Problem with a car repair
If you’ve had a problem with a car repair or service, the best thing to do is negotiate with the garage to work out the best solution.
If your negotiations don’t work, you can take further action to get your problem resolved.
Always ask your garage what they can do to help before you spend any extra money on hire cars or travel. For example, they might be able to offer you a courtesy car. A court isn’t likely to award you money if the garage offers services that you didn’t take advantage of.
It’s a good idea to keep a record and receipts of any extra money you have to pay for travel while you’re disputing a bill. You might need to prove this down the line.
Negotiate with the garage
Speak with the garage in person or over the phone - you may be able to resolve the problem quickly. If they don’t agree up front to make things right, you may want to write or email the garage so you have a record of the problem and your communication to them.
You can use this template letter for complaining about faulty goods supplied with a service - what you put in the letter will depend on your situation.
If the repair didn’t work or it created a new problem
You should ask the garage to fix any faults that:
weren’t repaired properly
weren’t correctly found
didn’t exist before you took the car to the garage
Your rights and what to say
If the work wasn’t done with ‘reasonable skill and care’, you have the legal right to get the work done again or get a price reduction. Tell this to the garage. It can be difficult agreeing on what is ‘reasonable’, so it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from another garage.
If the garage won’t do the work
You could negotiate with the garage to get a report from an independent garage or vehicle engineer to show the repairs were done properly. You and the garage would need to agree on who provides this report, how the cost would be split and that you’ll both accept the findings. If the report shows that the work wasn’t done properly then the original garage should fix the car.
You could ask another garage to give you a written quote or estimate for the work. This will prove that the repairs or service need to be done again, and could help you negotiate with the original garage for the problem to be fixed.
You can also ask the garage for a refund of some of the payment you made - you have the legal right to a price reduction if the work wasn’t done with ‘reasonable care and skill’. A second opinion can help you and the garage agree on what is reasonable.
You may be able to get your money back through your bank. Contact them and say you want to use the ‘chargeback’ scheme. Many bank staff don’t know about the scheme, so you may need to talk to a manager.
If you paid by credit card and the repair cost more than £100, it may be easier to tell your bank you want to ‘make a section 75 claim’.
You should take further action if the garage refuses to make the repairs and you can’t reach an agreement.
If you think you’re being overcharged
If you agreed a price before the work was done
If you agreed on an amount (or got a quote) before the garage did the work, you’ll have to pay the full bill. This is because you’ve entered into a contract with the garage (even if you didn’t sign anything). You can ask for them to come down on the price, but they don’t have to.
Quote vs estimate
A quote is when a trader has promised to do work at an agreed price - it should say what work will be done and the price.
An estimate is a trader's best guess as to how much the work will cost - it’s not a quote.
You can take further action if they’re charging you more than the agreed amount and you think it’s unreasonable.
If you didn’t agree a price before the work was done (or you only got an estimate)
If the trader only gave an estimate then they can charge you more within reason. If you don't think the extra charged is reasonable, ask the garage to reduce the price.
Your rights and what to say
If no price was agreed before the work was done, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you the legal right to only pay a ‘reasonable price’. Tell this to the garage.
It can be difficult agreeing what is ‘reasonable’. It would be reasonable, for example, to be charged more if the garage needed a bit more time for the repairs or they needed more parts. You can get a second opinion from another garage if you’re not sure what is reasonable.
If you think the cost is unreasonable and they won’t lower the price, you should take further action.
If the garage did work you didn’t ask for
If you told the garage to do whatever needs to be done to fix the car, then you gave them the right to decide what work to do. You’ll have to pay if the work was necessary and the price is reasonable. Get a second opinion if you think the price isn’t reasonable.
If you only asked the garage to do a specific piece of work and they did extra work that you didn’t ask for, you can ask them to undo the work. If this isn't possible, you should insist you only pay for the work that was agreed.
Take further action if they’re charging you for work that you didn’t ask for.
If the repair is taking too long
You can ask the garage for a courtesy car (this is a car that the garage will give you to use - not all garages will offer this). Keep a record of everything extra you spend on travel - you might need to prove this later on.
If the car is having body work done and parts are delayed, you could ask to take your car and continue to use it until the parts have arrived.
The other actions you should take will depend on whether or not you originally agreed a date for the work to be finished by.
If you agreed on a date for the work to be finished
If you want the original garage to finish the job you should negotiate a new deadline for the repairs to be carried out. If you're not sure what the new deadline should be, you could get the opinion of another garage about how long the repairs should take. Take further action if the garage is not offering to do the work within an acceptable time period.
If you didn’t agree on a date for the work to be finished
Contact the garage and agree on a date for finishing the work - make a note of when you called, who you spoke to and what was agreed.
Your rights and what to say
If no date was agreed before the work was done, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you the legal right to get the work done within a ‘reasonable time’. Tell this to the garage.
It can be difficult agreeing on what is ‘reasonable’. It would be reasonable, for example, to be charged more if the garage needed a bit more time for the repairs or they needed more parts. You can get a second opinion from another garage if you’re not sure what is reasonable.
You can ask the garage for a refund of some of the payment you made (if you paid in advance) if they don’t do the work within a reasonable amount of time. A second opinion can help you and the garage agree on what is reasonable.
Take further action if you can’t agree on a reasonable date to finish the work, or if the work doesn’t get done by the new agreed date.
If the garage damaged your car
If your car has been damaged while it was at the garage, you should negotiate for them to pay for the repair of the damage.
It’s best to point out the damage as quickly as possible, or you could be seen to have accepted what’s happened.
The maximum they’re obliged to offer you is the cost of of the repair damage. For example, if they’ve scratched the door of your car, they should pay the cost of respraying the door, not necessarily for buying a new door.
To reinforce your argument, you can show that you know your legal rights by telling them that you’re aware that “traders have a responsibility of care under the Consumer Rights Act 2015”.
The garage might have a sign on their premises saying that they’re not responsible for any damage - this can be considered an ‘unfair term’, which means they’re still liable - you should tell them this.
Depending on the type of insurance you have, you might be able to claim for the damage on your car insurance. You might lose your no claims bonus if you do.
You could also contact the garage’s insurance company to see if you could negotiate for them to pay for the work. They’re not legally obliged to though.
Take further action if the garage is refusing to pay for the damage to your car, and you don’t want to claim on your insurance.
Take further action if your negotiations have failed
If you’re not getting anywhere with the garage, you have options to help you get the work done or claim compensation. But you should always try to negotiate with the garage first.
The garage is not allowed to sell or get rid of the car while you’re disputing the bill. They can, however, keep your car while the bill is being disputed.
Pay the garage so you can get your car back
If you need the car back but aren’t happy with the amount you have to pay, you can pay ‘under protest’ then continue with your dispute. This means you are paying the full amount but letting the garage know that they can expect further action.
Write the words “paying under protest” clearly on their copy of the repair order sheet and any copies of receipts that the garage make. If you don’t say you’re paying under protest it will be difficult to get compensation later on, because the garage could argue that by paying the bill, you were accepting the charges.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the money back later, but there are ways to try.
If you can’t afford to pay, offer to pay what you consider a reasonable amount in exchange for getting the car back, then dispute the rest of the bill separately.
Negotiate through a trade association
Ask the garage if they’re a member of any trade association (for example, The Motor Ombudsman, the Retail Motor Industry Federation or the Motor Cycle Industry Association). You could also search the trade associations’ websites to see if the garage is a member.
Some trade associations will offer a free service where they will help you resolve your dispute with the garage - this can include getting compensation (eg for being out of pocket or having your time wasted).
Contact the trade association and explain your circumstances to them - this is sometimes called a ‘conciliation service’.
You’ll only be able to get help from a trade association if the garage is a member.
Use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme
Ask the garage if they’re a member of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme - it’s a way of solving disagreements without going to court. A third party will mediate to try and reach a solution.
If they don’t respond, they’re not a member of an ADR scheme or won’t use ADR, keep a record of when you asked them. You’ll need this if you end up in court.
If you want to try ADR, you can find out more about ADR and other ways to solve an ongoing problem.
Take the car to another garage
This is a risky option because you’ll probably need to go to court or a trade association to claim for the extra money you spend to get the work done. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the money back.
You might be able to take the car to a different garage. It will depend how much work the original garage has already done and whether or not your car is in a safe condition to drive.
If you get the car repaired at a new garage, you can try to claim compensation or go to court for the cost of carrying out extra repairs. You might be able to work with a trade association to get a result (if the garage is a member).
Make a court claim for money you think you’re owed
You can take legal action through the sheriff court to get money you think you’re owed. However, this can be costly and time consuming. Depending on how much you’re owed, you might want to get legal advice. You should look at all other options before going to court.
Report the garage to Trading Standards
If the garage is quoting one price but charging another (or otherwise using misleading advertising or unfair practices) you can report them to Trading Standards. Reporting the garage could mean that other customers don’t get misled by them in the future.
Contact your local Citizens Advice bureau or Advice Direct Scotland's consumer service if you need more help.
Advice Direct Scotland's Consumer Service
Freephone: 0808 164 6000