Can a Garage Keep My Car For Nonpayment?

Can a Garage Keep My Car For Nonpayment?

 wiIf you’re struggling to pay for car repairs, or are in dispute with a garage about the service provided, this article explains your rights, responsibilities and how to deal with the threat of a garage keeping hold of your car for non-payment. 

Your Legal Rights On Car Repairs 

As consumers we all have a significant level of rights and privileges that serve to protect us in purchases, and it’s best to be armed with a good knowledge of the legal obligations of both yourself and the garage carrying out the work.  

Citizens Advice states that: Under the laws of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002, garages have to provide work to your car  that is: 

  • Performed with reasonable care and skill 
  • Finished in a reasonable time 
  • Charged at a reasonable cost - if the price is not agreed 

If you believe that these conditions are not met, there may be some further steps you can take - the first step however is to communicate as best you can, with the garage, laying out your issues with their service. 

What to try first - how to mediate yourself 

If you find yourself confused with a large repair bill, or want some form of compensation or remuneration for the inconvenience caused by a garage, it’s often better to discuss with the garage first before resorting to legal action. 

Stating your consumer rights might be necessary, but it’s often better to talk through the problem first with the manager, to identify their side of the story. Be polite and friendly, and try not to accuse the garage of any wrongdoing straight away. 

You may find a reasonable explanation for the large bill, or the garage being a bit more willing to discuss options for fixing the dispute. 

Authorisation On Extra Work 

A fairly common complaint with some garages is finding additional costs on your bill, for work you were not aware of. There are guidelines around how a garage should proceed with unforeseen breakages. 

General Authorisation 

If an issue is particularly complex, or you simply need your car back no matter what, giving general instructions to fix a problem is the easiest for the garage. This can include diagnosis, parts, labour and testing. 

An example would be if your brakes are underperforming. If the garage has instructions to “fix the issue with the brakes”, it is reasonable to assume they will take them apart, find the fault, purchase the required parts (from a supplier of their choice), and fit them.  

In this case, it is hard for the consumer to find fault with the cost of the parts, or the extent of time taken to diagnose and repair - as long as it is reasonable.  

Specific Authorisation 

However, if you have a little more time, and want to keep an eye on the costs, you can advise the garage with specific instructions. An example of this would be: “Diagnose the issue and prepare a quotation for remedial work to the vehicle's brakes”.  

This work may still be chargeable, as often problems need some level of disassembly to identify the fault, but once the fault is known, the garage should not do any more chargeable work. 

If you have instructed a garage on this basis, and they have gone on to buy or fit parts, without your instruction, they have not abided by the authorisation terms.  

What to do if the garage has not fixed the fault 

If you have trusted a garage to find and fix a fault, but it is still present, you may have grounds for complaint, unless the garage can prove that the new fault is a separate issue, or outside of the scope of work authorised.  

If a new fault has developed, speak to the garage immediately, and if possible book it in with the expressed notification that you require them to inspect their previous work, and you are not to be billed for any more diagnostic time. 

Bear in mind that due to the complexity of many systems, it’s possible that the new fault was not directly caused by the garage, and is the result of deferred repairs. 

Can a mechanic keep my car if I refuse to pay? 

In a word, yes. In the UK until a bill has been paid the garage can keep the car as a “Lien”, which is the right to keep the property until a debt is paid.  

It’s a necessary tool for garages to have, as once the work is completed, they have no power to ensure payment by the customer. 

The waters are muddied slightly if the work carried out is in dispute over any of the issues we’ve already discussed, including quality, price or time, where you may want and need your car back as soon as possible, but don’t want to accept the work completed by paying the bill. 

One way to get your car back, but not forgo the right to contest the level of service provided, is to pay the bill as ‘under protest’. This way the payment of the bill is not a marker of you agreeing with the transaction, if the complaint was to be elevated. 

Can a garage sell my car for non-payment? 

Whilst the garage is allowed to prevent you from collecting your car if you don’t pay, their ability to sell the car to recover costs is not as straightforward. Citizens advice states the garage is not allowed to sell the car whilst the payment is in dispute.  

What if you can't afford the car repair? 

Sometimes car repairs take you by surprise and appear at the worst of times. If you’re worried about how to cover a large car repair bill, Bumper may have the solution for you. 

Bumper offers zero-interest financing on car repairs, from hundreds of approved partners across the country. Spread out your car repair bill by paying in instalments with pay monthly car repair loans, at no extra cost. 

To get started, enter your registration and postcode to find a partner garage near you.

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