Buying or owning a car: what are your rights when it goes wrong?

  • Sales of goods act

What's happened?

The car you bought three years ago has been in perfect working order. But then, the day after your warranty expires, it breaks down and the cost of repair is going to be expensive - that's if they can actually get it fixed at all.

You speak to numerous people at the dealership you bought it from but they say that as your three-year warranty has elapsed there is nothing that they can do to help you and that you now have no other choice than paying a pricey repair bill or getting a new car.

What can you do?

Under this act any goods bought - in this case your new car - have to be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

If you've been out banger racing or speeding your car around race circuits, then you won't have much of a case. But if the car has been driven sensibly and looked after there might have been something wrong with before you bought it.

For the first four-five weeks you can demand a refund if something goes wrong. But if this happens after six months then it is up to you to prove that there was something wrong.

You have up to six years after purchase to demand damages - this will obviously be ruled by a court and they will either have to pay for repairs to be done or replace it.

One of the key things here is that it is the seller, not the manufacturer, who is responsible if anything goes wrong. So don't go chasing Ford about your faulty Fiesta, you need to be after the independent dealer you bought it from.

  • Consumer credit act

What's happened?

After months of looking you finally find the perfect car for you and it's a bargain at just £4000. So you pay with your credit card and expect your new car to arrive soon. Delivery day comes but no car turns up. You find out that the dealership you bought your car from has gone bust.

You ring the company and are told that you will not be getting your car or your £4000 back as it has gone to the liquidators to help pay the creditors. So now you have no car and your £4000 down.

What can you do?

In this case you can get a refund from your credit card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

This only works for credit cards and it will only work when you're paying for things that cost between £100 and £30,000.

Also if you buy a car and after 13 months it breaks down, and the dealership that sold you it has gone bust, you can still pursue the credit card provider.

  • Supply of goods and services act

What's happened?

You've had to take your car to the garage to get repaired. After being told it's been all sorted you're driving the car and three days later the same problem occurs. The garage that did the work refuses to do the work again or re-fund you and say that it's a matter of opinion of what is wrong.

What can you do?

In short you are entitled to have the bad service put right. Either the garage that did the work has to put it right or they have to pay someone else to do the work.

Any work or services carried out have to be provided with reasonable skill and care. If this is not the case then this can be seen as a breach of contract and so you can go for your compensation.

This kind of claim can be pursued through the courts for up to six years as long as you can prove that the problem was due to the work not being done properly or any materials used were not of satisfactory quality.

  • Distance Selling Regulations

What's happened?

After searching the internet for hours you finally find the car you've been after on an online car supermarket. Everything looks good and you decide to go for it and buy it.

The car turns up, but it's not what you wanted at all. You decide that you don't want the car and so call the company to try and get it sent back and get your money back. The customer service operator tells you that you can't do this and you will just have to accept the car.

What can you do?

With any purchase made over the internet you have the right to withdraw for the purchase within seven working days of it being delivered to you.

Your best bet is to check the firm you are buying from that you are definitely covered under the Distance Selling Regulation - some businesses will have details of this on their website.

Another thing you will need to check is how to get the car back to the company. Some will expect you to return it to them at your cost while others will collect the car themselves but again expect you to cover the costs for this.

Be careful though because if you personalise or get the car altered to your specification, you're not covered.

  • Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

What's happened?

After searching through the local newspaper you find a car that you want from a private buyer. After taking it for a test drive, everything seems good and working ok - as it said in the advert - and so you decide to buy it.

Once you get home and start driving though, things go wrong. You take it to a garage and they tell you there is a major problem with it. Once again you are left without a car and without the money you paid for it.

What can you do?

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive replaced what was the Trade Descriptions Act in 2008, but covers the same ground. The problem when buying privately is that you don't have the same rights you do if buying from a business like a dealership or online broker. In this case it is all down to you - the buyer - to make sure everything is in good condition before you buy.

The only real case you can bring against a private seller is the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. However, it is up to the buyer again to prove that the car is not in the state it has been described in the advert.  If you can prove this then you can go on to get all or some of your money back.

The best thing to do in this case is get a full written description from the seller about the state of the car and also keep any original written evidence such as the original advert.