How to Write a Letter for a Refund Request to a Car Dealer

Carefully craft your letter seeking a refund.
Image Credit: Artinun Prekmoung / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Car dealers have spent decades creating iron-clad contracts for vehicle sales that make it very difficult for consumers to return their cars, trucks, SUVS or motorcycles, according to Edmunds. Hard-luck stories might work with an independent used-car seller with whom you have a personal relationship, but normally, dealers will only follow their legal requirements when it comes to cancelling a car.

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You might be able to make your case better in writing than over the phone, so making sure your correspondence is presented in an organized fashion will help you improve your chances of getting a refund faster. Reviewing some basic tips for writing a refund request letter will help you to better present your case.

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What Is the Reason for a Refund?

The first step in writing a letter to a car dealer to request a refund is to determine the exact reason you want the refund. "The car doesn't run" is not a good enough reason. "The car you sold me has faulty ignition wiring" is a specific reason.

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If you're returning the car because your financial situation has changed, the dealer is under no obligation to give you a refund, but it might do so if the car is in good shape and you are willing to take a discount.

Check Applicable Laws

In some cases, car dealers must take back the car under specific circumstances based on state laws. In other cases, you might be covered by a dealer lemon clause, which often gives the dealer the right to verify and fix problems before it has to refund your money. Dealers do this to avoid consumers taking them to court using a lemon law ruling, according to FindLaw.

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This happens when a car still doesn't work right after one or two repairs – it's then considered a lemon. Not only can you get your money back but if you win in court, you might be able to post your win online at review sites without fear of being sued since the court documents are public records.

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Dealers don't want a reputation for selling lemons and might be happy to refund your money to avoid this. Work with an attorney to find out if the reason you want to return the car is covered by law or by the contract you signed with the dealer. You might have to legally default, which won't get you a refund depending on how big your down payment was.

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If your state has a buyer's remorse law (most do), it probably doesn't include cars. Only California has an option for returning a purchased car, and you must buy a "cooling off period" contract.

Gather the Information You’ll Need

Your letter to request a refund should present the information the dealer needs to make a decision in an organized fashion. This means you will need to include the make, model and VIN number of the car you want to return. Make sure to include the name of the person who purchased the car and/or signed the purchase and/or financing documents. If the person has a common name, like John Smith, include his full street address, phone number and email address so the dealer can find him in its customer database.

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Give the specific reason you want to return the car with as much detail as possible. If the car is faulty, you'll make a better case for a refund if you can get a reputable repair shop to inspect it and verify the problem. A car dealer will know that you will be able to use this evaluation if you take the dealer to court. The dealer will also be able to inspect the car itself and know exactly what problem it's looking for.

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If the manufacturer has sent a letter stating that there is a recall on a faulty part, include a copy of that letter. Recalls aren't a reason for a dealer to have to return your car; the dealer is only required to repair the problem for free.

Organize the Contents of Your Letter to Request a Refund

  • Provide information about yourself and the purchase.​ Start your letter by introducing yourself as the purchaser of a specific vehicle from the dealer. Include the purchaser name, car make, model, VIN, the purchase date and the price.

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  • Explain the issue.​ Next, tell the dealer that you are having a problem with the car and explain the problem in detail, referring the dealer to any supporting documents you have.
  • Explain the refund law.​ Next, tell the dealer you would like to return the car for a refund. Explain the law that requires the dealer to take the car back if you have confirmed with an attorney that this is the situation. If possible, have your attorney send your letter.

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  • Be mindful of your tone.​ If you are requesting a refund due to a hard-luck situation, take a more positive and softer tone. After your introductory sentence, explain your situation and how it will affect your ability to pay for the car. Let the dealer know that it or the financing company might have to seize the vehicle for nonpayment, which will cause long-term damage to your credit score.
  • Understand the dealer's perspective.​ Be prepared to ask the dealer if it will please consider taking the car back and offering a refund and let it know you do not expect a full refund. Don't offer a discount number; ask the dealer under what circumstances it would be willing to take the car back, writing, "I understand that I will not be able to get the full purchase price back. Please let me know what you believe is a fair offer." Understand that once a car leaves a lot, its value goes down. Would you want to pay for a new car and find out it was already purchased, taken home and returned by someone else?
  • Set a day and time to talk.​ End the letter by telling the dealer you will be calling on a specific day (morning or afternoon) instead of telling the dealer that you will wait to hear from it. You might include this in a P.S. so that it stands out and motivates the dealer to contact you.

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