• Dispute over cost of the work
  • Dispute over poor quality work
  • Problem returns a short while after you’ve paid for it to be fixed
  • Bodyshop not finishing job
  • Garage charging more than expected or reasonable in the circumstances.


Summary of the law – repair and servicing disputes

Your rights

Rights over repair work or servicing your vehicle:

  • Quality of work: The repair work or servicing should be carried out with reasonable skill and care.
  • Time: Unless you agreed something different, work should be completed in a “reasonable” time
  • Cost: Unless you agreed something different, the cost of the work should “reasonable”. One way of assessing what is reasonable is to find out what other garages in the area would charge for the same service.

Putting right problems with the repair work or servicing: 

  • The customer is entitled to have the poor quality work redone by the garage properly at no additional charge. You should usually give the garage a chance to redo the work themselves within a reasonable time. 
  • The customer can also claim the cost of putting right any damage caused or replacing damaged items
  • If the first garage cannot do the repair work needed to put right a problem with their work within a reasonable time (or in more extreme cases where you have lost all faith and confidence in using the garage) you can go to another garage and you should be entitled to claim back the cost of someone else doing the work properly. However this means you will have the hassle of claiming the costs from the first garage. Before they carry out the repair work you should ask then to put in writing their assessment of the repair work of the first garage and what is now needed to fix the problem.
  • The customer can also claim any other reasonable losses and expenses but generally not their inconvenience or time spent in bringing a claim.
  • Some garages have terms & conditions that may seek to limit these rights and limit the remedies available – the court would need to decide if such terms were unfair.
  • Road traffic accident: If you have an accident or crash due to a problem with your vehicle, it might be that responsibility rests with the garage if the incident was caused by a problem that should have been picked up at a recent service or was due to a faulty repair. An independent assessment of the defect with your car will be needed. If proved under the law of negligence the garage could be legally responsible for any injuries and damage to you, your passengers and any other people or vehicles involved. 

Rights over cost of work:


  • Quotes: If a garage’s quote is agreed (and the vehicle is brought to the garage for the work to start at a time when the quote was still valid), the garage can’t charge more for carrying out the work agreed between you. This is true even if it costs the garage more than they expected to do the work. 
  • Estimates: If a garage’s estimate is agreed then this is not a fixed price. An estimate is only a guide to the final price. However the final price should still be based on the estimate. If the final price is a lot higher than the estimate, then the customer will only be expected to pay a reasonable amount assessed on the basis of what the estimate said.
  • Extra work: If a customer and garage agree that extra work should be carried out (or perhaps after investigation, do part of the repair work differently than originally agreed) the garage can charge extra for this (on top of the original quote or estimate). The extra cost should be agreed (with a note kept at the time).Otherwise it will be necessary to assess what extra charge is reasonable.
  • Obvious mistake in a quote or estimate: If a garage makes a genuine mistake in a quote (perhaps in adding up the various aspects) then the garage usually has the right to be paid by their customer the amount that was really intended. 
  • Dispute over bill: If you refuse to pay the garage can keep the vehicle until the dispute is resolved and their terms & conditions may even allow them to charge you a storage fee. To avoid this, if you complain before paying, it may be possible to reach a compromise agreement with the garage manager at the time. Otherwise you should pay and then claim back the amount you think is unreasonable. Ideally mark their copy of the bill “amount disputed”

The area of law is known as “breach of contract”. Customers are also given extra rights under Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Problems with a newly bought vehicle:

Bought from a car dealer: If the fault is found within 6 months the law assumes the problem was already present when you bought it. This means the dealer is responsible for the cost of fixing the problem and you should let them know as soon as possible. If the dealer disputes this, it is up to them to prove the fault was not present when they sold it. This is not just brand new cars but any car bought from a dealer and the protection comes from the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Bought car from a private seller: The description given by the seller must not be misleading but otherwise you cannot go back to the seller if the vehicle develops a fault. You buy “as seen”. That is why when buying privately it often makes sense to get an independent inspection/assessment of the vehicle – so you know if it is in good condition.

Trade Association

In addition to your legal rights, it is worth finding out if the garage or car dealership is a member of a trade association. This is a type of members group aiming to promote good codes of practice.  If the garage belongs to one are they will display a sign on their premises and on their paperwork. 

The garage will then have to work to the standards of that association. If you feel a garage has let you down, the Trade Association may be able to offer help in resolving your dispute with the garage.

Did you pay by Credit Card?


What do you have to prove to bring a claim?


1: What was agreed. 

Before a garage or repair shop start work, you will usually have reached an agreement as to what they were going to do and the cost. This agreement can be:

  • A formal written contract that you are asked to sign (terms & conditions)
  • An agreement and price reached in an email or text exchange or by phone after the garage have looked into the problem.
  • A verbal agreement or understanding made when you dropped off your vehicle.
  • A common-sense understanding as to what is “reasonable”

2: What you are unhappy about. This will be what the garage or their customer has done that has not followed the agreement. Examples include:

  • Poor quality of visible repair work
  • Problem still not fixed
  • Work taking far longer than originally advised
  • Charged more than was agreed to expected.
  • Left the job unfinished.
  • Customer of garage not paying the bill


What evidence should you collect together?


1: Proof of what had been agreed between you. Perhaps a formal contract or an email or text exchange or notes you made at the time of a verbal agreement. 

However this is usually agreed verbally in person or by phone. As soon as you realise you are not happy you should make a written record of the conversations, whilst you still have a clear memory.

2: Proof that the agreement has been broken – 

  • Photos of poor quality repair work (where this is visible). 
  • You may decide to take the vehicle to another garage to look at the problem. They may be prepared to write a letter of report on the problem and what the first garage have done wrong as well as the cost of fixing this. There is likely to be a charge for this type of report.

3: Proof of the financial loss caused to you:
Examples such as a quote or bill  from another garage for fixing the poor quality work or bank statements showing that the customer has not paid what was agreed.


What can you claim?


Financial compensation or repair work– to put you in the position you would be in if the agreement had been followed.

1: The work completed (if left unfinished)

2: The work re-done to a reasonable standard

3: The cost of any other losses and expenses caused by the broken agreement. 

But all must be reasonable and cannot be a loss you would have suffered anyway. Usually you will need receipts or other proof of these extra losses and expenses.


Example claims

  • Problem returns a short while after you’ve paid for it to be fixed
  • Garage not finishing job
  • Garage charging more than expected or reasonable in the circumstances.




Disclaimer reminder


Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website


Format - complaint letter



Information to include

Sample letter – repairs dispute


Start of official letter to the garage or car repair centre.

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,




Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  


I brought my vehicle into your garage on 1st March 2013. 

Vehicle make & model: Ford Fiesta

Registration: HJ 59TVR

What I asked for: I telephoned on 28 February and I explained that my brake warning light had been showing and I asked you to check that my brakes were working properly and if not for you to fix them but to call me first if it was going to cost more than £250.

Service you said you’d provide: You asked me to bring my car in on 1 March. You would look at the brakes and if necessary fix them. You agreed to call me if the total cost was likely to go over £100. You said that the car would be ready for collection later that day.

What happened: 

You did not call during the day. When I returned to collect the car at about 4.30 on 1 March, I was told that the problem was more serious than you had expected. I was told you needed to obtain some further parts and we agreed that you would keep the car for a further day until the repairs could be carried out. At that point you estimated the cost including parts would be £1,000.

I reluctantly agreed to this.

I then collected the car on 2 March. I was told the problem had been resolved but it had taken longer than expected and the cost was £1,200. 




Details of any payments requested and any payments made.



When I collected my car on 2nd March 2013, I paid you £1,200 with my Nat West credit card.




Identify clearly why you are unhappy. 

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. 


When I drove the car home I noticed that the brakes were still not working properly.  

I telephoned you at 4.30 on that day (2 March) and asked to bring in the car for you to look at again and you said you would be in touch with a time to being the car in. I was hoping you would sort the problem at no extra cost to me.

I did not hear from you so I telephoned you on 3rd and 4th March 2013 but you did not return my calls to make arrangements for me to bring the car back into your garage.


Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

Problems caused

I do not feel the car is safe to drive and so I had to rely on buses and taxis and lifts from friends.

You initially promised to put the matter right but you did not.  

On 5 March I took the car to Swift Repairs Garage who confirmed that the brakes were faulty and the car was not safe to drive. The garage told me that you had incorrectly fitted new brake pads. 

I instructed them to make the needed repair. This cost me an additional £1,500 to put it right. The work was completed on 5 March. I attach their invoice and work sheet which is self-explanatory.

Swift Repairs Garage also advised me that the original repair should not have cost more than £500 to a maximum of £750. I attach a report letter where they explain this in more detail.


Losses and expenses 

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.

Losses and expenses

Although I have suffered a great deal of inconvenience I limit my claim to

  • 2 return taxi journeys on 4 March to take and collect my 2 young children to their grandparents. It was reasonable to go by taxi as there is no direct bus route and I had no alternative vehicle available to me. See taxi receipts of £42.
  • £1,500 being the cost of using Swift Repairs Garage fixing the problem after you did not take the opportunity to do this.
  • A refund of £750 that you overcharged me for the original repair work. I have calculated this on the basis of the report of Swift Repairs where they said the most you should have charged was £750, meaning I claim back the remaining £750.
  • £25 being the cost of the report of Swift Repairs – see attached invoice.

This gives a total of £2,317



Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like. 

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop). 
  • Where you seek money - put a price on the settlement you seek.


I request that you pay me £2,317 as calculated above. 

I request that you send me a cheque made payable to Mr Ian Rate to my home address within 14 days.



Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek 


  • arrange to inspect the problem


  • set out their detailed response.


Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.



Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.


I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £2,317. 

If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.



[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely, 
Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 
Ian Rate