Buying a car is a big decision, and some customers find themselves regretting it soon after driving the car off the lot. In many states, car buyers can return their purchases for a full refund within a fixed period after the purchase. Washington state, however, usually views car sales as final as soon as they are executed.
No Cooling off Period
Washington state has no "cooling off period" during which a customer can renege on an agreement to purchase a car, according to the state's Department of Licensing. Contracts to buy vehicles in the state apply the moment the customer signs the agreement unless otherwise specified in the contract. As a result, the state advises consumers to read contracts thoroughly before signing and to take their time thinking about whether they really want to buy the car.
Although there is no way to nullify a legitimate contract, consumers may be able to void the contract if they can show it is illegitimate. For example, state law requires car dealers to disclose in writing any expenses such as finance costs, insurance charges and taxes before the contract is signed. If they don't, it could be grounds for throwing the contract out.
The only exception to the general Washington rule that car contracts are immediately binding is the "lemon law." These laws allow purchasers to receive a full refund if their new cars require frequent repairs. To qualify as a lemon, the car must have a problem that's covered by the warranty but can't seem to be repaired correctly. For most problems, if the dealer tries and fails to repair the problem four times, the car counts as a lemon and the customer is eligible for a refund. If the problem poses a vital safety threat, however, only two repair attempts are required before the car is deemed a lemon.
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Not all vehicles are covered by lemon laws, however. Washington carves out exemptions for motorcycles with engines smaller than 750 cc, trucks weighing more than 19,000 pounds and some motor homes.
Warranty and Service Contracts
Although the sale of a car is final under state law as soon as the customer signs it, service contracts don't follow the same rule. In fact, customers can cancel a service contract for a full refund within 10 days of signing it, according to the state's insurance commissioner. It's possible to get a partial refund even 30 days or more after signing the contract, but the refund is usually much smaller and prorated against the contract term.