Can you return a car you just bought? – Forbes Advisor
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Buying a car can be a big decision and unfortunately some buyers end up regretting their purchase. In most cases, you will not be able to return a car you have just purchased. However, certain specific situations may entitle you to a replacement car or a refund.
Is it possible to return a car?
Typically, no. Dealerships generally do not accept returns and are generally not obligated to refund you if you have signed a purchase agreement.
You may have a better chance of returning a used car than a new one, but even then it will depend on your situation.
Does the cooling rule apply to cars?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established the “Cooling-Off Rule,” which gives consumers three days to cancel certain sales made at:
- Their house or dormitory
- Their place of work
- A vendor’s temporary location (such as a hotel room, convention center, fairground, or restaurant)
However, this rule does not cover all types of sales. You generally cannot return cars, trucks, vans, or other motor vehicles as long as the seller has at least one permanent location.
This means that while buying a car has increasingly become an online activity without the need to visit a physical showroom, federal and state laws generally do not offer legal protection. to consumers who regret buying a car.
When you might be able to return a car
While a case of buyer’s remorse usually doesn’t entitle you to a return, here are some situations where you might be able to get a refund or a replacement car:
1. You bought a “lemon”
A car is called a “lemon” when it has at least one manufacturing defect that significantly affects its safety, value, or usefulness and that you were not aware of prior to purchase. Additionally, the dealership must have made a number of repair attempts that failed to fully resolve the issues. For example, four repair attempts are considered the reasonable number in Connecticut and New York.
Each state has its own lemon laws, so you’ll need to check your state’s requirements. Keep in mind that these laws generally only apply to new cars, but may also cover used vehicles in some states.
If you think you have a lemon in your hands, be sure to keep detailed repair records, including repairs attempted and when, along with copies of each repair invoice. Indeed, you will have to prove that the car was defective when you bought it before the dealer will agree to exchange the vehicle or reimburse you.
2. You have a “right to cancel”
In some states, car dealerships are legally required to offer the ability to rescind a sales contract. For example, California’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, which applies to purchases of new or used vehicles from authorized dealers, requires dealers to offer a two-day cancellation period to buyers of used cars priced at $40,000 or less.
A dealer may describe this right to cancel as a “cancellation” period, a money-back guarantee, or a “no questions asked” return policy. To qualify, you will usually need to return the car in the same condition that you purchased it with your original documents. Failure to do so may result in the dealership refusing your request.
You can check with your state attorney general if a “right to rescind” option is available and what the requirements are.
3. Your retailer accepts returns
Although most resellers don’t have a return policy, some do. For example, Carvana offers a seven-day money-back guarantee, while CarMax accepts returns within 30 days. Before buying a car, be sure to ask the dealership what their return policy is, and if they offer one, get it in writing.
When you probably can’t return a car
In most cases, you will not be able to return a car you have just purchased. Here are some scenarios where you probably won’t be eligible for a refund:
1. You have buyer’s remorse
If you simply change your mind, the dealer probably won’t allow you to return the car. Keep in mind that most dealerships don’t have a return policy, so once you’ve signed the sales contract, you’re out of luck outside of special circumstances.
2. You think you’ve been scammed
Before buying a car, it’s important to do some research to see what a fair and reasonable price is for the vehicle you’re considering, especially since you probably won’t be able to return it if you overpay.
If you feel like you’ve been ripped off, it might be worth meeting with the dealership manager to see if an adjustment can be made to your deal. Be sure to bring documents to support your case and stay calm while discussing the situation. Remember that if you have already signed a contract, the manager may not honor your request without substantial proof that you have been wronged.
3. You can’t afford to repay your loan
Before borrowing money to finance a car, it’s essential to make sure the payments will fit comfortably into your budget. Use the Forbes Advisor auto loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments before applying for financing.
If you don’t consider what you can reasonably afford, the dealer has no obligation to help you and may even claim that your finances are your sole responsibility. You can contact the dealership to see if you can trade the car in for something cheaper, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no.
Alternatives to consider
Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to return a car you have just purchased. If you’re unable to get a refund, here are some other options you can think of:
- Refinance your car loan. If you can’t afford to pay off your car loan, consider refinancing. Depending on your credit, you may be able to get a lower interest rate. Or you can extend your repayment term to lower your payments, but that means you’ll pay more interest over time.
- Sell your car. Although you may not get all your money back, selling your car could be a good choice if you just want to get rid of a car you no longer want. Note that if you have a loan on the car, you will have to pay the difference if the sale price does not cover the total amount of your loan.
- Find out about voluntary take-back. Another option if you can’t make your payments is to ask your lender for a voluntary repossession. Just keep in mind that this could damage your credit and make it harder to get financing in the future, so this should only be a last resort.
- Discuss your situation with a lawyer. If you have valid concerns with your vehicle and the dealership isn’t helping you, it may be a good idea to contact an attorney. They can help you determine what action you can take, even potentially suing the dealership in extreme cases.
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