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...

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