Consumer Rights When Buying a Used Car from a Dealer

Rejecting a Used Car Bought in the Last 30 Days

This article outlines the steps to take after buying a problematic used car from a dealer in the UK. If you’ve bought a car privately and are suffering from mechanical issues your legal rights are significantly diminished. In such cases, I suggest contacting the Citizens Advice Breaux to see if your individual case allows any right to claim compensation.
image of a car being towed away due to mechanical problems since buying the car from a dearship in the last 30 days
My customised ‘Rejecting used car letter template’ is at the bottom of this article

How did you pay for the car?

  • Credit Card
  • Cash
  • Cheque
  • Debit Card
  • Bank Transfer

For a few reasons, your payment method matters when it comes to making a claim. One is warranty and another is a papertrail from the moment you purchased the car.

Credit Card
If you have paid any portion of the car via a credit card you’ve got additional rights and the second layer of protection. I’m not going to talk much about that here. Hop over to this article to get more information.

It’s a bit of a sticking point if you’ve paid cash for your car and need to claim, but I’ll assume you still have the official invoice from the dealers. Even better is an official invoice, dated with full business name, address, phone number, VAT registration number and signatures from you and the salesman.

Unlike cash, you at least have a proof of payment to the dealers from your bank account.

Debit Card
No added protection with a debit card payment but you have proof of payment outside of the dealer invoice.

Bank Transfer
Again, no added protection but still a recommended method of payment for something like a used car. Whether you buy from a dealer or privately a BACS transfer is safe and secure.

How old is the car you are rejecting and what was the price?

You need to consider the age, mileage and price of the car you’ve bought and use your best judgement to deem what is fair wear and tear.

If your car is only a few years old, has reasonable mileage and cost several thousand pounds you can expect it to be in great working order and reliable. Translated this means ‘Fit for Purpose’, in good working condition and a good representation of the price paid.

If you bought a car that is 13 years old, high mileage and cost £495 you would probably expect it to have some signs of wear and tear. In cases like this you will have to allow for such things as a broken electric window, heater not working or minor oil leak. However, even a small spend on an old car inherits consumer rights. Unless stated otherwise, the car you have bought must be fit for purpose and representative of the price paid. Read my article about buying an older used car that may be deemed ‘sold as seen’.

Rejecting a used car

The steps you need to take and your consumer rights

If your car develops a problem that you should not expect for mileage and age you probably have the rights to reject the vehicle and get a full refund.
Here’s the exact law when correctly determining your rights against a car dealer:

  1. The vehicle must be fit for purpose and be able to safely travel from point A to point B
    If the vehicle is not fit for purpose you have a right to claim
  2. Be of satisfactory quality (allowing for age, mileage and price)
  3. Be as described when you bought the car and/or is as advertised
    If you bought the car just a few days ago there is a reasonable chance the dealer still has it advertised online. Hop over to Autotrader or wherever you found the car advertised and see if you can take some screenshots of the advert before it disappears.

If you clearly remember the car being advertised differently than it is, in reality, you could even contact Autotrader directly and see if they’ll share a copy of the ad with you from their historic database. I’m not suggesting they will allow this but in a desperate circumstance, it might be worth a shot!
image of a women access used car rights under the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 in the UK

How to complain about a second-hand car not fit for purpose

Caveat in the law

Surprising to me is that if you buy a used car from a dealership that was NOT described (advertised) as being in a good or excellent condition or good working order, and it develops mechanical issues soon after purchase, you do NOT have rights to claim compensation or reject the vehicle for a refund.
From 1st October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act states you have only 30 days to reject the vehicle and get your money back
Before October 2015 the law on Consumer Rights was governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 that was a little more open-ended about the time frame a consumer had before they could reject and get a refund.

The key point here is ‘within 30 days of purchase’. If you’ve bought a used car from a dealer, inherited problems and it was more than 30 days ago you still have consumer rights but they are diminished and continue to diminish every day thereafter. Commonly you are entitled to a repair or replacement Free Of Charge but loosely speaking you’ve around 6 months before your rights disappear completely. There are a few minor exceptions like buying a stolen car, verified mileage discrepancies and that type of thing. Visit my Total Car Check page for more information on this.
Important points to consider:

  • If you are trying to get a refund you must stop using the car immediately else you’ll jeopardise your opportunity to get your money back. Added mileage dilutes your claim.
  • If the dealer is unable to repair or replace the car you’re entitled to a refund but expect the dealer to insist on a reduced rate for what is deemed ‘fair use’ (they’ll account for the mileage you’ve clocked up and the timeframe since purchase.)


Second hand warranty law

Essential steps when managing the process of repair or refund

  1. Ensure you have the sales invoice and check the mileage and date stated on it when you bought the car. Document any inconsistencies.
  2. Contact the Citizens Advice Breaux and open a case reporting the issues, date of purchase and what the dealer said.
  3. Contact the dealer immediately and tell them the problem (s) you are experiencing.
  4. When contacting the dealer for the first time remain calm and friendly as this increases your chances of an amicable agreement. Be sure to get the name of the individual you’re speaking with.
  5. Document the conversation with the dealers and their proposed next steps. Sign and date your records.
  6. Document when you first encountered the issues. It’s best to keep a log of dates, mileages, the faults, any calls you made to the dealer when reporting the problem, what the dealer said, what they planned to do about it etc. The more detail the better when it comes to leveraging your consumer rights.
  7. Don’t accept what the dealer tells you as being factual or law abiding. Draw your own conclusions as to what you think is correct and compare it with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and/or Citizens Advice Breaux.
  8. Ask an independent car workshop to diagnose the fault and provide you with a full quote and timeframe for repair.
  9. Do not drive the car until it is repaired or you are returning for a refund (If the car is illegal to drive they’ll need to come and fetch it.)


Difficult dealers

In my experience most dealers are willing to help their customers and if you bought from a franchised dealer or long established garage you’re probably going to get things sorted quickly. But there are some dealers and circumstances that are going to make the process difficult. You may find some dealers even try to wriggle out of any legal responsibility using terms like Sold as Seen and Sold With No Warranty.

If you’re having real problems with the dealer and they are trying to escape any legal responsibility you may need a more direct approach to solving the problem. This can include the Small Claims Court or other legal action. Unfortunately, this is time-consuming and you’re not guaranteed a positive outcome.

The letter below is one that I composed for one of my readers. This man (Graham) was in his 70’s and had spent £7,000 on a nearly new Ford Fiesta. Turned out that his car was a Category D Insurance Loss but he had no idea until he ran his own background check on the car, after purchase.

I composed the letter below to help Graham try and get a refund. He received a full £7,000 money back refund four days after the hard copy letter was sent. He owned the car for a total of 19 days and sent his letter to the dealers 15 days after purchase.

Note, this was sent after Graham had already contacted the dealer and explained the problem, and demanded his money back. The dealer outright refused and basically told him to F off.
image of a man writing a letter of complaint and reject to a car dealership in the UK

Rejecting a Used Car Letter Template

The letter written below is my own and is NOT a legal document, nor does it entitle you to a refund. However, it is free for you to use (copy, paste) as a way of supporting you in your process of obtaining a refund for a used car you have purchased from a dealers in the last 30 days.

Marcus Rockey (The Used Car Guy) assumes no responsibility for the outcome evoked from using this letter.

Replace and add your own details as required:

Dealer name,
Dealer address,
Dealer phone number,
VAT registration number,

Your name,
Your address,
Your phone number,
Reference (vehicles registration)
Date of Purchase
Dear xxx

As you are aware I bought a CAR TYPE AND CAR REGISTRATION from your dealership on DATE OF PURCHASE for the total sum of XXX.

Since buying the car ENTER THE VEHICLE FAULTS HERE WITH THE DATE YOU FIRST ENCOUNTERED THE PROBLEM (Add as many details as you can). The car I purchased from your dealership is not as described and/or in fit condition to drive.

Having learned of my legal privileges under the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 and since raising a case with the Citizens Advice Breaux I wish to return the vehicle to you immediately and claim the money I paid as a full refund.

The vehicle was misdescribed and I was mis-sold.

Therefore, I am writing to demand a full refund for the car ENTERING PURCHASE PRICE within 7 days from the date of this letter. Having been in touch with Trading Standards I was instructed to write to you immediately and exercise my right for a full 30 day Short Term Refund to Reject.

Please respond to this letter and state your intentions and next steps to dissolve this matter.

If I do not hear from you and receive a full refund within 7 days, or should you reject my claim, I will be legally pursuing you with the next steps to recovering my lost money.

Kind regards,


Your name and signature.