How to complain about a second-hand car to a dealer

What can you do if your second-hand car is not as described, not of satisfactory quality or not fit for purpose? Follow our tips on returning the car or asking for a repair.
Which? Legal

Second-hand, not second rate

You can talk to the Which? Legal team if you’re not satisfied with your second hand car purchase.

You’ll get one-on-one advice from one of our consumer law experts, who can help you get the outcome you want from your car dealer.

1 Contact the second-hand car dealer

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.

2 Get a refund, repair or replacement

Tool shopping icon 470787

Make a faulty goods complaint


You could be entitled to a repair, replacement or a refund even if the product is out of warranty, answer some simple questions and Which? can help you start your complaint for free

Start your letter

3 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 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.

4 Give the dealer a final chance

If the dealer/finance company 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 or finance company that if it doesn’t act, you'll be taking your claim further.

5 Take your complaint further

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

  • escalate your complaint to the Consumer Ombudsman
  • take up the matter with your credit provider
  • 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.

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.