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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 5 Mar 2021

How to complain about a car dealer

What you can do if a car dealership isn't dealing with your complaint after you've had problems with a new or used car
Which?Editorial team
How to complain about a car dealer

1 Contact the car dealership

Contact the dealer or, if you bought your second-hand car on hire purchase, the finance company about the problem as soon as possible.

  • The first 30 days You're entitled to a 30-day right to reject under the Consumer Rights Act if the car is unfit for purpose, of unsatisfactory quality or not as described. You can ask for a repair or replacement, but you're not obliged to accept one and can insist on a full refund, which the dealer will be legally obliged to give.
  • After 30 days If you're outside the 30 days, you are obliged to accept an offer of repair or replacement.
  • Refund deductions Car dealers can make a deduction from the refund for fair use of the car after the initial 30-day right-to-reject period.

See our guide for more help returning a faulty new or used car.

2 Contact your finance or credit company

If you bought the car on hire purchase or your credit card, you have the right to bring the dispute to your finance company or credit-card company.

If you have a car finance agreement (like a PCP or HP) or a lease (usually contract hire), technically your car belongs to the finance company and any good finance company should be able to help you through this process.

  • If you bought the car on hire purchase, you have the common-law right to reject a faulty car throughout the duration of the agreement, as long as you stop using the car once you’ve discovered the fault. Write to the hire-purchase company and tell it you are rejecting the car as it is unsatisfactory.
  • If you paid for the second-hand car on your credit card (or with another type of credit, such as a loan), your credit provider is jointly liable for any breach of contract under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (as long as the car did not cost more than £30,000).

If the car dealership won’t help, contact the credit company to either say you're rejecting the second-hand car, or that you want to claim for repairs. 

If the card company or credit provider won’t help, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

3 Give the dealer a final chance

If the dealer doesn't reply to your letters, refuses to do anything, or makes a final offer you are unwilling to accept, write again giving them a final chance to resolve the matter. 

Tell the dealer that if it doesn’t act, you'll be taking your claim further.

4 Take your complaint further

If the dealer still doesn't sort out your problem, you can do one of the following:

Go to the Motor Ombudsman  some dealerships and garages have signed up to a Trading Standards backed code of practice that means if your dispute isn't getting anywhere you can refer it to an impartial third party to resolve it - the Motor Ombudsman. You can find all of the information you need on the Motor Ombudsman's website.

Start court proceedings  If the value of the second-hand car or the repairs you want done is below a certain amount (£10,000 in England and Wales or £3,000 in Scotland or Northern Ireland), you can use the small claims court

If your claim is for more than this, you'll have to use the full court, which is more complicated and could be costly.

If you're claiming the cost of repairs, make sure you've got sufficient evidence to prove your claim.

For example, collect expert reports and photographs before you allow another garage to repair the car. 

If possible, it’s worth finding out if the dealer has enough money to pay your claim. It's not worth suing a person or a firm that has no money.