Auto Buyers Remorse Laws

By Jackie Lohrey
A happy woman in the drivers seat holding the keys to her new car.

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Two of the most important things you can do before purchasing a new or used vehicle is negotiate the best deal and make absolutely sure that you understand the purchase contract's terms and conditions. **Once you become the legal owner, there are no federal laws and few state laws that say a car dealer must accept returns simply because you’ve changed your mind.**

Federal and State Laws

The Federal three-day Cooling-Off Rule applies only to purchases costing more than $25 sold at a location other than a company’s regular place of business. It does not apply to vehicle sales made either in-person or online.

In addition, as of 2015, California is the only state that addresses auto buyer’s remorse with a two-day contract cancellation cooling-off period on used cars only. However, the vehicle must have a price of less than $40,000, and you pay from $75 to up to $400 to include the option in a purchase contract.

Potential Alternative Protections

Federal and state laws may protect you if buyer’s remorse results from fraud, misrepresentation, misstatement of fact or other contract law violations that create an unconscionable contract. Violations such as these may make a contract voidable. For example, if a dealer assures you that the mileage on the odometer is accurate despite knowing that it was rolled back, that misstatement of fact can void the agreement. An agreement with grossly unfair terms also may create legal grounds to void the agreement.

Lemon Laws vs. Buyer’s Remorse

State-mandated lemon laws may allow you to cancel an auto purchase contract but are not the same as buyer's remorse laws. Lemon laws only apply to mechanically faulty vehicles. Returning a vehicle often is a lengthy process, as you must give the dealer -- and possibly the manufacturer -- multiple chances to repair the vehicle before requesting a refund.

Dealership Return Policies

Some auto dealerships address buyer’s remorse by implementing a voluntary return policy. These generally range from about five days to 30 days. Some have specific terms and conditions and some are “no questions asked” policies. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you not only ask about a return policy, but also get any returns promises in writing.

About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.

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