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How to handle a dispute with a car dealer

We regularly get readers asking for advice on how to resolve their dispute with a car dealer. So let's look at the steps you should take to get your problem sorted.

We regularly get readers asking for help in resolving their dispute with a car dealer. Most of their issues can be listed under three headings:

  1. I was promised something and the dealer is refusing to honour it
  2. I want to cancel my car order but the dealer won’t let me
  3. My car has broken and the dealer won’t fix it

Basically, the underlying issue is the same each time: “The dealer is being dodgy and not giving me what I am entitled to.” We will look at each of the three examples above, but there are many other reasons why car buyers and car owners get into arguments with car dealers.

Of course, these disputes play into people’s built-in distrust of car dealers anyway. We assume that all dealers are robbing us blind and dodging their legal responsibilities, so we’re starting with some very negative assumptions as soon as an issue arises.

While that does still happen far too often in the car industry, in most cases the dealer is not trying to screw you over. But that still doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to respond in the way you want.

To have the best chance of getting what you want, you need to clearly articulate the problem, state the outcome you are looking for and be able to explain yourself clearly and concisely.  If you are generally ranting or being vague and non-specific, you are likely to end up bogged down in an argument or going around in circles without resolving anything.

Broken down car

The other two qualities you will need in spades are patience and persistence. Resolving your issue could well be a slow process (sometimes deliberately so), which means you will probably need to keep chasing and keep restating your case to different people until it gets resolved.

Step back and summarise your dispute

To be able to successfully resolve your issue with the dealership, you need to make sure you are being very clear about what the problem is and what outcome you are looking for.

In a single sentence, summarise your dispute with the dealer. It should look something like the three examples at the top of this article.

Now, in another single sentence, summarise what outcome you want.

These two steps sound obvious, but it is amazing how many people get so caught up in their argument that they lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve in the first place – especially if the dispute drags on for any length of time.

Imagine you’re presenting your case to a judge

It can be tricky if you feel like you’re being messed around by the dealer, but try to imagine you are pleading your case to an impartial and unemotional judge, presiding over your dispute in a courtroom (and hopefully it won’t ever get to that point!). This will help you prepare your case when you are asking the dealer to resolve your problem, and to anticipate the dealer’s response.

A judge would listen to both sides of the dispute and ask for evidence to back up any claims you make. So you need to be clear in explaining your problem and you need to provide evidence to prove your case. You also need to understand the dealer’s position – because a judge obviously would.  Regardless of how inconvenienced you are by your problem, there is almost always an opposing point of view.

Next page: What information do I need to start a complaint?

Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.
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