What Are Your Rights When You Buy a Car?
Despite economic concerns and high gas prices, U.S. vehicle sales were up last month, with an overall 10% increase in the last year.
And with increased sales, comes increased questions about car purchase contracts and a buyer's rights when purchasing a car. In particular, people want to know whether there is a "cooling-off" period.
Can a car be returned post-purchase?
Generally, the answer is no.
There is a federal "cooling-off" period, but it does not apply to car purchase contracts. It only applies to goods purchased at your home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business. Automobiles are a listed exception.
However, there are still some situations in which you may be able to return a car.
State laws may provide a special right. California, for example, allows purchasers of used cars to buy a special two-day cancellation option. Persons who buy new cars are out of luck.
Contracts can also be cancelled if there is dealer fraud, or specified financing conditions are not met. For cars that experience substantial defects, a state may also have a used or new car lemon law that applies. A lemon law can lead to a full refund when a car cannot be sufficiently repaired.
Car purchase contracts themselves may also contain a return policy. Some dealers offer a "cooling-off" period for marketing purposes, but the terms must be written in the contract. Buyers also may not be entitled to a full refund.
Because laws vary, consider researching your state's "cooling-off" laws prior to buying a car. And always make sure that you read a car purchase contract before you sign. You never know what it may contain.
- Lemon Laws & Car Buying: Tools and Resources (FindLaw)
- Buying a Car (FindLaw)
- What is a Lemon Law? (FindLaw's Common Law)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.