Car Buying Rules on a 3-Day Grace

You typically cannot return a car after you sign the contract.

You typically cannot return a car after you sign the contract.

Contrary to popular belief, automobiles typically do not qualify as a returnable item under the various buyer's remorse laws. These laws typically give a consumer a three-day "grace" or cooling-off period and enables them to change their mind on the purchase within three days of signing a contract. While these laws protect consumers after the purchase of some products, you can only return a vehicle if your contract with the dealer gives you the right to do so.

Contract Cancellation Clause

Before you sign the contract, read it to determine if it contains a clause allowing you to return the vehicle. These clauses typically are part of a manufacturer program like the Hyundai Assurance Program that ended in 2011 and are not normally included in new purchase or lease contracts. The Hyundai program allowed purchasers to return a vehicle within the first year if the purchaser lost his job. Some dealers such as CarMax have a return policy, but the vehicle must be in the same condition as when it left the lot to qualify for a full refund.

Lemon Laws

Lemon laws protect consumers if they bought a vehicle that has an inherent, nonrepairable problem. According to the Car Lemon website, if a vehicle has had four or more repairs for the same problem while under warranty without being fixed, most states will qualify it as a lemon. The catch is that the defect has to relate to a safety issue such as transmission or brake problems to qualify. Not liking the car after purchase or the inability to pay for it does not make the car a lemon.

Used Vehicle Exceptions

Dealers must include a buyer's guide with the purchase of a used vehicle. This guide gives the condition of the vehicle and states whether it has a warranty or is sold "as is." If you do not receive a buyer's guide with your purchase, you may, depending on the laws in your state, be able to return the car for a refund. The buyer's guide must contain information about major problems that the car may have.


Purchasing a car is a major commitment. If you finance it, you are promising to make the payments for up to eight years. Consider your current and future needs when shopping for a new car. That sporty model you like so well may not fit your lifestyle after you get married and have children. Typically, your only recourse if you decide that you don't want the car is to sell it, which could leave you owing more than you receive from its sale. There is no easy out for those that decide that they do not want the car after purchase so make sure that you are fully committed to buying a car before you sign the contract.


About the Author

Specializing in business and finance, Lee Nichols began writing in 2002. Nichols holds a Bachelor of Arts in Web and Graphic Design and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi.

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