Laws on Returning a New Car in Alabama

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Buying a new car is a big decision. A new car is often the second largest purchase (after a house) that a person will make in a lifetime. Sometimes, when a person buys a car without doing enough research, being reasonable about finances, or comparing prices, he wants to return the car. Alabama law allows purchasers to return new cars, but only in very limited situations. The car can be returned under Alabama law only if it does not run properly and the dealer or manufacturer is unable to fix it.

Cooling Off Period

Some states have consumer laws called cooling off periods or buyers' remorse laws. These laws allow consumers to return some goods within a few days of the purchase with no penalty. These laws are rarely applied to new car purchases, since the value of a new car decreases significantly after a few days. Alabama does not have a cooling off period for the purchase of a new car, and a car buyer has no legal right to return one. Dealers sometimes have their own cooling off periods in their contracts–new car purchasers in Alabama should check sales contracts carefully.


New cars are generally sold with written warranties, called express warranties. These warranties say that the car will operate properly for a specified period. If the car does not run properly for the warranty period, the manufacturer and the dealer have breached the warranty and the buyer can file a legal action for breach of warranty. One remedy would be to return the car and get the money back. Common law, or unwritten law, in all states also allows consumers to sue for implied warranties. These warranties do not need to be written or spoken by the manufacturer or the dealer. They are implied by operation of law. Anyone who sells a new car gives an implied warranty of merchantability, meaning that the car will do what it is sold to do, and an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, if claims were made about the car. For example, an off-road vehicle would need to operate off-road.

Alabama Lemon Law

Alabama has a specific law that applies to the sale of new cars that do not operate properly. This is called a lemon law. Chapter 20A of the Alabama Motor Vehicle Code provides that purchasers of new cars with express warranties can complain about a serious defect in the car within the first year of purchase or before driving 12,000 miles, whichever happens first. The manufacturer or dealer has four chances to fix the car, but if the car cannot be fixed, the buyer can have the car replaced or can return the car for a refund of the purchase price, all collateral costs, finance costs and damages.