Your rights if something is wrong with your car

If you buy a car that turns out to be faulty, your rights and options largely depend on who you bought it from and how they described the car. You have less legal protection when buying from a private seller or from a car auction than when buying from a dealer.

Problems with cars bought from dealers


  • contact the dealer as soon as you notice the problem
  • try to keep conversations with them as amicable as possible
  • but keep a record of all your exchanges and make sure any verbal agreements are put in writing

If you buy a new or used car from a dealer and experience problems with it, you have some statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Act states that the car must be “of a satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. (For a used car, “satisfactory quality” takes into account the car’s age and mileage.)

It states that you have a right to reject something faulty, and that you are entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase in most cases. After that, you lose the short-term right to reject the goods. You’ll also have fewer rights, such as only being able to ask for a repair or replacement, or a partial refund if this doesn’t work.

In fact, you’re legally allowed to return it up to six years after you bought it (in Scotland, it’s five years after you first realised there was a problem). But it gets more difficult to prove that a fault and not normal wear and tear is the cause of any problem.

How to get things put right

Here’s what to do if you have a problem with a new or used car bought from a dealer:

  • Contact the dealer as soon as you notice the problem – in person if possible.
  • If the dealer offers to fix the problem, make sure you understand any costs involved. Keep a record of your conversations and correspondence, and get all verbal agreements in writing.
  • If all else fails, you can reject your car as long as you tried to resolve the issue with the dealer first.
  • If you decide to reject the car, you must give the dealer details of your reasons for doing so in writing, and within six months of taking delivery of it.
  • If the dealer refuses to accept your rejection of the car, contact the customer relations department of its manufacturer straight away. They may be able to mediate.
  • For help making your complaint consider using The Ombudsman Services said “ is a free online service and app that offers consumer advice and simplifies the process of complaining.”

Extra protection when buying from a dealer

Top Tip

Consumer rights is a complicated area, so we recommend that you get more detailed advice as well. Try contacting Citizens Advice or Motor Codes.

If you buy a new car or a used car from the dealer and something goes wrong with it, you’ll have extra protection if you bought it through:

Hire purchase: You have protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The vehicle should be of satisfactory quality, fit for its purpose, and as described. With hire purchase, it is the finance provider rather than the dealer who is legally responsible to you if there are problems with the car.

Using a credit card: if you paid all or part of the cost of your car by credit card, the card company and the trader may be jointly responsible for compensating you under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Find out more about how you’re protected if you pay by credit card.

Paying cash using a debit card: Although your purchase won’t be covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you may be able to claim a refund from your debit card provider through a voluntary scheme known as ‘chargeback’. Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and American Express are among the companies that have signed up to chargeback.

Depending on the card you used, you’ll probably need to make your claim within 120 days of noticing the problem. Chargeback claims can take some time to process because the card company has to get the money refunded before it can pass it on to you.

Problems with used cars bought privately

Buyer beware!

Problems with used cars are the most common single reason for people contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service – more than 50,000 complaints a year. Source: Citizens Advice November 2015

Buying privately is one of the riskiest ways of buying a car. If something goes wrong with it you don’t have as much legal protection as you would if you’d bought the car from a dealer.

The car must match the seller’s description, be roadworthy and the seller must have the legal right to sell it to you.

In other words, the car must work, meet the legal requirements for being driven on public roads, and be owned by the seller.

But you are responsible for ensuring that the car is “of satisfactory quality’’ and “fit for purpose” before you buy it.

Watch out for any unscrupulous sellers pretending to be private owners so that they can offload faulty or stolen cars.

Problems with used cars bought at auction

Did you know?

If you buy a car or any other item from an auction website using the ‘buy now’ option, this doesn’t count as an auction purchase. If you choose ‘buy now’ your normal consumer rights – including distance selling rights – will apply, as long as you are buying from a business trader.

Car auctions are fast-paced and exciting, but can spell danger for the inexperienced and unwary.

Once you’ve made a bid you can’t undo it. So make sure you know in advance what comeback you’ll have if the car proves to be faulty.

Live car auctions: You may not have any rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the car may be sold to you “as seen”. So before bidding, always check the auction house’s terms and conditions as well as the car itself.

Find out your rights on the Citizens Advice website.

Online car auctions: With online auctions your legal rights depend on whether the seller is a private individual or a car dealer.

If the seller is a private individual, the car only needs to be as described – so it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’. Your legal rights are the same as if you were buying from them in person (see ‘’Problems with used cars bought privately’ above).

If the seller is a dealer, you’ll be protected by the Sale of Goods Act if you find that the car isn’t of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described.

You will also be covered by Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which means you are entitled to cancel the order within 14 days of the original purchase.

Find out more about buying at an online auction on the Citizens Advice website.

Your next step

Before spending money buying a car, consider whether you really need it.