How to Return a Car to a Dealership for a Refund

Knowingly selling a "lemon" is illegal in most U.S. states.

Purchasing a car is a large decision emotionally and financially. If you experience "buyer's remorse" or discover that the car you purchased from the dealership is faulty, exercise any return options in your contract to get your money back. Return clauses in vehicle purchase contracts are usually time sensitive, so contact the dealer immediately if you want to return the vehicle. Depending on your contract, and the laws in your state, the dealer may have the final say on any vehicle return.


Step 1

Review the Lemon Laws for your state to determine whether your car is a "lemon." Depending on your state, your car may be a lemon if serious mechanical problems cannot be fixed after multiple visits to the dealership. Small, non-critical mechanical problems or defects with your vehicle usually do not qualify it as a lemon under Lemon Laws. If your car is indeed a lemon, the dealership must take your vehicle back or face legal consequences.


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Step 2

Read the return clause of your purchase contract. A dealership is not obligated to include a return clause in vehicle purchase contracts, but some dealerships may include a 24-hour return or even a three-day return policy. If you are returning the vehicle due to "buyer's remorse" and not mechanical problems, review the contract to verify that the return window is not restricted for any reason.


Step 3

Inspect your car and take pictures to prove that you are returning the car in the exact shape in which you bought it. The car should be free of any dirt, trash, dents or other blemishes that may hurt your case for returning the vehicle for a refund.

Step 4

Drive your car to the dealer and discuss the possibility of returning your car. Honestly answer any questions the dealer asks about your reasons for returning the vehicle. Discuss refund possibilities and the next steps you have to take to return the vehicle. If your car is a lemon, or there is a clause in your contract that allows returns, mention this to the dealer. The dealer may have to contact your bank if you financed your vehicle through a lender.


Step 5

Contact a lawyer if the dealer refuses to honor your return agreement. A lawyer can begin the subpoena process and civil suit proceedings against a dealer. Your dealer may agree to accept the vehicle if he knows there is an impending case against the dealership. Keep constant communication with the dealer to avoid unnecessary legal battles.


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