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Can you return a car you just bought?

Can you return a car you just bought?

If you purchase a new car and then experience buyer’s remorse in California, you don’t have a lot of options. The terms of new car sales contracts are very strict (you may have more luck cancelling a used car purchase). Most car dealers do not allow you to back out of a purchase agreement after you sign on the dotted line. With new car purchases, there is no automatic “cooling off period.” The only way out for most people is to plead their case. You can call the salesperson and see if anything can be worked out to unwind the deal. You can say that you discovered you do not really like the vehicle, or the purchase is going to stretch your budget too far for your comfort. You may have to work with the sales manager or general manager.

There are two important things to know, though, that could provide recourse to a consumer who wants to return a vehicle after purchase:

  1. When buying a used car in California, there is an option to purchase an add-on two-day contract cancellation option agreement at the time of a vehicle sale. If you buy this agreement, you can return a car within 2 days of sale.
  2. There is a California Lemon Law that allows you to return a new or used vehicle to a dealership if you can prove that it is a lemon with chronic mechanical or electrical defects. Under Lemon Law, you can get a replacement vehicle or a refund of the original purchase price.

California Car Buyers Bill of Rights

How many days after you buy a car can you return it?

In California, the state legislature has developed a “Car Buyers Bill of Rights.” It lays out protections for consumers related to credit score disclosure, financing fee caps, purchase price disclosures, “certified” vehicle requirements, dealer’s license status, and civil disputes. This Bill of Rights also provides for cancellation of used car sales as follows …

Cancellation Option Details for Used Cars

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, consumers who purchase a used car for less than $40,000 must be offered a two-day contract cancellation option agreement. There is no “cooling off” period unless you purchase such an agreement. Generally, these agreements can cost:

  • $75 for a vehicle costing $5,000 or less
  • $150 for a vehicle costing $5,001–$10,000
  • $250 for a vehicle costing $10,001–$30,000
  • One percent of the purchase price for a vehicle costing $30,001–39,999.

If you return the vehicle within the time specified, the dealership may charge a maximum restocking fee of:

  • $175 for a vehicle costing $5,000 or less
  • $350 for a vehicle costing $5,001–$10,000
  • $500 for a vehicle costing $10,001–39,999.
Note: The contract cancellation option agreement does not apply to used cars priced at $40,000 or more, new cars, motorcycles, private party sales, recreational vehicles, off-highway vehicles, or vehicles sold for business or commercial use.

Vehicle Returns

If you purchase one of these contract cancellation option agreements and decide to return the vehicle to the dealership and cancel the sale, you must follow certain guidelines. According to the California DMV, a buyer dissatisfied with a used-car purchase must return the vehicle . . .

  • to the same dealership where the vehicle was purchased by close of business within two days, or within the time frame allowed by the contract,
  • without exceeding the miles permitted by the contract,
  • with all original receipts for the sale and contract cancellation option agreement,
  • In the same condition as received, except for reasonable wear and tear, and
  • Free of all liens and encumbrances.

The dealer must provide a full refund of the sales tax, deposit, registration fees, and trade-in vehicle collected from the buyer.

Record of Complaint Form

If you encounter a dealership that does not honor or comply with the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, you may fill out and mail a Record of Complaint Form (INV 172A) to the California DMV at one of the addresses listed on the form. The form is also available by calling 1-800-777-0133.

California Lemon Law

Can you return a car to a dealership?

If you purchased a new or used car that turns out to be a lemon, then you have several options under the California Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. If you purchase a defective vehicle, your options are 1) to have the manufacturer repurchase or replace your vehicle or 2) negotiate a cash settlement with the manufacturer. California’s lemon law applies to both new and used cars. Dealerships are not supposed to knowingly sell lemon vehicles, although sometimes they may not know that a particular car or truck has defects.

A “lemon” is a car, SUV, truck or other vehicle that has ongoing mechanical or electrical problems that never seem to be fixed, no matter how many times you take it to the mechanic. It could be because of faulty brakes, drive shaft problems, poor steering, malfunctioning door locks or a whole host of other defects. Such “nonconformities” in a lemon compromise the . . .

  • use,
  • value, or
  • safety of the vehicle.

To qualify for Lemon Law protection, an owner must have made “reasonable attempts” to have the vehicle repaired before filing a claim. That’s why it’s so important to keep all your receipts and work orders from your car repair attempts. These prove that you tried to get the car fixed, to no avail. Find out more in: What to Do if You Have a Lemon.

The lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima have helped countless clients seek a legal remedy after they were sold a lemon. We have a 99% success rate in lemon law cases. To find out if we can help you, call us for a free consultation at 888-407-2955.

Ripped off

There’s always the possibility that a car dealership committed fraud or misrepresentation or somehow overcharged you for a vehicle during the purchase process. If so, you could have a legal case to return the car. If you think you were overcharged, you will need to have evidence to back your claim. Edmunds True Market Value pricing is a good tool to show what a typical price is for your vehicle. If you think this has happened to you, you may want to consult with an attorney to see whether there is a way you can get out of the deal. But keep in mind that the best way to avoid being ripped off is to not let it happen at all. Do your due diligence on the price of the vehicle before you come close to signing on the dotted line.

Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney Today

If you believe you’ve purchased a lemon and want to return the vehicle, then hiring a skilled and experienced lemon law attorney is an important first step. Neale & Fhima has a 99% success rate in representing clients with lemon law claims. We help clients get refunds, replacement vehicles or cash settlements for their lemons. To find out more about how we can help, call us at 888-407-2955. The phone call is free.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Aaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights. [ Attorney Bio ]

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