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How to reject a car - your consumer rights

Buying a car should be an enjoyable and relatively easy experience, but what happens when something goes wrong? Here's how to go about rejecting a car.

What are your rights if you want to reject a car?

The 'early right to reject' states that you have a legal right to reject a vehicle that doesn't meet the specified standards within 30 days

Your rights are against the supplier, which is the dealer and the finance company jointly if you bought it on finance. Not against the manufacturer.

The 2015 Consumer Rights Act theoretically gives you the statutory right to reject a new or used car (or anything else) within 30 days of purchase if any fault is found.

However, this has still be be verified in the courts. A reputable new or used car dealer may have signed up to 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' (arbitration) under an Industry Code of Practice. This used to be called Motor Codes but has now been re-named The Motor Ombudsman.

The reasons to reject a vehicle

You only retain the right to reject the car if there is something fundamentally wrong with it. But you can reject it within six months of the date of purchase. This includes faults that were present - or developing - when you bought the car, or it was received in a condition that does not match what you were told.

Cosmetic issues or minor faults aren't usually reasons to reject a vehicle. These sorts of issues should be dealt with under warranty, if you have one.

You can’t successfully reject a car for a trivial reason such as a little scratch or finding out you don’t like something about the car. Unless, for instance, you bought it for a specific purpose. So if you bought a car to tow a caravan and then you find out it cannot, for example.

Who should you contact?

Write to both the dealer principal and to the finance company (if applicable) and send your letter by Post Office Special Delivery so you get receipts for them and your letters become 'matters of record' which can't be denied.

Why rejecting a car shouldn't be your first move

If you discover a fault with a car you’ve just bought, don’t immediately reject it. The fault may be relatively easy to fix.

You’ll save time and hassle getting it repaired, rather than trying to reject it. The dealer may also not agree that the vehicle should be rejected. If they refuse to accept your rejection, you may want to contact the Motor Ombudsman first and possibly consider legal action to pursue the matter.

What steps to take...

If you do purchase a vehicle that was faulty when it was bought, or if it is not as was advertised, then the best course of action is to contact the dealer or individual who sold you the car. 

The dealer does not owe you an immediate refund, they'll probably want to conduct their own assessment of the vehicle to see if you are owed your money back. If you are entitled to a refund, it must be given within 14 days of the trader agreeing that you are owed your money back.

If that doesn't work, contact the Motor Ombudsman.

What is the Motor Ombudsman?

The Motor Ombudsman is designed to help consumers if things go wrong when buying or servicing a vehicle. It's essentially a mediation service to help consumers and businesses find resolutions to disputes.

It is entirely impartial and its Codes of Practice are designed to promote 'responsible business'.

The code covers transparent wording of adverts and pricing, clear and transparent invoicing and the sale of a used car which is supported by a vehicle provenance check to ensure that it has not been stolen, written-off and is free of any outstanding finance payments.

It also highlights that retailers should provide test drives, avoid high-pressure selling techniques, supply accurate advice on warranty and finance products, and deliver a vehicle with a full handover, complete with all historic documentation, the entire service history and a valid MoT certificate.

Business pledge to resolve any problems quickly and cost effectively should a dispute arise in relation to the sales process. As a last resort, retailers are able to refer a customer to Motor Codes, a CTSI-certified ADR provider, for adjudication prior to the awarding of a final decision.

What if you think you've been mis-sold a car?

As an example, if you explain to a dealer that you only do short trips and have a low annual mileage, but they sell you a diesel car, this could be classed as mis-selling.

Diesel vehicles are not suitable for short trips, they need to be driven around 15000 miles a year for the DPF to actively regenerate. If not, it can lead to expensive repairs.

Unfortunately, unless you have written evidence then you have no case for a refund. Emailing the dealer and outlining what your vehicle needs are will ensure you have proof of mis-selling if an issue arises

What if your new car is not what you ordered?

We hear this from readers from time to time. Sometimes it's as small as a different navigation being fitted or an owner needs a tow bar and the car can't be fitted with one. Other times it's big changes such as a different engine or thr wrong colour paintwork.

If you specifically order something and don’t get it, then you simply refuse to accept the car.

But if the manufacturer changed the specification, the dealer has no control over that and he may try to push you to accept the car.

Does this apply to used cars?

Yes, regardless of whether it was bought from a franchised dealership or an independent garage. If there is a problem with your used car soon after you bought it - and that problem is not to be expected based on age or mileage - then you are entitled to a free repair or replacement as long as it's within 30 days.

Often the cost of a replacement will be disproportionate, so it will usually be a repair. If the car was bought from a dealer - and the fault was not stated to you - then you have the right to claim against them for breach of contract.

If the car was not as described then this would fall under misrepresentation and also allows a claim to be made.

What about private sales?

When buying privately you have fewer rights because certain parts of the Consumer Rights Act do not apply. For example, the car does not have to be in a satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

However, the seller must accurately describe the car, such as the number of previous owners. They must also not misrepresent it, for example not disclosing that it has been involved in an accident or providing a false service history.  

During the first six months it then becomes the responsibility of the seller to prove that the problem wasn't there when they sold it, rather than it being up to the buyer to prove that is was there.

If the individual refuses to accept your rejection, you will need to take legal action to reject the vehicle. However, this is expensive and there's no guarantee that you will win.

What if you've part exchanged a car?

If you part-exchanged your old car for the new one, you will not get it back. Instead, you'll be entitled to the price of the part-exchanged car. The dealer can't charge for usage, wear and tear, collection of the vehicle or anything else.

After the 30 days, if you part-exchanged your old car, you'll get a cash value for the new car. In this instance, the dealer is able to claim a reduction in the value of the vehicle for factors like mileage covered.

What about the Small Claims Court?

The first bit of advice is to try to settle the matter without going to court. Once a dealer knows you know your legal rights it is more likely to settle, as long as you are being reasonable.

As suggested, contact the Motor Ombudsman first and try and get the situation resolved. 

County Court is a last resort. If the dealer and finance company refuse to accept your rejection of the car, you can't continue to use it while taking County Court action against them and that could mean your car sitting on your driveway unused for months on end.

The limit for claims in the Small Claims Track of the County Court was raised from £5000 to £10,000 in 2013, making this service much more useful in disputes over purchases of cars.

Small Claims cases can be commenced via Money Claim Online or through Small Claims Track.

What if the dealer still won't accept a rejection?

If you get a County Court ruling in your favour and the dealer ignores it, you can apply for a High Court Sheriff's Enforcement Order (costing £70) which empowers the Sheriffs to seize the debtor's assets to the value of the claim, plus all your and their costs.

Sometimes the debtor will attempt to apply to the Court for a 'Stay of Execution' but such applications usually fail. The culture of these people is to only ever pay when they absolutely have no other choice, and in most cases when the Sheriffs arrive they pay up.

Ask HJ

I want to reject my car - can I withhold finance payments on it?

I bought a car on finance that had problems. The garage fixed them, so they said, but the problem is back. I have raised this with the finance as the garage keep fobbing me off, so I am rejecting the car. Do you know if I can withhold payments legally?
No, you cannot legally withhold payments or you could be blacklisted for credit and it may even affect your mortgage. You have to get a rejection and a refund agreed, even if it takes a court case to achieve this. Law here: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights/
Answered by Honest John
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