Aside from buying a house, a new car is one of the biggest purchases you'll make in your lifetime. And when you're dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a new car, it's pretty reasonable to expect that it should work perfectly – and if not, that the car company will make things right.
But judging by the number of complaints NSW Fair Trading receives about car companies each month, that's not the case.
We trawled through the complaints data to help uncover the most complained-about car brands in NSW. And while we don't have figures for other states, we think if you live outside of NSW and you're thinking of buying a new car, this info will be worth bearing in mind.
The worst of the worst
There were three repeat offenders on the list: companies that received 10 or more complaints in a month, over several months.
- Ford: 10 months out of 23
- Hyundai: 4 months out of 23
- Volkswagen: 4 months out of 23
Not only did they top the most-complained-about list, but Ford and Hyundai also have the dubious distinction of being two of the top 10 car companies not offering a 60-day refund policy for lemon cars.
So if your brand-new i30 or Focus turns out to be faulty within the first two months of purchase, you could have a fight on your hands to obtain a refund, despite the fact that you should still have access to a remedy under the Australian Consumer Law.
Right now, it's easier to get a refund for a $30 faulty toaster than it is for a $30,000 new car.Amy Pereira, CHOICE campaigner
Toyota, Holden and Volkswagen have all adopted a 60-day refund policy, meaning that if you buy a new car that turns out to be a lemon, you can easily get a refund during the first two months.
"When a car company has the 60-day policy in place it's saying to the public that it understands consumer rights and intends to uphold them," says Amy.
The least worst
Toyota, Holden and Nissan each had only one month in the reporting period where 10 or more complaints were made to NSW Fair Trading. That doesn't mean that people didn't complain in other months; just that there was only one spike of complaints during the reporting period.
Not the whole lemon
NSW Fair Trading only reports on companies that it has received 10 or more complaints about within a calendar month, so these figures aren't the full picture – they don't include details of complaints made directly to the car retailer or manufacturer, and they don't include months where the car company received fewer than 10 complaints.
Unfortunately there are no similar figures for other Australian states and territories, so it's hard to say what the situation is elsewhere.
But the reported figures are an indicator of companies that have repeatedly let consumers down and may be worth avoiding if you're looking to buy a new car.
"7 out of 10 of Australia's favourite car brands are taking us for a ride," says Amy.
We should all have the power to easily get a refund for our new car when it doesn't work, no matter what brand we buy.