Right to Repair: What Is It & How Does It Affect You & Your Used Car?

The used car you just bought has broken down. What do you do? Do you return to the dealer, visit your local mechanic or head to a manufacturer? Getting any car fixed – let alone a used one – means understanding your rights when it comes to who you can allow to repair your car without losing its warranty. Since 1 July 2021, car owners have been allowed to visit the independent service providers (ISPs) of their choice without the risk of having their vehicle’s warranties voided as a result.

In this article, we unpack the Right to Repair (R2R) in South Africa and what it means for used car owners whose cars are still under the manufacturer’s vehicle warranty. We also look at what happens if something goes wrong due to bad repair work and how to enforce your rights as a car owner.

What is the Right to Repair?

 The Right to Repair is a guideline that affects the Competitions Act, Act 89 of 1998. It provides a legal basis for giving car owners (and anyone else looking to have their products repaired or serviced) the right to choose who can repair and service their cars without risking losing their vehicle’s warranty because they haven’t used the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) parts.

The framework guidance affects how dealers and manufacturers are allowed to enforce warranties on the vehicles they sell and, if found to be violating their customers’ rights, list penalties and measures they could potentially face as a result.

These guidelines specifically apply to vehicles still covered by their warranty periods. They relate to the sale of new and used vehicles, their servicing needs and any repairs required for them.

The freedom to service or fix the products you paid for

 Anyone who has ever owned an Apple product will agree that getting it fixed without having to pay the expensive prices charged by Apple itself is nearly impossible. This is because, for years, Apple was able to prevent other repair shops not affiliated with the company from getting their hands on OEM parts.

They did this by engineering their products in such a way that customers were forced to turn to Apple for replacements or by simply voiding the device’s warranty if they found out that somebody else had managed to repair an Apple product.

Providing convenience and affordability

 Apple isn’t the only company to do this. Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung and many other tech, car and electronics companies either used to or still do design their products and sell them with policies that put pressure on their customers to depend on them to get things fixed.

These practices not only caused customers to pay more for OEM parts but also unfairly prevented people from turning to cheaper servicing options that were just as effective as the manufacturer’s or from finding someone to repair your car just as well.

How R2R applies to your car

When it comes to cars, these restrictions have often led to much frustration among owners. While some models have parts manufactured locally, others must be imported from overseas, costing more and sometimes taking weeks to arrive.

If people turned to an ISP to fix their car, manufacturers would simply void the warranties covering the rest of the vehicle’s components, claiming that they could no longer guarantee that the other parts would keep working because of the “outside” work done.

The Right to Repair: Warranties and service plans

So, how do these new guidelines affect you and the industry, especially when it comes to existing warranties and service plans? While most new car purchases come standard with manufacturer warranties, service plans are optional. Used cars, however, often come with pre-existing service plans included in the vehicle’s sales price and may or may not have warranties that have lapsed.

 This presents a tricky situation to dealers and used car buyers alike in terms of what to do and is one of the main reasons that R2R has been brought into SA. Warranties and service plans are separate components of a used vehicle. R2R deals with both of them and provides a guideline on how they should be treated.

What happens to warranties?

Warranties are guarantees the manufacturer or dealer provides for new vehicles. They are agreements that they will replace certain parts if they fail due to being faulty or simply breaking down.

 Warranties usually cover a period of time (like two or three years after the car was sold to its first buyer) or a predetermined distance (like 120,000km, for example). The warranty will lapse once one of these two conditions is met, whichever occurs first. Read this post explaining warranties in a little more detail.

With Right to Repair, if a third-party service provider replaces another component in the car, and a part covered by the warranty breaks down, the manufacturer cannot void the warranty simply because another service provider worked on the car. They are still compelled to enforce it.

How R2R affects existing service plans

 Some used cars are sold or traded into a dealer with service plans that have not yet run their course. The buyer would previously have had no choice but to buy the existing service plan along with the vehicle. They would have been forced to use the same service provider to get their car serviced to preserve warranties and maintain the car's service history.

The Right to Repair now requires that dealers provide the price of the existing service plan on top of the cost of the car, giving the buyer the option to take it or leave it. Since buyers can choose to opt out of these existing service plans, they can also choose to take their car to an independent service provider to get it serviced or repaired without the warranty being voided.

Terms and conditions

But these new guidelines do come with some conditions. If a part covered by your car’s warranty fails, you’ll still need to go to the manufacturer to get it replaced (and why wouldn’t you? It’s free anyway).

Things like clutches, damage to the car and other non-warranty-covered issues are not affected by R2R. And, if the manufacturer can prove that poor workmanship or bad servicing by an ISP leads directly to a particular component being compromised, they can still void the vehicle warranty.

Why we all need the Right to Repair


The Right to Repair isn’t just about the consumer. While these guidelines do provide some much-needed freedom to choose who can service and repair your car, they also help the vehicle industry to be more competitive and fair.

Here are just some of the reasons why R2R is working for car owners, dealers and vehicle service providers.

  • Because you’re constitutionally entitled to R2R

Everybody should have the right to choose who can fix their products, how this can be done and where they can go to have them serviced. This freedom gives you a say in the products you pay for, no matter who made them or sold them to you.

While this does open the door for car owners to visit cheaper private mechanics, it’s important to remember that this also potentially puts you at risk of compromising your car and, as mentioned earlier, may still lead to some warranties being voided.

Check out this post explaining the difference between service centres and mechanics.

  • Because you’re probably going to need it

If you’re planning on buying a used car that is manufactured outside of SA or that requires expensive replacement OEM parts to be imported, you’ll likely want to be able to look elsewhere for solutions if something goes wrong. Some makes and models have also been designed to require special tools or “keys” to open up the car’s engine and other parts of the vehicle for servicing work.

Right to Repair now allows independent service centres to request information from manufacturers about vehicle specifics to fully service a vehicle correctly. The framework also enables you to secure a quote for the repair work and parts from the dealer, providing an opportunity to find more affordable, more convenient alternatives.

Take a peek at this list of the Top 10 Used Cars in SA that are the least likely to let you down.

  • Because it will save you money

Many car owners previously kept vehicle owners locked into using only their “original” OEM parts and services. For years, car companies insisted that they were offering better quality and guarantees by forcing their customers to use their services and parts, only to discover that people willing to lose their warranties were paying less for parts that were working just as well.

R2R enables you to make your own decisions when it comes to getting your car serviced or repaired without losing your vehicle warranty. While this still carries the risk of choosing a supplier who delivers sub-par work or damages your vehicle, if you choose wisely, you’ll save a ton of money in the long run. Of course, you are still welcome to use the manufacturer or dealer to service or repair your car.

 This article on the additional costs of buying a used car will give you an idea of how much to budget for over the long run.

  • Because being able to choose a quality car service centre is important

Repairs aside, ensuring that your car is properly serviced is an effective way to reduce the chances of something going wrong. This is where service centres come in. Most manufacturers have their own service centres. However, some dealers also offer their own in-house servicing options that the manufacturer doesn’t necessarily provide or which are prohibitively expensive.

Before Right to Repair, many people were prevented from visiting some service centres, with either the dealers from whom they bought their vehicles or the manufacturers themselves likely to void the warranty for other components. This meant that even if you visited a service centre not recognised by the dealer or manufacturer to replace a smaller part and then wanted to claim for the warranty on one that failed later, you risked not being able to.

 Service centres come in all shapes and sizes, but having the right to choose which one you want to take your car to allows you to have more control over your vehicle and your finances. Click here to learn more about some of those service centres you can count on.

  • Because insurance can get complicated

So what happens if bad workmanship or fitting a poor quality part causes damage to a component or system covered by the manufacturer’s vehicle warranty? Well, then, the dealer has the right to refuse to cover the cost of replacing that part. In this instance, you’d need to go back to the provider who did the shoddy work and speak to them about covering the damage.

In this case, insurance becomes important. Liability insurance covers these situations, and any decent service provider should have their own, as should you. However, depending on the situation, sorting out these insurance claims can get tricky. This is why you should enforce your R2R rights using quality service centres.

Check out this post discussing insurance and used cars, which will give you an idea of how it all works.

Answering your R2R questions

The Right to Repair isn’t absolute, but it does give much more power to car owners and even dealers. While the guidelines still leave a lot to be figured out, it’s safe to say that with R2R, people can feel better about getting their cars repaired and serviced on their own terms.

Here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your rights as a car owner in South Africa.

  • Always check your warranty schedule

When buying a used car, always ask about the warranty schedule. This will tell you how much more time or kilometres the car can cover before some of the warranties expire.

Remember that there are different warranties for different parts, components and systems. This means that while one warranty may have run its course, another may still be valid.

  • Understand what your car service needs are

Cars need to be serviced regularly. Leaving even minor services too late or missing them altogether can void warranties and increase the risk of parts failing. Most warranties allow a little leeway for overdue services, but the longer you wait, the bigger the chances of something going wrong.

Good vehicle service providers will spot developing issues before they become problems and even help you claim from the manufacturer.

  • It’s not only about saving money

While one of the biggest advantages of R2R is the opportunity to save on your car’s repair or services, it’s also about convenience, trust and extending the life of your car on your terms.

R2R doesn’t mean you should abandon your manufacturer or dealer-recommended service providers either – they will always be able to offer among the best OEM parts and repair work. But now, you have a choice.

Conclusion – Using service centres that support R2R

Whether you bought your used car directly from a vehicle brand showroom or are the sixth owner of a trusty ride that just won't quit, your right to pick the repair and service providers of your choice without losing the vehicle warranty matters. Right to Repair is putting the power into your hands. But this means you’re even more responsible for your car’s maintenance and finding someone capable to repair your car.

Always do your homework before choosing a service provider or repair option. Check that they know what they are doing, won’t compromise your car, and won’t leave you at risk of losing warranties because of shoddy work. Use only high-quality service centres and ask the dealer about existing warranties and service plans when buying a new used car.

 You can find one of our trusted service centres near you by clicking here or check out our inventory of quality used cars. Because you have the right to drive and service the car you deserve your way.