How Many Days Do You Have to Return a New Car?

Couple trying to return a car

If you've just purchased a new car and are having second thoughts, or if you're concerned about the commitment that comes with such a major investment, it's natural to wonder how long you have to return the car. Unfortunately for buyers who have changed their minds, dealers are not required to accept new car returns unless the vehicle is faulty.

No Federal Trade Commission Right to Cancel

Many consumers believe that the Federal Trade Commission protects auto buyers with a three-day "Right to Cancel" law. It's important for car buyers to understand that this law does not apply to new automobile transactions. This law only applies to consumer purchases from door-to-door salesmen or at a location other than the seller's place of business.

No Federal or State Right to Rescind Laws

There is no federal law dictating that buyers may return a new vehicle. A car purchase is final as soon as the buyer signs the contract and takes possession of the car. Additionally, you have no state-mandated right to rescind your contract or return a car to the seller due to buyer's remorse.

California Contract Cancelation Option for Used Cars Only

The State of California requires dealers to offer used car buyers a contract cancelation option. However, this two-day cooling-off period does not apply to new vehicles.

Returning a Defective Car Under Lemon Laws

Lemon laws are not the same as buyer's remorse or right to rescind laws. Lemon laws vary from state to state, and each state's Attorney General's office defines how these lemon laws are enforced. A lemon law only applies to a vehicle that, after a certain number of repair attempts, still has mechanical faults that are unsafe or detrimental to the operation of the vehicle. When you purchase a new car, during the vehicle delivery process, the salesperson should offer you a pamphlet that explains the lemon laws in your state; if they don't, ask what the laws are.

The time period covered by lemon laws also varies by state. Depending on where you purchased your new vehicle, you have between one and two years to take legal action and return it.

Special Dealer Offers

Some dealers like CarMax offer a five-day return policy. CarMax's five-day return policy is not enforced by any law and is offered as a sales incentive. If any dealership offers a return policy as a selling tool, get it in writing for your protection. A verbal promise is hard to enforce.

Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

Since there are no state or federal laws that require sellers to accept the return of a new car due to buyer's remorse, it's important that car buyers understand the commitment they are making when they purchase a car. Always test drive a vehicle to ensure it's the right car for you, and use an auto loan calculator to make sure you can afford the monthly payments. Additionally, read all purchase documents thoroughly before you sign. Proper research and consumer diligence are key to making a new car purchase you won't regret.

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How Many Days Do You Have to Return a New Car?