Cancelling a Car Purchase: Know your rights

Buyer’s remorse, a common sentiment when purchasing a new vehicle, often arises due to the significant financial commitment involved. It’s that nagging doubt that creeps in after eagerly putting pen to paper and the excitement of driving off the showroom floor. Questions like, “did I make the right choice? Or “could I have found a better deal” can linger. To combat buyer’s remorse, it’s essential to thoroughly research your options, set a budget, and take your time to make an informed decision.

However, sometimes circumstances can change. You may find yourself in a situation where you've purchased a car but need or want to cancel the transaction. Fortunately, there are consumer protection laws in place to safeguard your rights.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

The primary piece of legislation governing consumer rights in the UK is the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This law applies to the purchase of new and used cars from dealerships and private sellers.

Cooling-off Period from a Dealership

If you've purchased a car from a dealership, the legal cooling off period will depend on whether the sale was made ‘Off-premises’ or ‘On-premises’. In an off-premises sale, where the vehicle is purchased online, the cooling-off period typically lasts for 14 days from the day you receive the car. This means you have two weeks to change your mind and return the vehicle for a full refund. 

Should the car purchase be made on the premises of the dealership, you are able to request a refund only when there is a problem with the vehicle. If the vehicle you’ve purchased is defective, you have 30 days from the point of purchase to claim a full refund. In this scenario, it may not be directly considered a cooling-off period, but rather a level of protection under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Misrepresentation and False Advertising

If you believe that the seller provided false or misleading information about the car, such as its mileage, accident history, or condition, you may be able to cancel the purchase. To do so, you should:

a. Gather evidence: Document any communication, advertisements, or written descriptions provided by the seller that are inconsistent with the actual condition of the car.

b. Contact the seller: Inform the seller of your concerns and your intention to cancel the purchase and request a refund.

c. Seek legal advice: If the seller refuses to cooperate or you encounter difficulties in cancelling the purchase, consider consulting a solicitor or contacting trading standards for guidance.

Finance Agreements

If you've financed your car purchase through a finance agreement, such as hire purchase (HP) or personal contract purchase (PCP), cancelling the purchase may be more complex. Typically, you'll need to settle the outstanding finance balance before returning the car. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of your finance agreement and consult with the finance provider for specific details.

Private Sales

When buying a car from a private seller, your rights are more limited than when purchasing from a dealership. Private sellers are not required to adhere to the same consumer protection laws as dealerships. Therefore, it's crucial to thoroughly inspect the car, ask questions, and consider obtaining a vehicle history report to avoid potential issues.


Everyone has purchased something online and returned it. But it’s much harder to get your money back after you’ve purchased a car. It’s important to only sign on the dotted line if you are 100% certain and comfortable with the decision. A fancy showroom or an over promising salesman can easily talk you into handing over that hefty deposit. Just make sure you’re not talked into making a decision if you’re not comfortable being held to it.

Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of your rights should the circumstances arise, and you find yourself needing to cancel a car purchase. While you have a cooling-off period for new cars, used car purchases are typically final. However, if you suspect misrepresentation or false advertising, you may have grounds to cancel. Always document your interactions with the seller and seek legal advice if necessary. Understanding your rights as a consumer can help you make informed decisions when buying a car and provide peace of mind in case you ever need to cancel a purchase.

This article does not constitute legal advice, the primary aim is to make you aware of the options available when cancelling or returning a vehicle purchase.

View all articles