car, and the dealer is saying I cannot reject the car and Mercedes seem to have their head in the sand. A release is expected from them by close of play tomorrow however I am not confident this will address my concerns, and as per the above I believe I have a strong case but not sure what to do next. My contract is with the dealership and not Mercedes UK so I think I should pursue them for mis selling based on the above. My wife refuses to drive the car as it feels unsafe and the shuddering makes her nervous, so for now she and my 1 year old daughter have no transport and I need a resolution.

Thanks for your help.


Sorry, not able to read through all this. Please see Contact Page for what I can do. However, have seen that the first part refers to a car bought less than 6 months ago. Please see the post above and all the links within it. Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to cars. If you can’t get redress when you go to the top you are left with court.

Bought new E300hybrid Mercedes estate in 2013. This is a £30k plus car. It died on the the drive very shortly after but just seemed teething trouble. Fine then till after first service when died again. I was minded to reject but fixed then went until about 18 months later went into limp mode (no power) at 60+ mph which is truly dangerous. Went back furious and got courtesy car whist they had it for weeks. Came back “fixed” then Christmas Day on short trip – yes limp mode. Got it home called MB and into garage. By now out of warranty – they said vacuum pump at £1360 and there are 2 Wanted us to pay – I refused flatly and pointed out if courts think white goods should last 5 years certainly car of this value with 17,000 mile on clock longer. Stood ground and they paid. Earlier this week – you geessed it into limp mode 5 times in 3 miles.It’s back with them I’m absolutely refusing to pay and want money back. Accept won’t get full refund but should get decent amount of cost. This car could KILL. It’s a common problem as shown on MB forums.

I sold a 20 year old motorhome 4 months ago in a private sale. The description was clear and lengthy. Type, model, year, engine size, etc., etc.
During our ownership the motorhome was reliable and fault free, which were words I used in the description.
A person viewed it and we further explained, basically reminding them of what was in the description, about ceiling having a slight bow, that we kept it in dry storage, that it had received repairs internally before our purchase, that we had replaced the carpet and painted cupboard doors, what we had done to maintain the vehicle and the checks required by the buyer to prevent problems. Buyer was very happy and purchased.
Buyer is now threatening to take us to court over misrepresentation as a recent habitation check has found severe damp. She also states that we gave it a more youthful appearance but it was in the description that we had modernised it and explained what we had done but she was happy when we discussed this at the time of viewing the vehicle.
The motorhome was dry when it left us as we had damp checked it with a damp meter. We don’t know how it has been stored since the sale or whether in fact they have damaged it and that has caused a problem. The buyer has been on numerous holidays since purchase last October.
Buyer wants a refund for the full cost of the vehicle but has recently informed us that she will accept £6,000 as a dealer is buying the motorhome for £3,000. Buyer has said that she is within the 6 months timeframe to get a refund and quoted this in her email, although what she sent me relates to buying from a retailer.
She signed a bill of sale that stated no warranty was implied or given and that she had inspected the vehicle, or had it inspected and was buying it in ‘as in’ condition. She chose not to have it inspected by an independent person.
Where do we stand?

I am not a lawyer so this is just a layman’s opinion but I think she hasn’t got a hope. Misrepresentation is something that a private seller must be careful of. The CRA for private seller have to make sure item is as described. I think she’s trying her luck. If she takes you to court it will cost her money and if she loses she won’t get that back. You’re welcome.

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