How to Back Out of Buying a Car With a Dealership

You can back out of buying a car with a dealership.
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You may have difficulty backing out of a car purchase if you've signed the paperwork and have taken possession of the vehicle. If you signed a loan agreement and motor vehicle paperwork, you may not have any recourse. But if you left a deposit on a vehicle and don't want to follow through with the car deal, you can probably receive your deposit back. A dealership cannot force you to purchase a vehicle unless all paperwork has been completed and processed.


If You Just Left a Deposit

You should not sign a purchase agreement, or buyer's order, unless it states that your deposit is refundable and based on your ultimate purchase decision. Doing this can avoid arguments or other difficulties and ensures your dealer knows that you have not made a definite decision as to whether or not you will purchase the car. If you do sign the buyer's order, do not take the car if you are unsure about purchasing it.

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Call the dealership and ask to talk to your salesperson. If the salesperson is not available, talk to the dealer's sales manager. Tell the dealer representative that you changed your mind about the vehicle and do not intend to purchase it. Ask to have your deposit refunded.


Return the vehicle immediately if you left a deposit and took the car. You may have a problem getting your full deposit back if you took the vehicle home. If this is the case, the dealer may justify keeping some or all of your deposit because of damage, cleaning fees or the mileage you put on the car.

Call your state's motor vehicle department if the dealer refuses to give you back your deposit. A deposit does not conclude that you purchased the vehicle. Ask your motor vehicle department how you can process a complaint about the dealer for taking your money; in many cases, the dealer will be investigated or at least receive a phone call.


If You Signed Purchase Paperwork

If you signed the paperwork but didn't drive the car off the lot, it can be easier to get out of the deal at the dealership. Otherwise, you'll want to call the state motor vehicle office to find out if there is any recourse after signing paperwork and taking possession of the vehicle. Many states do not recognize buyer's remorse issues or a "cooling period." If your state does offer a return policy, follow any steps it requires to return the vehicle.

Next, call your dealership and ask to speak to the sales manager to discuss returning the vehicle. If you already signed the paperwork, you have little time to return the car. If you signed the motor vehicle paperwork and bank contracts, you must return the vehicle before your paperwork is processed, which usually is within one to two business days.


You'll need to return your vehicle within one day of purchase, even if the sales manager tells you otherwise. The sales manager may tell you that returning the car is not an option, but many dealers will take a car back to avoid the difficulties of pursuing the car deal or risking a negative reputation.

Be sure to return the vehicle with all items it came with, such as keys and owner's manual. If the dealership is closed upon your return, park the car in a safe place and lock the doors. Drop the vehicle keys off in the dealer's overnight drop box with a note stating your name and why you are returning the car; drop boxes are by the dealership's service department. If there is no return box, return the keys the next morning.


Tips When Backing Out

Before you call your state's motor vehicle office to pursue a complaint, let the dealer know you plan to do so. This can help you receive your deposit back quickly. But keep in mind that if your state does not offer any recourse and the dealer refuses to take the car back, you must keep the vehicle.

If you have bring the vehicle back while the dealer is closed, call the manufacturer's customer service hotline. You can find the phone number in the owner's manual. Let the representative know why you aren't keeping the car. The representative will let the dealership know or may provide further instruction.