We agreed a quote of £55k for our car revamp but were charged £90k – what are our rights?

We agreed a repair and camper refurbishment on our much-loved Land Rover with a local garage. 

Despite being the most expensive, said they could do all of the jobs needed and listed their estimate as £50,000 to £55,000. We were definite in saying £50k was our limit.

The project dragged on from 2019 to 2020 and we visited three times. At no time were we told the price was escalating, so we were shocked when the total bill presented in February 2020 was for nearly £90,000.

We disputed this bill and in a final bid asked for our £35,000 back. The garage said they could pay us £15,000 for the classic car, which was refused.

The pandemic has made it hard to seek face-to-face advice but we believe the email estimate was a contract. Is this the case?

Owners of a Land Rover were billed £90k for a renovation after agreeing to £55k (stock image)

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: This has been an ongoing problem for nearly two years now, with both parties saying the other has made the situation worse.

You took your beloved classic Land Rover Defender 110 to a specialist garage – which we will keep anonymous – in April 2019 with the purpose of re-building it and adding a pop-up camper-style roof.

This was a very extensive operation with all the doors being replaced, new seats being supplied and new hobs and cabinets fitted in the living space to name just a few of the changes.   

After consideration, you agreed via email to pay £50,000 to £55,000 for the specification discussed.

However – and this is the sticking point – no contract was signed.

Your car was collected in mid-May and you visited several times to see the progress including at the end of May, end of July and end of October in 2019 and then again in February 2020.

By the last visit, you had already handed over £35,000 for a number of things to be completed, including the car being rebuilt and resprayed and a new roof added.

The next month, you received an email from the garage with a 15-page statement and final invoice, asking for £89,825.05 – the first time you had ever heard that figure being mentioned.

You say you went through the final bill in detail and found a number of items that could have been replaced more cheaply.

After doing so, you officially disputed the final invoice with the garage. However, the negotiations have been ongoing for over a year now because the pandemic meant the garage closed for long periods of time.

This meant you were unable to get to the garage to assess the vehicle and make arrangements for payment in person.  

You added that, although you are still the registered owners of the vehicle, you currently can’t get insurance for the vehicle at this cost.

The main issue is that there was no formal contract in place, making it difficult to get a resolution for both parties.

This is Money got in touch with the garage. Whilst the owner said that the work carried out was necessary and staff were only doing what you asked, they admitted they did not keep you informed every time the price went up. 

They said they assumed it was obvious because of the additional work that was taking place.

The garage the Land Rover was taken to said the parts fitted in the vehicle were expensive

The garage the Land Rover was taken to said the parts fitted in the vehicle were expensive

A spokesperson for the garage replies: One can only surmise that the last year of Covid-19 may of played a part in very minimal contact from the clients and no attempt to visit to inspect what remains a stunning refurbishment, full rebuild and further overland camper build, conversion and upgrade. 

The original estimate was communicated before we’d seen the vehicle.

When it arrived it was in particularly poor condition. It had been left standing for several years, and the previous MOT had expired in July 2014.

It therefore required a considerable amount of work to get it to a structurally sound and roadworthy condition before we starting work on the bespoke camper conversion.

There were many, many challenges that had to be overcome as the vehicle was stripped down and rebuilt. Brakes, clutch, the vehicle body, suspension, tyres and many other areas all required far, far more time and parts to get back into a roadworthy state.

All these issues generally can only be identified after parts have been removed, taken apart and inspected. The body required extensive structural repairs which could only be identified once removed and stripped of parts in our bodyshop.

As the work progressed the clients made three visits either meeting the manager or other staff to see the work progressing with regular telephone calls to advise about further challenges, and discuss bespoke works and equipment options, a lot of which were specific look, design requirements coming from the client.

The client often opted for far higher spec, design and cost of equipment. At no point did the client query costs of any of the further upgrades or higher end equipment or further works and parts needed to repair the vehicle.

All work, parts and equipment were authorised by the customers before the work was carried out. This is a very high end bespoke camper with interior build and specification fit out far beyond the scope of initial estimates.

We have since made a number of attempts to speak to the client. 

If there is no contract in place, it can be difficult to know how negotiations will be resolved for the Land Rover (stock image)

If there is no contract in place, it can be difficult to know how negotiations will be resolved for the Land Rover (stock image) 

This is Money also spoke to a lawyer about what your legal rights are if a contract hasn’t been signed. 

Gary Rycroft, partner at Jaja solicitors, replies: You say you had no signed contract, and that is unfortunate. Such a document would hopefully have set out what the business was going to do and for what charge, and you and the business would have both agreed to those terms.

A contract can be created other than in a legal document, however, and one can be created verbally. Whether a binding legal contract has been made will depend on the intention of the parties, and so any available evidence about that is clearly important.

A fundamental element of creating a legally binding contract is ‘offer and acceptance,’ by which one party makes an offer to provide goods or services and the other party accepts.

Clearly you would like the quote you received by email to amount to an ‘offer’ and your actions thereafter in acting on it as ‘acceptance’.

Whether a court would find that the this amounts to a binding contract will be influenced by any other evidence available, such as the wording used in the quote and by you in response, as well as any further correspondence.

My feeling here is there is a good chance the quote by email is binding in terms of setting the agreed price for the work described in the quote.

For future reference, if you receive a quote from a business you would like to take up an offer from, write back to expressly state you accept the offer and wish to engage them on the basis set out in their quote. Words like that should nail it down as a contract.

If the quote sent by email and your acceptance of it is deemed to be a binding contract, the parties are bound by it and you should not be expected to pay more than was agreed, unless you expressly ask for extra work over and above the work originally quoted, or if the party providing goods or services told you extra work was required and you agreed to it.

If you were not told at any time the quote was to be exceeded or the work to be done was beyond what was quoted for, you are on firm legal ground not to have to pay the ‘extra’ which has now been invoiced. 

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: This is Money contacted the garage with regards to your story and to see if some sort of resolution could be reached for both parties as it was clearly weighing on both your minds. 

The garage, at first, said they were waiting for you to contact them, arrange a collection and payment.

However, after this, you contacted them directly and spoke to the manager about what would be the best way forwards.  

Fortunately, after communication was resumed, a settlement was reached.

You agreed to pay £20,000 in advance and pay the remaining £12,000 by electronic bank transfer when collecting the vehicle in person.

This meant you have paid a total of £67,000 – more than the £55,000 you agreed to pay, but less than the final asking price of £87,000.  

A MOT was also completed to ensure the vehicle was up to scratch after being sat in the garage for so long.

The settlement was accepted and both parties are pleased with the outcome, with the garage saying it would still be happy to help with any future issues. 

Luckily, you now have your beloved car back, ready to start getting out and about again any day soon. 

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