How to Return a New Car to the Dealer

by Tom Streissguth

Buying a new car brings a major financial commitment, especially if your new wheels come with a new car loan. There will be insurance, gas and oil changes, as well as monthly payments that may stress your budget and your peace of mind. With the freedom of personal transportation also comes the hassle and expense of maintaining a car in good working condition. If the shiny, nice-smelling car you've just driven off the lot already shows lemon-like symptoms, you may have a chance to return the vehicle to the dealer, or even a private seller, for a refund.

If you hope to return your vehicle under the consumer-friendly, three-day cooling-off period, you're in for some bad news: it does not apply to vehicles. Federal law mandates such a clause in certain sales transactions, such as those conducted door-to-door or at a temporary place of business. This doesn't apply to cars, however. Most dealers will be reluctant to unwind a done deal because doing so brings a paperwork hassle as well as the loss of a sales commission. On the other hand, the dealership you patronize may have a company policy allowing a return in a limited time if, for any reason, you're unhappy with the purchase. Always investigate this possibility before walking into a dealership. There are also some circumstances that might persuade a dealer to accept a return for the sake of good customer service and public relations. This might happen if the salesperson misrepresented the vehicle's mileage or features, for example, or if the bank changes the terms of the loan. In these cases, approach the dealer or private seller directly and explain the reason you want to return the vehicle. If you have any documentation to bolster your case, such as a letter from your lender saying your loan terms have been changed, bring this along.

You may also have a chance to return your car under your state's "lemon law," which requires a car dealer to accept the return, or provide a replacement, if the car is showing a substantial defect. The defect must be covered under the warranty, and must show up within a specified period of time or mileage. In addition, the dealer must have a chance to fix it if it can be fixed. Some states, including Nebraska, allow dealers to subtract a "reasonable" allowance for use of the vehicle before it was returned. Again, approach the dealer directly and show him paperwork supporting your reasons for the return, such as work orders and invoices from auto technicians detailing the problem.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.