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Can You Return a Car You Just Bought

16 min.

Whether you purchase a new or used car, getting a refund is rare if you change your mind. After the sales contract is signed, the dealer usually doesn't have to take the vehicle back, give a refund, or swap it for something else.

Can You Return a Car You Just Bought

Some situations don't fit this description. There are conditions under which the car lots will accept returns. If the car has a lot of technical problems, the law may force the dealership to take it back. Even so, it's preferable not to have to return a car at all.

Do Car Dealers Accept Returns?

You can only sometimes return cars acquired within the last few days to dealerships. Once the lender signs the sales contract, most car dealers are not required to accept returns, give refunds, or exchange cars. While this is generally the case, there are several caveats. If you're unhappy with the vehicle or it has mechanical issues, you can return it to the dealership under the return policy. Because it is not the norm, such regulations typically come with warnings.

Depending on the regulations in your state, you can get your money back for a brand-new car. State laws and federal laws are in place to protect people who have bought harmful products, like cars or other things. If the flaw cannot be eliminated and compromises the vehicle's usage, safety, or value, the manufacturer must either have a replacement car or repurchase it from the buyer.

Reasons to Return a Car

You can return a car for many reasons, such as regretting buying it or having problems with its finances or mechanics. The dealership may be prepared to work with you if you need help making payments.

Whether or not you can return a car to the dealer because of mechanical problems depends on the dealer's return policies and whether or not your state has a valid lemon law claim.

  • You decided to change your mind. The concept of "buyer's remorse" is not usually persuasive to merchants. Many car dealerships do not offer a return policy. After you sign the sales contract, you are legally required to make all note payments. The FTC's "cooling-off regulation," which gives buyers three days to back out of a sale made at their home, place of employment, or the seller's temporary location, does not apply to the car purchase. It doesn't matter if you buy a car from a dealership when they're temporarily located elsewhere. The regulation still applies as long as they have a fixed place of business. The "right to cancel" clause lets you return the car within a specific time without paying fees or putting your credit score at risk. The car, however, must be just as it was when you bought it. There are always other constraints involved. Do some preliminary investigation to see if this is a likely outcome. Before purchasing a new car, consider these ten steps to find the right one.
  • The seller took advantage of you. You'll want to talk to the dealership manager if you feel the car's seller tricked you. Bring proof that the manager did something wrong to your meeting with them. If you think the dealer overcharged you for a car, for instance, you can prove your point by showing that the vehicle is worth more than what you paid by using data from a reliable source, such as Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. Keep your cool when talking to the manager. If the management won't do what you want and you've already signed the contract, remember that you only have a little to do about it legally.
  • Your vehicle is a lemon. If you want to return an automobile because it doesn't work, you should start by collecting evidence of its major mechanical issues. They may require additional visits to the dealer's service center. Keep meticulous notes on your complaints and repair requests. Once you've tried fixing the issue multiple times and nothing has worked, you may decide your automobile is a "lemon" and write it off as a total loss. You could look into the legislation in your state to see if you have a valid lemon law claim. To qualify as a "lemon," a new car in most states must have a significant problem that makes it unsafe to operate. The length of time since purchase, the number of miles traveled, and the number of times the dealership has attempted repairs all affect how strict the lemon law is in any given state. If your claim is approved, you will get a cash settlement or a vehicle of equal value. Only seven states, including Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York, have "lemon laws" for pre-owned automobiles. However, there are restrictions, so these rules may offer little solace in your case. If you employ a lawyer to help make your case, you can get their fee reimbursed. Keep a running tally of how much time and money you spend on legal counsel.
  • There is a return policy in place at your dealership. There are a select number of car lots that provide money-back guarantees. There is a 30-day return policy at CarMax, for instance. You may return the automobile for a different model or receive a full refund if unsatisfied. Plus, some car lots provide exchange programs where you have a set time frame to return the vehicle for a different model. However, there may be limitations on when you can return the car due to severe depreciation or other terms. To turn it in, you will have to pay more than the car is worth now. You should always request a written return policy from a dealership. In this way, you will be prepared for any attempt to deny your claim and will be able to grasp the terms and circumstances.
  • Your monthly car payment is too expensive. Getting your car back will be more challenging if you wish to return it because the monthly car payments need to be lowered. The general manager of the auto lot can say that you should have checked your financial situation first to see if you could afford the monthly payments. The dealership has the final say on whether or not you can return motor vehicles for a price reduction. To begin, contact the car's original salesperson. If it doesn't work, ask to speak to the dealership's general manager or sales manager. When you've done everything you can within those parameters, you should investigate additional strategies for reducing your payments. By refinancing your car loan into one with a longer loan term or lower interest rate, you can lower the monthly amount you have to pay. You can use a car loan refinancing calculator to determine how much money you could save and compare the different loan programs.

How to Return a Car

Used vehicle returns to a dealer with a defined return policy are straightforward. It's as simple as replacing the car on the lot before the deadline or reaching the mileage limit. Then, inform a member of the knowledgeable sales staff that you will soon be returning an item.

Once you get there, the car lot will handle everything else. They need to inspect the vehicle thoroughly and start processing the return. Once you've wrapped up here, you can either head home or check out the used car dealership to see if anything there would be a better fit for your lifestyle.

There are a few details to keep in mind as you start the process of returning your pre-owned vehicle. The following are some of the most vital points to remember:

  1. Remember to bring your necessary documentation. The original purchase documents for your used automobile are essential when returning it to the dealership. Some examples of such paperwork are the bill of sale, financial statements, and other required disclosures. It will make it easier to access your data and finish filing your return.
  2. The vehicle should be in top shape. Please return the car in as-new condition to qualify for a refund. Only send something back if you have fixed any blemishes or stains caused by food or drink.
  3. Imagine a conversation. The reasons you have for giving back the pre-owned automobile may vary. If your regret is minimal and you only want to look at other options, the dealership's inventory is a great place to start. You can have your return handled as an exchange if you find a different car more suitable for your needs. In this case, the only thing left to do is pay the difference, if any.

How to Avoid Returning a Car

You can make a car dealership to take a return, but it's best to stay away from this situation altogether. When delivering, ask for the sales contract forwarded to you before doing so. If the finance manager takes a picture of the pricing page and sends it to you through email or text, you'll have the chance to look it over and ensure everything is acceptable. The Edmunds calculators will allow you to check your work and make sure everything adds up correctly.

Check consumer reports and other reviews, look up the car's value using Kelley Blue Book or Carfax, look into the costs of auto loans, figure out your budget, and take the car for a spin. Doing preliminary research on dealerships by reading online reviews is just as crucial. Check a car dealer's reputation and service quality by looking at their ratings on sites like the Better Business Bureau.

If you know that the answers to your request to terminate a contract will be "no" or "maybe," it's preferable to avoid putting yourself in that position in the first place. You can prevent the unwind bind if the buyer knows how much the car costs, read the sales contract carefully, and scrutinizes the car before taking possession of it.

Alternatives to a Car Return

If you can't return the car you just bought, you can choose one of these other options.

  • Get a car loan to refinance. You can refinance if you need to lower your monthly payment because money is tight or if you find a better way to pay for your home at a bank or credit union. You may need a larger down payment or a more extended loan period, but you may be able to keep the automobile. Also, if you can find a cosigner with good credit, they can help you qualify for a lower interest rate.
  • Inquire about a voluntary repossession. Because this could hurt your credit score significantly, you should only do this as a last resort. There is one way out of a terrible deal if you're stuck fixing a lemon or driving a car you don't want. If you need to catch up on payments, don't take your late vehicle to the dealer for service to avoid more attempts to get you to pay. If the car's value exceeds the outstanding loan, you may still be responsible for making payments. If you're thinking of giving up the car, working with the lender to arrange a voluntary surrender can have a less severe impact on your credit than a repossession.
  • See a lawyer about your options. Consider consulting a lawyer if you have legitimate concerns about your vehicle and the dealer isn't resolving them. They can even help you file a lawsuit against the dealership in severe circumstances to get what you're owed.
  • Put your automobile up for sale. You can pay off the loan or trade in using the money you get from selling the car. Even though it's essential to avoid being "upside down" on a new car loan due to depreciation, being stuck with a vehicle you can't afford or that isn't a good fit is worse.


Can you return a car you just financed?

You may be allowed to return a vehicle you bought with dealership financing. However, you must follow the dealership's return policy and guidelines. The time limit for returning a financed vehicle to the dealer may be limited.

How long before you can return a car you just bought?

The federal "cooling-off" rule, introduced in the 1970s by the Federal Trade Commission, gives customers three days to rescind a vehicle purchase. This rule is often used when a customer wants to return a recently bought car.

What happens if you return a financed car?

The lender will sell the car if you return it to them. After deducting its selling expenses and other fees, the lender will apply the remainder to your auto loan balance.

Can you return a financed car back to the dealer the next day?

Most car dealerships will not accept the return of a recently purchased vehicle. If you cannot return a car, you can get rid of it in various ways. In some circumstances, you may be able to sell it or file a claim under the state's "lemon law."

Does returning a car affect credit?

When a car is returned to the lender before the loan payment period is over, it is said to have been "voluntarily surrendered" or "voluntarily repossessed." If you forfeit your car voluntarily, it will significantly affect your credit ratings because it indicates that you failed to keep up with the terms of your loan.
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