Dealing with new car delays: how to take control

Been waiting weeks for a new car or car part? It can be very frustrating, but our guide can help you to take control of the situation...

Woman on phone

Who doesn’t enjoy shopping for a new car? You’ve spent hours on websites, specced up your dream model and placed the order with the dealer, who has given you a delivery date. That date has been and gone, though, and your enthusiasm is waning. Where’s your new car?

Delays cause headaches and financial stress, leaving owners frustrated and potentially without transport. Dealers are sometimes left in the dark by car makers on delivery dates, making it difficult for them too.

Contacting the dealership can prove an exasperating process, with ‘just a couple of weeks’ becoming a phrase you hear over and over again. We’ve also heard from people who have waited so long that they’ve managed to get their deposit back and taken their money elsewhere.

What causes new car delays?

The knock-on effect of the global computer chip shortage is still causing delays on the delivery of some new cars. There's also a shortage of nearly-new cars because of low sales during the pandemic and more buyers opting for secondhand models instead of waiting for new ones.

Even in normal times, though, there are a number of reasons why a new car could be delayed. Sometimes manufacturers underestimate the demand for a new model and end up over-promising and under-delivering.

Semiconductor computer chip

Human error can play a part, too. We’ve heard from readers who have been told their cars are on the way, only to later discover that the dealer never placed the order. And we’ve been told about dealers who have placed the order but with the wrong specification, so when the car finally arrives it isn’t what was wanted, pushing the buyer to the back of the queue for a replacement. 

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to improve the situation.

How to avoid losing out if your new car is delayed

You may not like to think about what could go wrong when ordering a new car, but covering all the bases at this point will help if things go wrong later on.

When you order your car, make sure you get a delivery date in writing. It’s likely to be an estimate, but it’s important to have it so you can negotiate your position. Once you’ve been given a date, you need to find out what will happen if there is a delay.

When you’re trading in a car as part exchange, make sure you get the dealer to agree to the price they’ll pay regardless of the delivery date.

Get it in writing, too, because you don’t want to have the added disappointment of being out of pocket. If the dealer won’t agree to that, it’s a sign that they don’t have faith in the delivery date. We’d suggest you find a dealer who will agree to your request.

Dealing with new car delays - and how to take control

If you’re not trading in a car, get the dealer to agree – again, in writing – to provide you with a loan vehicle to cover any extra time between the estimated delivery date and the actual arrival of your car. If they won’t, take it as another warning sign.

The next thing to get agreement on in writing is that if the price of the car you’ve chosen goes up during the delay period, you won’t pay an extra penny for it. However, this is something that may be out of the dealer's hands; if the car maker puts up prices, you may have to take the hit and pay the extra money.

Our last bit of advice is to follow up with the dealer a few days after the order should have been placed and ask for a copy of any paperwork to limit the chances of human error causing a longer lead time for your new car. It’ll give you peace of mind over the coming weeks.

What to do if your car is delayed

So, you’ve just found out that your car is going to be delayed. After speaking to the dealer to get an updated delivery date, you need to speak to the car company’s customer services department. It will be in a better position to tell you the reason for the delay and whether this new date is likely to be honoured, and might be able to offer a goodwill gesture.

That said, you’ll need to remain in close contact with the car dealership because the contract for the car is between you and the dealership.

Missing or delayed parts

You can also fall foul of frustrating delays if you need a vital spare part for your car and it's out of stock. That could keep your car off the road for weeks – or even months – while parts are sourced.

Merc C-Class in local garage

If you’ve spoken to the dealer and customer services and been told they can’t track any parts down, the next call you need to make is to The Motor Ombudsman.

It oversees a number of codes of conduct for companies in the motor industry. The relevant code for this issue is the New Car Code. Ninety-nine percent of major manufacturers that sell cars in the UK have signed up to the code, and it stipulates that they have enough spare parts of a suitable standard to keep your new car on the road.

You can submit details of the problem using The Motor Ombudsman website and it will look into the issue for you.

What to do if your car isn’t covered by the New Car Code

It’s still important to open a case with the car maker’s customer service department. It’s in the best position to know about lead times on parts and any supply chain issues.

We’d then recommend calling third-party suppliers yourself. They might have the necessary part in stock and, even if they don’t, they might be able to offer you another suitable part that would do the job.

Before having any work done, it’s vital that you contact customer services again and get it in writing that using a third party part won’t invalidate any warranty you have left on the car. Explain that you need to get your vehicle back on the road and can’t wait for an official part to be tracked down.

If customer services refuse to help or can’t guarantee the warranty, request a loan car to keep you mobile while waiting for the part to arrive.

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