The Complete Guide to Consumer Rights With Cars

Cars and car buying can be extremely complicated subjects when it comes to rights and legislation. With millions of cars sold year on year, it’s only natural to see problems arising from them. 

Understanding your consumer rights should the worst happen to you is the only way to truly protect yourself from mishandled issues and unwarranted responsibility, and so by answering some key questions that are asked about consumer rights, help is always at hand.

Rights When Returning a Car

One of the easier routes that are often utilised with faulty or even unwanted cars and car sales is to return the vehicle. No matter what the reason, situation or vehicle, there are rules in place that need to be adhered to.

Can you Return a Used Car?

If there is a serious issue (outside of minor issues or cosmetics that are easily repaired) with a used vehicle that has been purchased from a dealer, you have 30 days from the time of purchase to return the vehicle should you choose to do so. 

That can also be subjected to a like for like switch if necessary, or subject to the seller to attempt a repair.

This is different for cars bought online. See below for more information.

How Long Do you Have to Return a Used Car?

The initial window to return a used car due to an issue is 30 days. 

After this initial window, the dealer has an opportunity to provide a repair for whatever issues arise, and to swap the car. 

Following the Limitations Act of 1980, this applies for up to 6 years, however, it then becomes your responsibility to prove there was an issue at the point of sale and therefore no fault of your own or others.

Can You Return Cars Bought Online?

If you have purchased a car online that you have not seen in person, you have 14 days to return it to the seller without question. 

To clarify this, you have 14 days from the date of receiving the vehicle to inform the seller that you wish to return it. 

From here, you have a further 24 days to actually return the car.

This is a standard ‘cooling-off period‘ that comes with all online purchases, vehicle or not.

Do All Car Dealers Have to Take Returns?

A very big point in the case of any car return is that dealers do have the opportunity to repair any problematic vehicles. 

This applies only if you request the repair if purchased within 30 days, and is up to the dealer to choose to attempt if after 30 days.

If this attempt at repair isn’t a satisfactory fix, then you have the right to a refund or a replacement like for like vehicle.

What Makes a Car Exempt From Returns?

Cars that are bought privately do not meet the same criteria. Private sellers are not bound by the consumer rights act, and are only liable for untruthful issues. That means even hidden issues may not be usable grounds for a claim to be made.

With dealers, expecting factors may include fair use, such as if the issue is justifiable for the state, age or mileage of the vehicle as was understood or seen with the purchase.

Minor issues will also not be eligible. Minor cosmetic issues or small repairs are often subject to quick repairs instead.

Can I Return a Car Bought On Finance?

Cars bought on finance schemes technically aren’t sold to consumers. Instead, they are sold to 3rd party finance companies who then sell you the car.

As a result, returns of cars on finance schemes have to be done from the finance company, with them being responsible to receive the refund or repairs.

Every finance company is different in this regard, so it is always worth discussing your situation with them prior to any action.

What about Returns From Part Exchanges?

If you sold your car to the dealer as a part of a part exchange, it is highly unlikely you will receive your car back. Instead, you will be given the invoiced amount for the vehicle plus VAT.

Rights to Repairs With the Car

It’s not uncommon for used cars to have issues, both at the time of purchase and of course, beyond. 

This often leads to questions about who is responsible for the rectification of such repairs, and this again opens multiple queries.

Who is responsible for repairing the car?

The dealer is responsible for the repair of the car should you prove it if needed if the fault was not disclosed, or if the fault was pre-existing when you bought the car. That includes problems that worsen too.

It is your responsibility to repair the car however if you were informed about the issues at the time of purchasing, if you missed a visible issue, if you caused the fault yourself, if the fault is fair, like with wear and tear and fair use.

How Is a Repair Carried Out?

If the fault is the dealer’s, then they will likely undertake the repair free of charge and return the car to you.

When the fault is debatable or insignificant, the dealer may instead however only offer particular repair contributions, so bear this in mind.

If you undertake the repair yourself, you may be able to claim the costs from the dealer and have your money returned for the repair.

How long do you have to claim from the seller?

Similarly to the points above, you have 30 days from purchase to return the car, should there be any issues that warrant repair. This will provide you with your money back or have the repairs carried out.

After this window, it is still likely the repair will be done, but the longer the timeframe becomes, the harder it may be to prove that the fault is the dealers.

What is Fair Use?

When returning or repairing a car under the dealer’s responsibility, fair use may be accounted for if after the 30-day window of purchase.

This means that recession reflecting the value depreciation of the car may be accounted for, as well as the extent of use you’ve had from the vehicle, such as mileage and condition.

Wear and tear also affect this, as wearing parts like tyres, brakes and acceptable cosmetic issues may take place.

Warranty Rights With Cars

In addition to consumer rights, customers often also have warranties that come with a vehicle purchase. These too have their own regulations.

What is the Minimum Standard Warranty?

Not all cars have a warranty, and there is no minimum duration. 

Unlike the coverage of the consumer rights act which applies to all purchases from a dealer, warranties do not, aside from the typical manufacturer warranties that come for the first three years of a vehicle’s life.

What do Standard Warranties Cover?

Standard warranties can cover a range of different things, and again, there is no real mandatory coverage.

Each warranty is unique and states what is and is not covers din the paperwork

Look carefully and meticulously through the terms and conditions of the contract so that you’re always aware of the extent of your coverage.

Who Provides Car Warranties?

Car warranties are provided by manufacturers when the vehicle is sold as new, and can in some cases be extended or provided outside of this.

Larger scale car dealers often also provide their own warranties, with even some smaller scale dealers offering warranties provided by external affiliate providers.

Third part warranty sellers also exist and have nothing to do with the purchase of a vehicle at all, should you choose to acquire one of your own accord.

What do Extended Warranties Cover?

On top of the initial warranties with the purchase of a vehicle, extended warranties are another option.

Extended warranties cover practically anything required as they come in various shapes and sizes.

Typically, these can last up to five years if required, and can offer cover that is as comprehensive as you need, subject to the same limitations of standard warranties.

What Makes a Warranty Void?

Warranties are void if the terms and conditions of the contract of the warranty are not met.

Examples of this often come from limitations posed on mileage travelled while under the warranty to minimise risk, as well as driving illegally or in dangerous situations as is the case with insurance coverage.

Notes About the Information Provided

All of the information in this document on cars and car rights is based on guidance from sources such as the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, the Limitations Act of 1980, and sources such as the Motor Ombudsman. CarExamer takes no responsibility for actions taken with this information. For further advice, seek legal counsel.

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