Of all the articles here at The Car Expert, the one which has generated the largest number of questions is our advice on the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and rejecting a car. Based on the hundreds of questions we have received, we have decided to put together a new article which answers many of those questions more directly. This article now replaces our original one from a year ago.
In this article, we explain what the law says and the timeframes for rejecting a car. We then look at the different grounds for rejecting a car, and then we have a handy checklist of tips for rejecting a car.
From October 2015, the previous Sale of Goods Act 1979 was effectively replaced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for consumer retail sales. It is important to note that this covers cars bought from a trader (whether new or used, and either a franchised dealer or an independent garage) for consumer (ie – private) use. Vehicles bought by private sale or at auction, and vehicles bought for business use, are not covered by the new Act.
The new Act provides some clearer guidance for both buyers and sellers about the rights a customer has to reject a car which is faulty or not fit for purpose. However it is important to remember that motor cars are complicated machines, with hundreds of thousands of components working under a variety of hostile conditions. Therefore not every fault in a vehicle is going to mean you can simply give the car back and expect a full refund.
Understandably, the dealer will want to inspect the car for themselves before agreeing to refund your money. A vehicle rejection is very expensive for a dealer, because they have to buy the car back from you at the original price and will have repair costs before presumably selling it for less money afterwards. Therefore, the dealer is likely to dispute your rejection unless you can make your case clearly and confidently.
If the dealership refuses to accept your rejection, you will need to take legal action against them to reject the vehicle. This means engaging a solicitor and potentially taking the dealer to court – which will be expensive, and there is no guarantee you will win.
If you do have valid grounds to reject your vehicle (see the next page for more detail on this), then your specific rights will depend on how long you have owned the car. The Consumer Rights Act covers your short-term right to reject, which lasts for 30 days after taking delivery of your car, and the final right to reject, which covers you for six months from purchase.
Short-term right to reject – the first 30 days
If your new or used car has a significant fault that was present when you bought it (as opposed to developing afterwards), you can reject the car within the first 30 days and get a full refund.
You do not have to accept a repair or replacement vehicle (although you can if you want to).
If you have part-exchanged your previous car on the new one, you will not get it back. Instead, you will be entitled to the full invoice price of the car (including road tax, VAT, etc).
You are entitled to a full refund by the same method in which you paid for the car. The dealer cannot charge for usage, wear and tear, collection of the vehicle or anything else.
Unless there is a clause in the sales contract which says you are obliged to return the car, then it is the dealer’s obligation to collect the vehicle. You only have to make sure the car is available to collect. Be reasonable about this and work with the dealer if you want to get your money back – make their lives difficult and you can be sure they will return the favour…
Final right to reject – the first six months
If you have had the car for more than 30 days but less than six months, you have to give the selling dealer one attempt to fix the fault before moving to reject the vehicle. If the repair has not fixed the fault, you can reject the vehicle.
If you have part-exchanged your old car on the new one, you will not get it back. Instead, you will get a cash value for the new car. However, unlike the short-term right to reject, it may not be the full value.
In this instance, the dealer is able to claim a reduction in the value of the vehicle based on the mileage covered and time elapsed. There is no guidance on how much they can charge you, so be prepared to negotiate this with the dealer – or have a judge decide, if it goes to court.
As above, it is the dealer’s obligation to collect the vehicle under the Act. You cannot be charged for return costs or be forced to return the vehicle yourself.
Rejecting a car should not be your first move
If your have discovered a fault with a car you have just bought, you shouldn’t automatically move to reject it. It may be a relatively easy fix that takes a lot less time and hassle than trying to reject the vehicle.
Rejecting a car isn’t as simple as going back to the dealer and walking out with a nice fat cheque. The dealer will want to conduct their own assessment of the vehicle to decide if they agree with your contention that the vehicle should be rejected, and they may well not agree with you. If they refuse to accept your rejection, you will need to take legal action to pursue the matter. You will also need to get written reports from another garage to back up your claim.
When you reject the vehicle, the dealer has to buy the car back from you for the same price you paid for it. You have to sign the registration forms back over, and if there is finance on the vehicle then that has to be cancelled as well. It can be complicated to unwind, and you might not get your money back for several weeks.
The dealer may offer to repair the fault and potentially even give you some form of compensation as well. This may be a better result than pursuing a rejection, and may save you a lot of hassle as well since you won’t have to go through the process of buying another car.
Next page: What are the grounds for rejecting a car?