Question: I have buyer’s remorse. Can I return a new car that I just bought to the dealership?
Most of us have been there before. You walk into the dealership intent on “just looking” when a saleswoman catches your delight at seeing the beautiful, shiny, brand-new car, which you immediately envision driving down I-75. The very friendly, and quite knowledgeable, salesperson offers you bottled water and a test drive. You open the driver’s side door, slide into the crisp seat, and breathe in the new car smell so deeply it nearly knocks you out. Before she can hand you the keys you’ve already made up your mind that you’re taking the car home with you immediately. Unfortunately, after the complements from family and friends and the envy of coworkers are over, you come to your senses and realize that you actually did not want the car at all. This is a classic case of buyer’s remorse, and unfortunately, one regret that might not be so easy to get rid of.
Typically, you cannot return a car—new or used—to a dealership due to buyer’s remorse. I recently answered a similar question that dealt with the “Three Day Cooling-Off” rule. The Cooling-Off rule gives buyers a three-day right to cancel a sale made in a location, such as a dormitory, workplace, or home, etc. Since the cooling-off rule doesn’t include automobiles sold at the dealership, whether the car is new or used, you have no legal right to return a car no matter how short the amount of time you’ve had the vehicle.
That said, it might be the policy of some dealerships to offer a return policy if the customer brings back the car within a certain amount of hours, days, or miles used. Some companies may even allow you to exchange one vehicle for another if you’re unhappy with your purchase. The best way to ensure that you’re able to return the car if unhappy is to have the requirement written into the purchase contract.
A word of caution here: some people may encourage you to return the car to the dealership and leave the keys. If you do that, you may find yourself in the position of having a repossession on your credit and still owing a significant amount of money to the dealership, lender, or leasing company. I often tell consumers that a voluntary repossession is just a repossession by another name.
Now, if you genuinely have issues with your new car there are a few ways that you might be able to return it with the law on your side.
Georgia Lemon Law
The Georgia Lemon Law is a self-help statute whose primary goal is to have the manufacturer of your motor vehicle fix any defects. If the car is defective and found to be a Lemon, meaning that it had a reasonable number of attempted repairs made with no success and you made appropriate written demands to the manufacturer, then the law requires that the manufacturer either replace or buyback your vehicle. Keep in mind that there are several requirements that must be met before you would be eligible for coverage. You can review those requirements in my e-book, Lemon-Aid for Georgia Consumers: Your Guide to the Georgia Lemon Law.
Failure to perform
You may also be able to return the vehicle if the dealership failed to perform an essential task that they were legally required to do, such as perform an emissions test on a used vehicle for the 13 covered counties in Georgia, deliver the title to you within 30 days of purchase, register the car with your county, etc.
Another way to exercise your right to return a vehicle is if the dealership engaged in some unfair or deceptive practice, such as false or deceptive advertising, odometer tampering, failing to provide you with a prize if you visited the dealership as the result of a sweepstakes, or additional items and terms the consumer may not know about.
The bottom line is that no matter how good a new car looks on the lot, you have to do your homework first. It’s the best approach to take so that you can avoid dealing with an unethical salesperson, accepting a deal you can’t afford, or driving around in a car you don’t want after all. And remember, as with all large purchases, there’s nothing wrong with taking the necessary time to think the decision through before signing on the dotted line.
–With writing assistance from Alysia Logan.