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Case studies - New car constantly in repair shop

Driving instructor Mark Burgess paid more than £15,000 for a new VW Polo in April 2010 from Dane Wirral garage.

After eight months, the car developed a water leak so Mark took it to another VW garage, which replaced the coolant cap. Yet the car continued to leak water, even after a subsequent visit that saw part of the car’s emission control system replaced.

Mark then took the car back to Dane Wirral for repair. After two days, it discovered a leaking water pump and replaced it.

But after driving it for another 500 miles, Mark noticed the car was again losing coolant. He returned the car to Dane Wirral – this time for two week while a replacement cylinder head was fitted. And that wasn’t the end of it. The turbo charger, starter motor and injectors all failed over the next 18 months. As a result, Mark contacted Which? Legal Service for advice.

Which? Legal advice

Mark told us he had informed Dane Wirrall when buying the car that it was for business use. Because of this, he could claim losses reasonably foreseeable as a result of the car being in a garage for repair. He’d had to go without it for two weeks and had to hire a dual control car, although VW did pay toward this.

As Mark had financed some of the car through VW Financial Services under a hire purchase agreement, we told him to contact the hire firm.

Mark wrote to the hire firm to say the car wasn’t fit for purpose and he wouldn’t accept further repairs. VW Financial Services refused the claim. We advised him to take the case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

His case was assessed by an adjudicator who asked Mark to have the car inspected. As a result more faults were found, including an engine leak. VW repaired these faults, but Mark had to pay to correct a further problem with wheel tracking. The adjudicator refused the complaint. As Mark didn’t agree with an adjudicator’s findings, he asked for the claim to be referred to the Ombudsman.


The Ombudsman found in his favour and awarded £1,705 for travel, distress, inconvenience and loss of revenue.

Legal points

You can recover damages for losses reasonably foreseeable as a result of a breach of contract. Both parties must reasonably have been able to anticipate these when the contract was entered into.