How Long Can a Dealership Hold Your Car for Repair?


Most car owners dread the thought of having to take their vehicle to the dealership for repairs. Not only is it expensive, but it can also be time-consuming. One of the biggest concerns that car owners have is how long the dealership can hold their car for repair. This is a valid concern, as a car is an essential mode of transportation for most people, and being without it for an extended period can be frustrating and inconvenient.

The answer to this question is not straightforward, as there are several factors that can affect how long a dealership can hold your car for repair. In general, the dealership should not hold your car for an unreasonably long time. However, what is considered reasonable can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the repair and the dealership’s policies.

In this blog post, we will discuss the various factors that can impact how long a dealership can hold your car for repair. We will also look at the laws that govern this issue and what recourse you have if the dealership holds your car for too long. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of your rights as a car owner and what you can do if you feel that the dealership is taking too long to repair your car.

Understanding the Repair Process at a Dealership

Dealing with a broken or malfunctioning car can be very stressful and time-consuming, especially when it comes to repairs. If your vehicle is under warranty, taking it to the dealership for repairs can be the best option. However, before you take your car to the dealership, it’s crucial to understand how the repair process works and what to expect.

Overview of the Repair Process

When you take your vehicle to the dealership for repairs, the first step is to schedule an appointment with the service department. You can do this either by phone or online. It’s important to describe the problem as detailed as possible so that the technician can diagnose the issue more accurately.

Once you arrive at the dealership, a technician will check your car and diagnose any problems. They will then provide you with a quote for the repairs needed. As a customer, you have the right to approve or decline the quoted repairs, especially if they are not covered by your warranty.

After you approve the repairs, the technician will begin the necessary work. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the extent of the repairs needed. During this time, the dealership may offer you a loaner or rental car to use, especially if your car needs to stay at the dealership overnight.

Once the repairs have been completed, the technician will test your car to ensure everything is working correctly. Finally, you will be asked to pick up your car, pay for the repairs if necessary, and sign paperwork stating that the work has been completed to your satisfaction.

It’s essential to note that the duration of the repair process will vary depending on the extent of the repairs needed and the availability of parts. However, most dealerships try to complete repairs as quickly as possible to minimize inconvenience to customers.

The Legal Rights of Car Owners at Dealerships

When you bring your car to a dealership for repairs, you have certain legal rights as a car owner. These rights are protected by state and federal laws, and they are designed to ensure that you are treated fairly and your car is repaired properly. Here are a few legal rights you have at dealerships:

The Right to Repair

The right to repair is a legal protection for car owners that requires auto manufacturers to make available all of the information and tools needed to repair a vehicle. Generally, this means that dealerships must be able to access all of the diagnostic codes, technical service bulletins, and repair procedures needed to fix your car. Additionally, the right to repair may also include the ability for independent repair shops to access this same information and tools.

If a dealership cannot repair your car within a reasonable amount of time, they may need to take additional steps to resolve the issue. This may mean enlisting the help of a specialist, replacing the car altogether, or even offering you a refund. It’s important to consult with an attorney or legal expert if you feel that your right to repair has been violated.

The Right to Request for a Loaner Car

As a car owner, you have the right to request a loaner car if your car will be in the shop for an extended period of time. This is especially important if you use your vehicle for work or have other transportation needs. It’s important to note that not all dealerships are required to provide loaner cars, and those that do may have specific requirements you need to meet before you can receive one.

Typically, a dealership will require you to have a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and a credit card on file before issuing a loaner car. Additionally, you may be responsible for any damages, fuel charges, or other fees associated with the loaner car. It’s important to read and understand any loaner car agreement before signing it.

Dealership Time Limits for Repairing Cars

When you bring your car in for repairs at a dealership, you may be wondering how long the dealership can hold onto your vehicle. Luckily, there are laws in place to protect car owners from lengthy repair times. Depending on a few different factors, dealerships are typically required to complete repairs within a certain timeframe.

Suggested Time Limits for Popular Repairs

It’s important to note that the time it takes for a dealership to complete a repair can vary based on the type of repair, make and model of the vehicle, and dealership workload. That being said, the following are some suggested time limits for popular repairs:

Repair Type Suggested Time Limit
Oil Change 1 hour
Brake Pads Replacement 2-3 hours
Battery Replacement 1-2 hours
Tire Replacement 1-2 hours
Air Conditioning Repair 1-2 hours

Of course, these suggestions may not be applicable to every dealership and repair. Always consult with your dealership to get a better understanding of how long a repair is expected to take.

Factors that Affect Repair Time Limits

There are several factors that can affect how long a dealership is allowed to hold onto your car for repairs, including:

  • The size of the repair needed
  • The availability of parts
  • The complexity of the repair
  • The dealership’s workload
  • The make and model of the vehicle

In addition to these factors, some states have laws in place that dictate how long dealerships are allowed to hold onto your vehicle. It’s important to research the laws in your specific state to determine what your rights are as a car owner.

What Happens When Repairs Take Too Long?

It can be a headache for car owners when their vehicles need to be serviced or repaired. Not only do they have to worry about the cost of repairs, but they also have to deal with the inconvenience of not having transportation. In some cases, it can be frustrating when repairs take longer than anticipated.

When repairs take too long, it is essential to understand your rights as a car owner. You have the right to know the status of the repairs and the estimated time it will take to complete them. You can also inquire about a loaner vehicle or rental car. However, not all dealerships provide these options, so it’s essential to ask about your options upfront.

Options for Car Owners

If your car repair is taking longer than expected, you have several options as a car owner.

First, you can speak to the service manager or supervisor about the delay, and they can provide you with an updated timeline for completion. They must provide you with a reasonable estimated timeframe for your vehicle’s return.

Second, if the dealership is unable to repair your vehicle within a reasonable amount of time, you can request to have your vehicle transferred to another dealership for repairs. You will have to pay any additional costs associated with transportation or repairs, but this option ensures that your vehicle is being repaired in a timely manner.

Lastly, if the dealership is still unable to provide a resolution to your car’s repair issues, then you have the option of filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or speaking with a lawyer. These options give you leverage to address the issue and reach a resolution.

Option Description
Built-in delay compensation Some car manufacturers provide built-in compensation if your vehicle is in for repairs for a specified amount of time. Check your warranty or contract to see if you qualify for compensation.
Loaner Vehicles Some car dealerships or manufacturers will provide a loaner vehicle if your car is in for repairs for an extended period.
Alternate Repairs/Parts If the delay is due to a part that is on backorder, ask whether the dealership can substitute part or provide an alternative repair that will resolve the issue.


1. How long can a dealership hold your car for repair?

A dealership can legally hold your car for repair for as long as it takes to fix the issue. However, depending on the state you live in, there may be laws that require the dealership to return your car after a certain amount of time. For example, in California, if the dealership does not begin repairs on your car within 30 days of receiving it, they must offer to return your car to you. It’s important to know the laws in your state and to communicate with the dealership about a reasonable timeline for repairs.

2. Can a dealership keep my car if I haven’t paid for the repairs yet?

No, a dealership cannot keep your car if you haven’t paid for the repairs yet. However, there may be a lien on your car if you financed the repairs through the dealership or if you still owe money on your car loan. In this case, the dealership may be able to keep your car until the lien is paid off. If this is the case, it’s important to work with the dealership to understand the terms of the lien and to come up with a payment plan that works for you.

3. Can I request a loaner car while my car is being repaired?

Yes, you can request a loaner car while your car is being repaired. However, dealerships are not required to provide loaner cars and may have limited availability. It’s important to communicate with the dealership about your need for a loaner car and to understand any costs associated with the loaner car. Some dealerships may offer loaner cars for free, while others may charge a fee or require you to have certain insurance coverage.

4. What happens if the dealership takes too long to repair my car?

If the dealership takes too long to repair your car, you may be entitled to some form of compensation or relief. This will depend on the laws in your state and the specific circumstances of your repair. For example, in some states, if your car has been in the shop for a certain number of days, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle. It’s important to communicate with the dealership about any delays and to document all communication in case legal action is necessary.

5. What if the dealership damages my car while it’s being repaired?

If the dealership damages your car while it’s being repaired, they are responsible for fixing the damage or compensating you for the cost of repairs. It’s important to document any damage before and after the repair to ensure that any new damage can be properly identified. If you notice any damage after the repair, communicate with the dealership immediately and document all communication. If the dealership refuses to fix the damage or compensate you, you may need to seek legal action.