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