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Robert Gomez
Robert Gomez

Can You Return A Car After You Buy It

With new and used car prices at record highs and a nationwide inventory shortage, some shoppers might be tempted to rush through a deal without giving it much thought. But what happens if you later have buyer's remorse, whether it be from too high of a car payment, buying an overpriced extended warranty, or realizing your new car isn't actually what you wanted? Is it possible to cancel the deal and return your car?

can you return a car after you buy it


Most retail stores will give you the option to return clothes and products for a refund if you regret the purchase. But that's almost never the case with new cars, for which return and refund policies and laws are notoriously strict. Even so, consumers with buyer's remorse ask us all the time: Can I cancel the transaction?

When it comes to new cars, the answers are "no" and "maybe." (If you're a used-car buyer, you might have better luck returning the car, but it all depends on the state where you live and the individual dealership's policies.)

Consumers who cry foul on price are at least partially to blame. Preparation and research are essential for such a large purchase, and if you're on the brink of a deal in the showroom and think you don't have sufficient information to proceed, don't. It's better to not buy the car than to argue after the fact that you paid too much. Your best bet is to do your pricing research online and work out a nearly painless deal with the dealership's internet sales manager.

He added: "The best way to resolve these misunderstandings is to simply return to the dealership and ask to speak to the manager in a calm tone. Drama and shouting does not impress. Asking for help does."

Another avenue is the Better Business Bureau. Ideally, the time to check the dealership for consumer complaints is before you buy a car. The same goes for Edmunds' Dealer Ratings & Reviews and other online reviews such as those posted on Google or Yelp. But after the fact, you might be able to get the BBB to bring some pressure on the dealership to resolve a dispute. Short of that, threatening to give a dealer a bad rating or review online, or on a manufacturer's post-purchase survey, might carry some weight.

When the responses to your plea to unwind a deal are likely to be "no" or "maybe," it's best to never put yourself in the position of asking. Avoid the unwind bind by being a prepared car buyer who knows a car's pricing, reads the sales contract carefully, and fully inspects the car before taking ownership.FAQsHow many days do you have to return a car?There is no set number of days for returning a car since it is not a common occurrence. For the most part, once the contract has been signed, you cannot return the vehicle. That said, there are some used car dealerships, such as CarMax, that have a 30-day return policy, but those are the exception rather than the rule. Learn moreWhat is the best way to return a car?You'll want to start with the sales manager and plead your case. If that doesn't work, try the general manager. But since returning a vehicle isn't usually permitted, this approach isn't guaranteed to work. If it was a used car with a limited return policy, make sure to bring the vehicle back within the predetermined time frame. Learn moreCan I return a car if I don't like it?No. Buyer's remorse or "I changed my mind and I don't like this car" isn't a valid reason to return a vehicle. Make sure to do all your research and conduct a thorough test drive to avoid this situation entirely. Learn moreIs it bad to return a car to the dealer?It isn't "bad" to return a car to the dealer, but it is bad to get your hopes up that this will actually work. In most cases, you can't return a vehicle after signing the contract. The only exceptions are used car dealerships that have limited return policies, but you need to know what the limitations are before deciding to purchase the vehicle. Learn moreEdmunds RecommendsFind out what your car is really worthAppraise My CarSell My CarGet a free Edmunds appraisal report for your car in minutes

If a dealership offers a cooling-off period after a sale, it can last any length of time that the dealership chooses. Note that car dealerships are under no legal obligation to offer a cooling-off period, so it may be a good idea to ask your salesperson about it. You may be able to negotiate a cooling-off period into your contract to close a deal when buying a car. The possibility of being able to return the car may also depend on the situation you're in.

The likelihood of being able to return a car also depends on whether it's a new or used vehicle. Car dealerships are much more likely to take back a used vehicle. This is because a new car is no longer "new" as soon as you drive it off the lot. If the dealership takes back the car, they'll then need to sell it as a used vehicle, and they'll likely lose money on the transaction.

Some car dealers allow for something called a "yo-yo sale," in which they let you take the car home before you have approved financing. If your loan is denied, the dealer will likely void the contract and require that you return the car.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Some dealerships may allow you to return the vehicle under specific circumstances. If the car has major mechanical issues, the dealership may be required by law to accept a return.

Buying a new vehicle is usually an exciting event, like making a new friend. But sometimes, you might want to end that friendship early and return your car. There are many reasons you may have for wanting to return your car, but only some of them will result in a successful return.

When the car is returned, the dealer must give you a full refund. This includes sales tax, registration fees, deposit and return of your vehicle. If the dealer sold your trade-in, they must refund the fair market value or the value stated in the contract.

The Massachusetts Lemon Laws require private parties selling used cars to inform buyers about all known defects which impair the safety or substantially impair the use of the vehicle. The law applies to all private party sales regardless of the price or mileage. Private party sellers are not required to repair the vehicle after it has been sold.

This limit does not apply when assignment requires the dealer to bear the entire risk of financial performance for the consumer or when the assignment is more than six months after the date of the conditional sale contract.

The dealer must provide a full refund of the sales tax, registration fees, and deposit or trade-in vehicle collected from the buyer. If the buyer did not return the vehicle by the standards above, the dealer may refuse the return of the vehicle; however, a written notice must be provided to the buyer.

Darren and Courtney Johnson sit on the back of a truck outside their home in Center Hill, Fla. Three weeks after they bought a used SUV and took it home, they were told by a dealership manager that they needed to return and sign a new contract with different terms. Things went downhill from there. Octavio Jones for NPR hide caption

Most of us would be confused too. But odds are good that in the paperwork you signed when you bought your own car, there was some legal language saying the sale may not really be final. It often asserts that if the car dealer has trouble with the financing on its end after the sale, it can later cancel the deal, try to get you to agree to different terms, and take the car back if you refuse.

Documents from a later arbitration case show that the dealership wouldn't return their calls. And it didn't pay off the loan on their trade-in vehicle. So the Johnsons were stuck paying the loan, with no car, for nearly a year. They eventually used a chunk of their small retirement savings to pay the loan back.

The company also said "the communication in this situation around the trade-in ... was hindered by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic." The dealership did not explain how the pandemic stopped it from returning the Johnsons' car, which the dealership sold in October of 2019.

The Johnsons bought a car from Greenway Hyundai Orlando in Orlando, Fla. The dealership told them they needed to sign two other deals after their initial purchase. After the Johnsons refused to sign the third contract, the dealership repossessed the car. Octavio Jones for NPR hide caption

So he says there's nothing wrong with contracts that give dealers the right to cancel after the fact. He says he doesn't have data on problems with yo-yo sales but that it seems to him that it's rare that the original terms don't work and a car buyer needs to be called back.

"So the brigade commander reached out to my commander and said that the dealership said that I had stolen this car and I wouldn't return it," Arland says. "I was already new to the unit, and I just found out I was pregnant, so I was already super worried about what everyone was thinking about me."

The police returned the car to the dealership. AutoNation said in a statement to NPR that the sale had a "stipulation" that Flynt would provide a copy of his Social Security card the next day and that he did not. Flynt and his attorney both say that's not true, that there was no stipulation about a Social Security card and that it's not mentioned in the sales contract Flynt signed.

Flynt says it wasn't until several days later that the dealership contacted him saying it needed more documentation for the loan financing, which he had trouble providing. Emails show that an AutoNation manager repeatedly, over several weeks, told Flynt that if he didn't return the car he would report it stolen. 041b061a72


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