Rejecting a new or used car: top tips

Car dealers
25 Mar, 2015 3:35pm

Ever tried to reject a new or used car? Auto Express is here to help with our how-to guide

Buying a new car is a major financial commitment but it should also be an exciting time that you can enjoy. Things don't always go to plan though, so what can you do if the worst happens and after you’ve taken delivery and the car develops a fault? The ultimate option at your disposal is to reject the car.

It could be a dodgy engine, a broken gearbox or electrical gremlins that stop you enjoying your new car but whatever the issue, UK consumer law is there to help you.

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If you buy a new or used car from a dealer and experience problems with it, you have some statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Read on for Auto Express' comprehensive guide on car rejection...

What the Sale of Goods Act says

The Sale of Goods Act states the car must be “of a satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. If you’ve bought used, the term satisfactory quality will take into account your vehicle’s age and mileage.

If the car you bought fails on any of the three key points within the first six months, you‘re entitled to have it repaired or replaced, or to get a partial or full refund under the Act.

Legally, you’re allowed to return the car up to six years after you bought it. In reality this can prove tricky as the more time that elapses, the harder it is to prove the fault was there from manufacture and not normal wear and tear - which isn't covered.

If you bought the car used from a private seller, you don't have the same rights as you do when buying from a dealer, either. You have no legal right to expect that the car is of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose, but there is a requirement that it should be 'as described'.

What you should do before rejecting the car


Rejecting a car should be the last resort once you’ve pursued all other avenues of getting the car fixed. The first thing you should do if you have a problem is contact the selling dealership and take the car in for inspection.

If the dealer offers to fix the problem, make sure you’re aware of any potential costs and keep a record of any work and correspondence. All agreements and offers should be confirmed in writing rather than just verbally, too.

You should be fair when giving the dealer a chance to fix it and sometimes it may take more than one attempt before you've got a valid and strong car rejection claim.

Consider, too, asking for a replacement model. This can sometimes be easier than just handing the car back as manufacturers and dealers are always keen to keep customers in one of their cars. Plus, it saves you hunting around for a new model that suits your needs.

If, however, the dealer is unable to rectify the issues or they refuse to help, then it’s time to use the Sale of Goods Act and fight for car rejection. 

How to reject a car

There are certain steps that you have to take when rejecting a car. The first is to stop using it. If the car’s not fit for purpose, you shouldn’t still be using it as a runaround as this will severely weaken your case.

Next, write to the supplying dealer giving your reasons for rejection. This should be within the first six months of ownership and outline the case so far.

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If the dealer refuses to accept your rejection of the car, contact the customer care department of its manufacturer for further support. It's worth sending a copy of your original rejection letter to the manufacturer's head office, too.

If you’re still getting nowhere, then consider contacting industry regulator Motor Codes on 0800 692 0825 or the Financial Ombudsman on 0800 023 4567.

You can also get in touch with the Watchdog team here at Auto Express via

What to do if it’s after six months

The Sale of Goods Act focuses on the first six months of ownership but all is not lost if you're outside that period. Follow the same steps and contact the dealer, giving them the option to inspect the car and put it right if possible. After six months, though, the responsibility is on you to prove the car was faulty when sold.

To prove this, consider an independent report although this can carry a cost – sometimes up to £500. Visit the Institute of Automotive Engineer Assessors (IAEA) - - to find a local inspector.

Presenting a dealer with a written report containing findings that support your claim will put you in a much stronger position.

Rejecting a car bought with finance

Toyota dealership

If you’ve bought your car on finance, car rejection can be a little trickier - but not impossible. That’s because you don’t legally own the car until you’ve paid up the final instalment of your payment plan. This could be some three or four years away.

Instead, the car belongs to the finance company. If you didn’t organise the arrangement though the manufacturer (e.g. Ford or Toyota), then you’ll need to contact the finance company directly with a letter of rejection. They’ll then be involved in the process along with the dealer.

Now read our full guide to car finance and how to get the best new car deal...

Disqus - noscript

Agreed and signed in May 2003 to buy a Mk.4 Golf Match1. Got home only to see the Mk.5 was coming out in 4 months time. Tried to cancel the Mk.4 but the French VW agent would not let us change the order to the new Mk.5.

Tried allways but had to take the Mk.4 in the end.

Ray Nipper.

Bought a late model A Class with very low miles in Feb.
Seemed OK, apart from few marks on black fabric interior and paint chips, plus black exterior trim dull finished.
Dealer agreed to remedy all faults.#
After 3 visits for treatment to clean, it appeared worse than initial findings. Managers agreed it was not satisfactory.
Tried to locate another, similar model but without avail
After 2 months ownership and no remedy, Manager & I agreed to full refund, which I thought was reasonable settlement. First time ever done that, reject a car and got full refund.

I own a brand new Navara that has passed Nissan quality checks with what can only be described as "pubic hair" partly under base-coat, partly under colour-coat, partly under clear-coat and partly sticking out.
There is also a few areas of under spray and you can see the base-coat.

Nissan recon they do checks after each coat?
Nissan recon they are "quality control freaks"?
Nissan recon they "can detect paint flaws upto 0.5mm"?
Nissan recon i might have to "accept a bodyshop respray"

I recon Nissan is loosing the plot if they think i will accept the above on a brand new £28,000.00 truck!

If anyone is interested in seeing photos of the above e-mail me and i will send photos.

I bought this car a 1.9TDI SE - top of the range (excluding the petrol cupra models).

I thought the car was fantastic, until it rained anyway. It then started letting in water. I contacted the garage and they knew nothing. However, I went onto an owners forum and found a 'SEAT' recall and re-work document to fix the issue causing water ingress. At this point things started bad and went wrong.

Firstly on taking car in they initially tried denying anothing was wrong and there was no recalls. That was until I gave them a printed copy. Their first question was "How had I come by this document", they then said 'oh' they now understood what I was referring too.

What followed was an absolute farce. My car went in for 2 weeks, returned with an even bigger problem of water ingress, and damaged door cards!!! This repeated on several occasions. Over the next 18 months I think I only had my car for approx 8 weeks!!

I asked them about the process for rejecting the car, and they simple said return the car to the garage as sold, with documentation, along with a detailed letter of the reasons for rejection and then they would pass this on to their solicitors. I then asked about what transport would I have for getting to work, etc. They replied "not their problem!!!". I asked how long this process would take and he advised somewhere between 3 months and over 1 year!!!!

Why can't we have the lemon law clause as documented in the USA's version of the sales of goods act?!?! this would give the power back to the buyer not the seller.

We Bought our car new with the belief that It would have decent fuel consumption... However it has never been able to average better than 41 mpg, Dealer didn't want to know saying it was VW that I need to contact.

We did try to reject the car around three months old but they kept saying it would get better with more mileage, Took the car to different Dealer's to look at the problem with the same unsympathetic attitude as if I was the problem and that Bluemotion cars are highly fuel efficient, But looking on Tinternet it is not just me who has this problem, the web is full of complaints about this car.

Contacted VW UK who immediately refused to help with the problem, Saying it is not our fault.. Take it back to the Dealer, Contacted Whatcar Magazine even they couldn't help.

We have quite a few other issues with our car, We cant sell due being trapped with personal finance and due to the fact we would be making a huge loss if we trade it in which does not make economic sense, So we are stuck with an expensive to run ornament for the next 4 years.

It Appears Manufacturers can do and say what they like, Until the Lemon Law is in place more Owners are going to suffer!

If you've bought the car on finance rather than via a normal bank loan, your HP company may be in a position to help. If you reject the car to them, as they are the owners until you have paid off a significant percentage of the loan, you may get further.

I bought a new 2010 santa fe and joined a uk hyundai forum, when i bought the car i needed cruise control as i suffer from arthritis, but from day one i have had problems with the cc it does not always engage and on the forum it seems to be quite widespred even in oz, can i reject the car? i have told the garage fitter about it but he says its a clutch issue something to do with a switch

New vehicle woes
Purchased a new Vauxhall Insignia 2ltr diesel SRI, 61 plate with 10 miles on the clock
Visited dealer and selected new car.
Was advised vehicle would be ready the following day. Paid £300 deposit

17/02/2012 17:00
Visited dealer to sign papers etc. And make full payment
Insisted on seeing the PDI report before making payment (salesman wasn’t too happy about this)

Left the dealer at approx. 18:30.
On the drive home it became apparent that the Indicators were not working.
Arrived home and got the manual out and read through to ensure I was operating them correctly

18/02/2012 09:00
I was at the dealers’ door as they opened!
The salesmen were in a meeting. Waited 20 mins for meeting to end.
Met salesman and requested he instruct me on the operation of the indicators.
He confirmed they were not operating.
Vehicle was taken to the service bay for inspection/repair.
After approx 1hr I was informed there was a major fault - problem with a control module.
Advised nothing could be done until Monday 20th at the earliest.

Met with sales manager. Expressed my extreme displeasure. To his credit, the manager organized a hire car.
I advised the manager that I would not accept this vehicle and would only accept either an equivalent replacement or a full refund.
Seemed to fall on deaf ears. He advised a refund would be impossible!!

As stated above, I had insisted on seeing a copy of the PDI report. As part of the inspection, there is a ‘Lights & Level’ section which was ‘ticked’ as having been completed.
My contention is that the dealer sold me a vehicle that was illegal to drive on public roads, and is not fit for purpose.
Am I within my rights to insist on either:-
a. Replacement equivalent vehicle or
b. A full refund
The dealer, unsurprisingly, wants me to accept a repair to the vehicle.

I purchased a new Citroen Platinum Grand C4 Picasso EGS6 Airdream back in September 2012. By the time I got it home a fault had appeared "Electronic Anti Theft System Faulty" and the car would not start without removing the key and trying again, although the same message appeared the car would always start on the second attempt. It was returned to the dealer the next morning and several times afterwards during the weeks ahead without being cured, during the first couple of weeks I also noticed some bodywork issues with the offside rear and front doors and after showing this to the dealer it was confirmed to me that the vehicle had been repaired prior to me taking delivery! I rejected the car instantly under the sales of goods act 1979 (as amended) four weeks after taking delivery (end of Oct 2012). It has been a nightmare trying to get it replaced even though I contacted Citroen UK and have a case number. It is now the middle of March 2013 and I still do not have the replacement new vehicle. The original car has been sitting in the dealers car pound since I returned it. They have continued to offer me a repair on the rare occasions they have bothered to contact me. I have always insisted that it be replaced. I have had to get my solicitor involved in order to get them to agree to replace it. Cars are a highly expensive item and this was not a company but a private purchase not that it should make any difference. I have been put through hell, stress, costs and great inconvenience not only by the dealer but by the manufacturer. I have been without my new car now for nearly 6 months. The warranty and legal system on new vehicles needs to be much better than it is in my view.

A Vauxhall Antara 62 plate bought brand new, developed fault (in month 5). A car componant draining the battery leaves the car 'dead' in the morning. This has happened 3 times and has been with Vauxhall twice totalling over 6 weeks during which time they cannot find cause of the fault. The AA showed Vauxhall the fault on their premisis. Vauxhall say because they cannot find the fault we have to take the car back. This is a ridiculous situation: they can sell a faulty car - be incapable of finding fault - return faulty car to customer. Vauxhall seem to think UK and European law do not apply to them. No help from Vauxhall, no help from Santander so now trying FOS.

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