Edmunds: Is it possible to return the car you just bought?

With car prices at record highs and stocks dwindling, buyers might be tempted to strike a deal this summer without giving it much thought. But what if you get buyer’s remorse later, whether it’s over paying too much for your car or realizing that your new car isn’t really what you wanted? ? Is it possible to return your car?

In most cases, the answer is “no” with a “maybe”. If you signed the sales contract, you own the car. And the law is on the seller’s side.

For new cars, your legal rights can be summed up in one sentence posted on the wall of many dealer sales offices: “There is no cooling off period. This is the Federal Trade Commission’s opt-out rule for certain purchases. However, the main purpose of this rule is to protect consumers from high pressure door-to-door sales tactics. It does not explicitly apply to vehicle purchases.

Essentially, the dealership has to decide whether or not they want to unwind the deal. While business owners clearly want customers to be happy, canceling a car purchase is a costly headache for a car dealership. This vehicle can no longer be sold as new, and it has lost some of its value once it was kicked out of the parking lot.

You may have a better chance of returning a used car, but it all depends on the state you live in and the policies of each dealership. Some used car dealers offer limited time return policies, but read the fine print carefully to see which situations are covered.

Given all of this, the experts at Edmunds detail three common car return scenarios people might have, and offer tips for each.


If you have buyer’s remorse, you can call the seller first as a courtesy, but be prepared to reach out to someone higher up in the chain, such as the sales manager, general manager, or owner. Make your call on a working day rather than a weekend.

The majority of car dealerships have no written policy allowing you to terminate the purchase contract that you signed. This means that your only recourse is to plead your case. You can say that you have found out that you don’t like the car or that it will increase your budget and put you in dire financial straits.

The dealership might be willing to rework the deal to put you in a vehicle with a lower purchase price. But be aware that the dealer has no legal obligation to do so.

I was ripped off

If the car salesperson you worked with broke their promises or if you suspect fraud, you could have a case. The best way to come to a resolution is to simply go back to the dealership and ask to speak to the manager in a calm tone. Shouting and swearing will get you nowhere.

Be prepared to prove your case with whatever documents you can find, such as emails or text messages. The point is to show that you have been promised a price but that you have been charged another.

Consumers who cry foul over the price are at least partly to blame. Buying a car can be an emotional purchase and can cause some people to lose sight of the details. If you’re about to make a deal in the showroom and think you don’t have enough information to continue, don’t. It is better to give up on a deal than to argue after the fact that you overpaid. Your best bet is to do your price research online and find a deal that you feel comfortable with.


Sometimes a buyer quickly decides the car is faulty and wants to trade it in for another or cancel the deal. But it takes time out of service and repeated visits to the repair shop – for the same problem – to legally establish that a car is a lemon and that a vehicle is considered under the Lemon Law. Be sure to review the lemon law in your state to help determine if this is the right course of action.

In situations where there is an obvious problem with a new car, the dealer will often repair it under warranty. If no warranty exists, as with many used cars, you can always lobby for the car to be repaired.

EDMUNDS SAYS: When the typical answer to breaking a deal is likely to be ‘no’, it’s best to never put yourself in a position to ask. Avoid any problems by being a prepared car buyer who knows the price of a car, reads the sales contract carefully, and fully inspects the car before taking possession of it.


This story was provided to The Associated Press by the Edmunds automotive site. Ronald Montoya is the editor of consumer advice at Edmunds. Twitter: @ ronald_montoya8

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