Car Buying Rules on a 3-Day Grace

If you think you have three days to change your mind about a car purchase, think again. There is a cooling-off law that allows you to change your mind about a purchase within three days, but this law applies only to specific high-pressure buying situations. You can return an item sold to you in your own home or workplace. You also have the option to renege if the sale happened at a temporary selling place, such as a local fair, convention center or at the seller's hotel.

This rule doesn't apply to car purchases, however. There are some situations in which you can return a car, but the cooling-off law isn't one of them.

Failure to Finance

Some car dealerships offer yo-yo sales. In this instance, you sign a contract agreeing to purchase the car. When you do, the dealer allows you to take possession of the car after a preliminary glance at your finances but before you receive final financing approval. If for some reason your financing falls through, you're obligated to return the car to the dealer in its original condition. If the bank feels as uneasy about your car purchase as you do, a loan denial may get you out of keeping the car.

Fraud by the Dealer

You could get out of purchasing a car if the dealer lied to get you in it. It's illegal for a car dealer to lie about a car knowingly. You may have the option of returning the vehicle and canceling the sale if the dealer fibbed about the car's accident history or failed to fully disclose all of the financing costs and fees to you.

False advertising is also grounds for canceling a sale. Unfortunately, dealers don't always come clean when accused of fraud, so you may have to make your case in court.

Contract Clause for Cancellation

In some instances, a car dealer will include a cancellation clause in your contract. This clause gives you a certain amount of time to return the vehicle and may specify acceptable reasons for return. Some dealers allow buyers of used cars to bring the car back within a few days and exchange it for another.

For example, when you buy a used car for less than $40,000 in California, the dealer must give you the option of purchasing a cancellation option. This option costs about $250 but gives you two days to change your mind about a vehicle purchase.

If your dealer's contract contains no provisions for changing your mind, you can ask them to add such a clause for you. They're allowed to refuse this request but may honor it if they choose.

State Lemon Laws

In Massachusetts, a car dealer must allow you to return your car if it fails a safety inspection within seven days of the sale. Not every state has laws like this one, but they all have lemon laws. If you buy a new car and it's mechanically defective, the lemon law forces the dealer to accept the car as a return and refund any money you paid.

The lemon law requires that you give the dealer a chance to fix the car and document the repairs made to it. You can return the car only when a qualified mechanic has failed to repair the issue a certain number of times within a specified time frame.

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