Car Repairs

NI Direct

Car maintenance and servicing keep your car roadworthy. You’ll need a qualified mechanic to repair or service your car. When you collect your car from a garage after servicing, make sure you only pay for work that has been done.

What the law says

When a garage services or repairs you car, your consumer rights as a buyer are protected in law. This means that your garage must:

  • fit replacement parts that are in good condition, that are able to do the job and that will last a reasonable length of time
  • use reasonable skill and care
  • do the work in a reasonable time
  • charge a reasonable amount, if no price is agreed beforehand

You can ask Consumerline for advice about your rights when you need car repairs.

Tips before car servicing begins

If the garage fits a part which is soon found to be faulty, do not pay for a replacement to be fitted. The garage should have fitted a good part the first time.

Tell the garage exactly what you want repaired. They should tell you roughly how much the work will cost and when your car is likely to be ready. If you tell them to check your car and 'fix everything', you might have to wait longer than expected or pay more than you expected.

Ask for a written quotation. The garage may say it can only give an estimate because, until it starts the work, it will not know what needs to be done. If this happens, make sure the garage gets your permission to continue working if it becomes clear that you are going to have to pay a lot more than was first estimated.

If you disagree with the garage bill

If you feel the garage is overcharging, you will need to get another garage to examine the work done. Until you pay the bill, you won’t get your car back. If this happens, ask for help from any trade association which the garage might belong to. If that doesn't work, you will probably have to pay. When you pay a disputed bill,  write 'under protest' on the garage's copy of the bill or on the back of your cheque. This allows you to continue your challenge once you get your car back.

Make sure you tell the garage if you have to hire a car while your own is being repaired. If the garage takes longer than an agreed time to repair your car, you may be able to claim from them for the cost of the extra car hire.

If you have a complaint about car repairs

If you need advice on your rights contact Consumerline before trying to resolve it with the garage. Be polite  but firm with the garage.  If that doesn't work and the garage is a member of a trade association, ask for their help.

Most trade associations have a code of practice which offers a low cost arbitration service. In arbitration an outsider investigates a dispute to decide who is right. . If you want to use arbitration, your garage or trader has to also agree. You will not get your fee back if you lose. The arbitrator's decision will be binding on both of you. This means that you cannot go to court later about the same dispute if you don't agree with the arbitrator's decision.

For further information, get in touch with the Retail Motor Industry Federation. Find out more about making a complaint.

Court action

If you haven't been able to resolve your complaint and haven't used arbitration, you may need to take legal action. If the amount involved is less than £3,000, you can take your case to the Small Claims Court. You don’t need a solicitor in the Small Claims Court.

Contact Consumerline who can advise you how to apply. For amounts over £3,000, you should ask a solicitor for advice.

If a garage makes a false statement about its work

It is a criminal offence to make false statements about a service. If you think a garage made false statements about work it has done, for example a used part is charged as a new fitting on an invoice, contact Consumerline. They will tell Trading Standards Service.

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