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Consumer rights and new car purchases
Under Australian law, products and services that consumers buy come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what they’re supposed to do. These are called consumer guarantee rights.
These rights include that new cars must:
- be of acceptable quality, including that it is safe, durable and free from defects
- be fit for any purpose disclosed before the sale
- match the description provided or the demonstration model
- have spare parts and repair facilities available.
When buying a new car, consumers should receive the Just bought a new car? fact sheet about their consumer rights. This should be provided by the supplier, such as the dealer, at the point of sale.
Repairs, replacements and refunds for cars
If a consumer discovers a problem that fails one or more of the consumer guarantees, they may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.
Consumers can go back to the salesperson and explain the problem. The seller must assist and cannot tell the consumer to contact the manufacturer.
Consumers cannot get a repair, replacement or refund if they've:
- changed their mind
- damaged the car
- discovered a better deal elsewhere, or
- not followed the seller‘s advice that the car wouldn’t suit their needs.
There are also specific state based laws that apply to the sale and purchase of motor vehicles that coexist with the consumer guarantees. State and Territory consumer protection agencies can provide information on their individual laws in this area.
New motor vehicles are required to display fuel consumption values in a label on the front windscreen. The fuel consumption values displayed in these labels are derived from testing conducted under an international framework. This testing takes place in a laboratory and the fuel consumption values produced generally will not be achieved in actual on-road driving.
Displayed fuel consumption values should be used for comparative purposes only.
When considering fuel consumption values:
- Use values to compare the fuel consumption of different car models
- Don't take values to represent the actual fuel consumption of a car.
The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Green Vehicle Guide, lists fuel consumption figures calculated under the international testing framework and reported by vehicle manufacturers and importers. These figures can be used for comparison between vehicles.
Tips for buying a car
Before buying a car:
- compare on-road costs and operating costs, including registration, compulsory third-party insurance, stamp duty, additional insurance, fuel, servicing and spare parts
- get an independent safety assessment on new cars through the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP)
- test drive the vehicle
- get an independent vehicle inspection on a used car and check the Personal Property Securities Register to make sure there’s no money owing on it (note the Personal Property Securities Register website charges a small fee to check vehicles)
- ask about and compare after sales support and warranties that different sellers and manufacturers offer
understand the purpose of fuel consumption labels on new cars.
Car and vehicle market studies
Hiring a car
It is important to shop around and read the vehicle hire contract carefully before signing. The contract outlines rental, insurance and extra costs, and may have limits on the use of the vehicle and in-house insurance.
It may be possible for a consumer to get extra insurance cover for a rental vehicle from their own insurer, a motor vehicle association or travel insurance package.
A vehicle hire contract may include an agreement for the company to make unlimited charges to the consumer's credit card.
Before hiring a car
Consider the following questions when hiring a car:
- what is the total cost, including rental, basic and excess insurance cover and all extra costs? Are rates cheaper online or elsewhere?
- are there any restrictions on using insurance if the vehicle is damaged while being rented? If so, can the consumer's own insurance from elsewhere be used?
- who is permitted to drive the vehicle?
- if the car is returned early, is there an entitlement to a refund?
- if necessary, can the vehicle be picked up in one location and returned to another? Is there an extra cost for this?
- in what circumstances will the hire company make unauthorised charges to the consumer's credit card? What amounts can be charged in each circumstance? When will the company refund money that the consumer is entitled to, such as a security deposit?
Before signing a contract for a hire car
Take the following steps before signing a contract:
- inspect inside and outside of the vehicle for damage with a representative from the company and take photos of any existing damage
- ensure any damage found is recorded in the contract and countersigned by the company representative
- check that all mechanical and electrical components work
- ensure there is a full tank of fuel
- understand the procedures in the contract that must be followed if the car breaks down or is in an accident
- understand all contract requirements for returning the vehicle, such as the time, place and refilling the fuel tank.
Returning a hire car
Consumers should take the following steps when returning a car:
- ensure everything that is required under the contract is done
- if there was no damage to the vehicle while renting it, ask for a written agreement from the company noting that the car was returned undamaged
- if there was damage to the car during the rental, ensure a written agreement is made with the company about costs and procedures for fixing the damage before leaving the premises.