New car rights: Can I reject my car?

Article Hugo Griffiths
Mar 15, 2016

It’s rare for a new car to go so wrong that it warrants rejecting, but it does happen. Our guide explains your rights.

One of the most important reasons for buying a new car is the peace of mind such a purchase comes with. Almost all manufacturers offer a three-year warranty and many car companies provide longer policies, which protect you against any defects for as long as seven years.

But if your new car has a large number of faults – or the dealer hasn’t been able to rectify any problems to your satisfaction – you’re within your rights to ‘reject’ your car as unfit for purpose. While this should always be a last resort, it’s important to know what you’re legally entitled to expect should things go badly wrong.

Any item you purchase should be of ‘satisfactory quality’. This means any car you buy should:

- Get you from A to B without breaking down
- Be free from faults
- Be as it was described in any advertisement or brochure

If one or more of these criteria aren’t met, you’re within your rights to reject the car. In October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act replaced the Sale of Goods Act, so anyone who bought a car after 1 October 2015 is protected by these latest rules. The new Act is more rigorous than the law it replaced, giving consumers have greater rights than they did previously.

One of the most important differences is that if you buy something that’s found to be (or becomes) faulty during the first 30 days of ownership, you’re within your rights to reject it out of hand and receive a full refund.

If you buy a car that becomes faulty after 30 days, but within six months from the time of purchase, the new Consumer Rights Act allows the dealer who sold it to you one attempt at repair. If this is unsuccessful, you’re entitled to a full refund – or a partial refund, taking into account the mileage and wear and tear the car has experienced since you took delivery.

Do bear in mind that certain car parts are considered ‘wear and tear’ items. This means that things like brakes, tyres, wheel bearings and clutches aren’t covered – although you should expect these to last longer than six months, unless you’ve been driving very hard.

Before you reject a faulty car

While it’s possible to reject a faulty new car and you’re entitled to do so (particularly if problems occur within 30 days of purchase) it’s often best to let the dealer try to remedy any issues itself first. Rejecting a car can be a lengthy process, not least because you’ll have to go through the hassle of finding another car. It’s often easier for you (and the dealer) to try to fix things first. Make sure you get any work agreed in writing and understand what costs (if any) are associated with the work.

If you reject a car

If you do decide to reject a car, this must be done within six months of taking delivery. Rejecting a car is a very matter-of-fact business: you take your car, together with both sets of keys and all documentation to the dealer, along with a letter setting out your reasons for rejecting the car. Be as specific and objective as you can be and remember to keep a copy of this letter for yourself.

The dealer may refuse to accept your rejection and if this happens you should go straight to the manufacturer, which may be able to negotiate with the dealer on your behalf.

Rejecting a car purchased on finance

If you’ve used a finance package such as a PCP agreement or Personal Contract Hire to purchase your car, rejecting it can be trickier. That’s because while you’re the registered keeper, the car remains the property of the finance company until you’ve made the last payment.

If you’ve used a carmakers’ own financial department to buy the car, things should be slightly easier than with a third-party financier. The finance company should be your first port of call, as it’ll need to negotiate with the dealer that supplied the car. Try to speak to a specific individual from the finance company and use them as your point of contact throughout any negotiations. Make sure to follow up any phone calls in writing, too.

If you’re having difficulties with the finance company, the Financial Conduct Authority may be able to provide some support, or at least explain your rights further. The AA, RAC or Trading Standards should also be able to help in more general terms.

Rejecting a car: final thoughts

Rejecting a car should always be your last possible avenue, should you buy a faulty car. It can be a difficult and frustrating process (despite the law being fairly clear-cut) and any goodwill you may have built up with the dealer will be lost. Despite this, if your car hasn’t been repaired to your satisfaction or you’ve lost faith in it due to the volume and scope of problems, sometimes the last resort is a tactic that needs to be brought into play. If this is the case, knowing your rights is the first step of the process.

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