Car Buying

The Cooling Off Period When Buying a Used Car From a Dealer UK

When it comes to buying a used car, it’s easy to get over-excited, therefore always arrange vehicle inspection. A car is a huge part of your life after all, and it’s hard not to get carried away when you think of all of the options open to you. That’s why it’s more important than ever to understand the cooling off period when buying a used car from a dealer in the UK. It doesn’t apply to every sale after all, so understanding it early is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself.

The Short Answer

Simply put, if you bought a car without seeing it in person, say online or over the phone, for example, then you have a 14 day cooling off period to tell the dealer you want to return it. If you bought the car after seeing it, this doesn’t apply, and chances are unless there’s a fault with the car, you’re stuck with it because of the contract signed on deposit, holding, or purchase.

How the Cooling Off Period Works

Going into more depth, the cooling off period came into play in 2015 following the introduction of the consumer rights act. This was brought into the UK to protect consumers when shopping and help add a layer of protection from potential issues and to encourage shopping as a by-product too.

The consumer rights regarding cars means that if you buy a car without being able to see it first, then you should be able to return it or cancel the purchase without any issue. If you haven’t seen the car, then it’s hard to get a proper understanding of it, after all. This does only apply to cases where the buyer has purchased online or over the phone, however.

If you do decide to use your cooling off period when buying a used car from a dealer in the UK, then you have 14 days from the date you receive the vehicle to let them know. That is, the date that they mark it as delivered, which includes if it is to someone nominated on your behalf to receive it. Once you let them know, you then have a further 28 days to return the vehicle to the dealer. This may be at your expense or theirs, depending on the terms of the sale, so watch out for that. You’ll then get your money back, and the deposit too, if this was also a distanced sale.

When the Cooling Off Period Doesn’t Work

It is vital to remember that the cooling off period only applies to sales at a distance when it comes to cars. If you have bought your car from a dealership and you were physically present, even if you didn’t see the vehicle for some strange reason, you’re still likely to have lost your cooling off period. 

What’s even more interesting is that even if the sale is practically from a distance, but is executed in person, these rights are removed. Many car dealers will take a deposit or holding fee with you, but when it comes to the actual payment of the car, they’ll request you to come to the dealership to sign paperwork etc, or to see the car, making sure the cooling off period can’t be used and cost them money through wasted efforts, time and resources. You wouldn’t get the deposit back that was paid online either, in many cases.

What if there is an issue with the car?

Another important thing to note is that if there is an issue with the car, the cooling off period doesn’t enter the situation, either. Instead, you have the right to return the vehicle because it isn’t satisfactory. It’s damaged/unsatisfactory goods, or not sold as seen/described, and in which case, the dealer has not held up their end of the contract. They have not provided you with the vehicle you thought you were buying, or in the condition that you believed, it was in.

If they have stated that there was an issue before they sold it to you however then that’s different. Either way, it’s better not to get into this situation since it can be costly to get out of, but it’s another layer of protection. That’s only if the car had the issue when it was sold though, and not if it happened or appeared afterwards.

What about cooling off periods with finance or loans?

A lot of people are quick to think that they have their cooling off period no matter what when it comes to buying a car on finance, or with a loan, but in reality, that’s not the case either. Technically they do have unique cooling off periods, but that’s for the loan, and not generally for the car (again, unless bought at distance. That’s the key factor). 

In actual fact, if you buy a car in person even with a loan or finance agreement, all you are still able to do is cancel your finance agreement. The sale of the vehicle, however, still stands. All that will happen instead is that you’ll be liable to pay for the car in full without the finance. You’ll also have to pay any interest that occurs for the period you had the finance don’t think that it’s a get-out clause.


All in all, if you bought the car without seeing it, i.e., via phone, email or online, then you have 14 days from the date you receive the car to return it for a full refund, deposit and all. If you bought it in person at the dealership or finished the sale there even if it started online, this isn’t the case. Get vehicle inspection before or after your purchase to see if the vehicle is as described always easier and more hassle free is inspection before purchase.

Ultimately, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be as careful as you can be when buying a used car, as it’s never certain what consumer rights you’ll be able to use and what you’ll be liable to pay should you want to use any rights you do have.

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