Can You Really Return the Car You Just Bought?

Buyer’s remorse can be tough when it comes to a large purchase you just made, but it’s an even bigger pain if that large purchase happens to be a car. After all, clothing and electronic stores let you return their products and you can even cancel a gym membership when you finally realize you’ll never use it. However, a car purchase is much bigger and furthermore, you may have even bought an extended warranty that put you over your budget limit. If that’s the case, can you ever really return a car?

“There is no cooling off period”

The next time you visit a car dealership or actually find yourself buying a car, you might notice a sign on the wall that says that there is no “cooling-off period.” According to the FTC, the cooling-off period refers to a three-day window in which the sale can be canceled, however, it, unfortunately, doesn’t apply to automobiles. If you do happen to purchase a car from a traditional dealership and want to return it, however, then the answer is “maybe.”

The first step would be to meet with the sales or general manager of the dealership and ask about “unwinding the deal.” Of course, returning a car is basically a gray area and it’s up to the management staff of the dealership whether to unwind the deal or not, but in case, you better come up with a good reason. After all, you did sign a contract to take the car in as your own.

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According to Edmunds, if the main reason that you don’t want the car is due to the monthly payments being too high, then the dealer might opt to put you into a lower-priced car in order to meet your budget needs. However, if the reason is that you simply don’t want it, then the dealer is under no obligation to take the car back. A more important reason, for example, is if the car was misrepresented by the salesperson, whether it be on accident or on purpose. Then that could be a more valid reason for a return, although, don’t be surprised if they still try and get you into another car.

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Car Salesman
Car Salesman | Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Non-traditional dealers have a good return policies

In case you want to ensure that you can return a car that you just bought without any possible hassles, then we recommend buying a car from Carmax or Carvana. Both retailers currently have a seven-day return policy and while it might sound too good to be true, it isn’t. According to a former Carmax employee on Reddit, returning a car within the grace period is as easy as dropping it off and signing paperwork. Again, they might try and get you into another car, however, you’re not obligated to do so.

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The CarMax app open on a mobile device
The CarMax app open on a mobile device | Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

How to avoid having to return a car you just bought

While it’s easy to blame a dealership or salesperson on your car purchase, whether you knew what you were getting into or not, the majority of the responsibility is on you, the buyer. Remember that it’s your responsibility when car shopping to always do your research on the car that you’re buying and, more importantly, to figure out your finances beforehand.

While buying a car can be fun and exciting one day, it can be a nightmare waking up and realizing that you went too far with your purchase the next day. So do yourself a favor and know what you’re getting into before you start shopping.