Can I Take A Car Back To The Dealership

Can I Take A Car Back To The Dealership

When you buy a new or used car from a dealership, is it possible to change your mind and take it back? What are the rules and processes for returning a recently purchased vehicle? Let’s explore the options for giving back a dealership car.

Cooling-Off Periods

Some states have laws requiring a short “cooling-off period” after car sales. During this time, buyers can return the vehicle for a full refund. For example, California allows a 2 day cooling-off period. However, most states don’t require this, so dealers set their own policies. Many have no official cooling-off period, but some may allow returns as a courtesy.

Return Policies

Dealerships get to determine their own return policies on used and new car purchases. Some common examples include:

  • 3 to 5 day return policy – This allows buyers a few days to change their mind. The car must be undamaged.
  • Exchange-only policy – The dealer may only allow swapping the car for another one, not a refund.
  • Restocking fees – Dealers may charge fees of $200-$500 if the car is returned. This covers cleaning and reconditioning costs.
  • Mileage limits – Cars can only be returned if driven under a very low mileage, like 50-100 miles. Extra mileage costs may apply.
  • As-is sales – Most dealers label used cars and “as-is” sales final with no returns accepted. This is common for older or high-mileage vehicles.

Ask about the dealer’s return policy before purchasing and get it in writing. Policies are not always disclosed upfront, giving sales staff leeway to decline returns later. Be persistent talking to managers if refused but promised a return period.

Return Policies
Return Policies

Lemon Laws

Each state has “lemon laws” allowing buyers to return seriously defective new vehicles for a replacement or refund. This is different than a general return policy. Lemon laws only apply to significant defects that the dealer failed to repair properly under warranty after multiple tries.

Test Drives

Many dealerships allow short test drives before purchase. However, extensive test driving mileage could make them refuse a return. Be upfront about your desire to properly test drive the vehicle when talking to sales staff. Get promises of a return period in writing on the sales documents if you plan extended driving.

Return Timing

To return a car, act quickly, ideally within the dealer’s stated return period. The longer you keep it, the greater the likelihood of the dealer refusing a return or charging significant fees. A few days after delivery is optimal. Don’t wait until the first payment is due unless that coincides with the return policy timeline.

Return Condition

Ensure the car is in the same cosmetic and mechanical condition as purchased. No body damage, staining, smoking, or pet hair should be present. The tank should be refilled to the level at delivery. Going over mileage limits, even slightly, can risk refusal. Consider paying for a professional detailing beforehand to ensure the dealer has no reason to claim excessive wear and tear.

Purchase Documentation

Bring sales documents, vehicle registrations, temp tags, any warranty cards, service records, and spare keys or items that came with the vehicle. Removing or losing items could lead to fees. Review the sales contract and buyer’s guide for verbiage about returns or cancellations.

Finance Considerations

If financing, understand that just returning the car doesn’t absolve you of the loan balance. You’ll still need to work with the lender to cancel the loan unless the dealership’s return policy specifies they will do this. There may be an impact on your credit, interest paid, and down payment refund depending on timing.

Alternatives to Returning the Car

If past the return period, other options besides returning the car include:

  • Selling it yourself privately and paying off the loan balance
  • Trading it in toward another car to lower the negative equity impact
  • Refinancing the loan at a lower payment with your bank
  • Negotiating an out-of-court settlement with the dealership for known issues
  • Using state lemon laws or legal claims if the dealer committed fraud

With preparation and diligence during the transaction, you can give yourself the best chance of a successful return or cancellation if issues arise down the road. Understand the dealership’s policies, get all promises in writing, and act swiftly within the designated return period.

Alternatives To Returning The Car
Alternatives to Returning the Car

common reasons return newly purchased cars to dealerships:

  • Buyer’s remorse over model, price, payment, features, or color
  • Undisclosed damage, defects or misrepresentations found
  • Found a better deal at another dealership
  • Failed test drive revealed issues with ride, seating, visibility
  • Change in life circumstances and can no longer afford
  • Dispute over add-ons or services promised but not in contract
  • Final costs higher than expected due to fees or loan terms
  • Car too small, large or impractical for lifestyle needs
  • Negative reviews read about the car’s reliability or costs
  • The car was an unwanted gift the recipient can’t afford

The most common motivations include buyer’s remorse, discovering issues not seen initially, finding better deals elsewhere, and life changes altering affordability. Being unable to thoroughly inspect the car before purchase is a contributor. Carefully test driving and reviewing financing terms first can prevent many returns.

return a car if the monthly payment ends up higher than expected

Review sales contract and compare to dealer’s promised payment amount. Document any discrepancies. Check if still within the dealer’s return period, often 3-7 days. Act quickly once higher payment is realized.

  • Calculate exactly how much more the payment is versus expectations. Small differences may not warrant return.
  • Ensure you did not voluntarily choose add-ons that raised the payment. Dealer needs to have misled.
  • Discuss mismatch calmly with dealer management and request return due to misrepresented terms. Provide evidence.
  • Be willing to forfeit any down payment and pay small restocking fees if dealer agrees to return.

Consult consumer protection lawyer if dealer refuses and state laws don’t support your claim. As last resort, stop making payments and voluntarily return vehicle if lender won’t modify terms. But expect credit score impact.

Bottom line, returning a car solely over a surprisingly higher payment faces challenges but is possible if the dealer verifiably misstated terms during purchase process. Move quickly and be prepared to negotiate.

Return A Car If The Monthly Payment Ends Up Higher Than Expected
return a car if the monthly payment ends up higher than expected


Q: Can I return a financed car if I just change my mind?

A: Most dealers have a short term “cooling off” period where you can return for any reason. This is usually 3-10 days after purchase.

Q: What if I find issues with the car after driving it home from the dealer?

A: If undisclosed mechanical or cosmetic defects are found, you have a good case to return the car promptly for a refund.

Q: Am I able to return a financed car if I lose my job and can no longer afford it?

A: Unfortunately job loss is not grounds for returning a financed vehicle unless you purchased gap insurance or can show the dealer acted inappropriately.

Q: Can a dealership refuse to accept a return within their posted return period?

A: Dealers must honor return policies they have published. If they refuse within that timeframe, you may have legal recourse.

Q: Does the timeframe for returning a car start on the day of purchase or delivery?

A: Most dealers consider the return period as beginning on the day of purchase, not vehicle delivery. So don’t delay picking it up.

Q: What costs may I owe if I return a financed vehicle?

A: Expect to pay any dealer documentation fees again plus a restocking fee. And you’ll lose any down payment made.

Q: Will my trade-in be returned if I bring back the financed car?

A: Only if expressly agreed at purchase. Typically dealers resell trade-ins rapidly and cannot undo the transaction.

Q: Can I still return after driving the car 1,000 miles?

A: Most dealers specify mileage limits for returns, often under 500 miles. Driving it extensively makes returning very difficult.


In summary, while returning a dealership-financed car presents challenges, being an informed consumer at purchase helps ensure the process goes smoothly if needed down the road. Carefully review the sales contract and understand the dealer’s return policy time limits before driving off the lot.

If issues arise shortly after sale, act quickly while still in the return period and be prepared to forfeit any down payment. Have evidence ready if defects were undisclosed or the vehicle differs substantially from promises. Communicate promptly with the financing lender if needed.

Returning a financed vehicle is rarely straightforward. But doing diligence upfront and moving rapidly once problems are uncovered gives you the best shot at unwinding the deal. If the dealer refuses, legal remedies related to return policies and consumer rights may be available in some states.

Ideally, any concerns with a financed vehicle are identified during initial inspection and test drives, before finalizing the sale. But even after signing, buyers should closely review contracts for return policy provisions in case they have second thoughts or uncover hidden troubles during the first few days. Knowing the guidelines for bringing back dealership-financed vehicles reduces later headaches.

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