Can a buyer cancel a car dealership contract?

Some dealerships allow for a cooling-off period that they'll include as part of the contract. Otherwise, contracts are legally binding and tough to escape. Can you return a new car if there's something wrong with it? Yes — most states have lemon laws to protect consumers if their newly purchased car has unforeseen mechanical issues. You may also be able to return a vehicle if your lender didn't approve a loan or the salesperson was dishonest.

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Can I return a car I just bought?

If a dealership offers a cooling-off period after a sale, it can last any length of time that the dealership chooses. Note that car dealerships are under no legal obligation to offer a cooling-off period, so it may be a good idea to ask your salesperson about it. You may be able to negotiate a cooling-off period into your contract to close a deal when buying a car. The possibility of being able to return the car may also depend on the situation you're in.

You don't think you got a fair deal. If this is the case, try contacting the car dealership manager and calmly explain your situation. While they aren't legally obligated to do anything once you've signed the contract, the two of you may be able to reach an agreement.

Something's wrong with the car. Can you return a vehicle to the dealer within 30 days if it has a mechanical issue? Chances are you can, and you probably won't be limited to just 30 days. Each state has its own version of a "lemon law" that essentially says you can return a car to the dealership if it develops a serious problem that makes it unsafe to drive. Check with your state to see what they define as a lemon. Once a car is declared a lemon, the dealership a reasonable opportunity to repair the problem – the specific number of days will vary by state. Learn more about what happens if you buy a lemon car.

If they can't fix the problem in a way that makes it safe for you and your passengers, they owe you a refund or a replacement.

You don't like the car. Car dealerships generally won't see this as a good enough reason to take back the vehicle unless they previously agreed to a cooling-off period. To avoid getting into this situation, take your time deciding and take the car on multiple test drives before signing a contract.

The likelihood of being able to return a car also depends on whether it's a new or used vehicle. Car dealerships are much more likely to take back a used vehicle. This is because a new car is no longer "new" as soon as you drive it off the lot. If the dealership takes back the car, they'll then need to sell it as a used vehicle, and they'll likely lose money on the transaction.

How long do you have to return a new car?

There isn't a clear-cut answer to how long you have to take back a new car. If your contract allows for a cooling-off period, it should state exactly how long that lasts — a few days to a week is common. However, if you're filing a lemon law claim, you will need to return the vehicle to the dealer to allow them an opportunity to fix it. Each state has guidelines about how long you have to file a claim after purchasing a car that you deem to be a lemon. This can stretch anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on where you live.

If you're planning to return a newly purchased car that you’ve yet to pick up from the dealership, contact the dealership and start the return process as soon as possible. You may have a much easier time if you request to cancel a sale before your paperwork has reached the DMV and you pick up the car. Learn more about trading in a car you just bought.

If you sign a contract for a car, can you get out of it?

When you sign a car dealer contract, how binding is it? Unfortunately, contracts are intended to be legally binding — by signing the contract, you agree to the terms stated within it. Most buyers who sign a car purchase agreement aren't easily able to get out of it, but there are a few possible exceptions.

Your lender doesn't approve the car loan

Some car dealers allow for something called a "yo-yo sale," in which they let you take the car home before you have approved financing. If your loan is denied, the dealer will likely void the contract and require that you return the car.

The vehicle fails inspection

You may be able to get out of a contract if a problem quickly arises with the car that wasn't disclosed to you before you signed the contract.

The salesperson wasn't honest with you

If the salesperson persuaded you to sign the contract by giving you false information, you might be able to get out of it. Schedule a meeting with the dealership manager, and if it escalates to that point, you could speak with a lawyer.

You're leasing the car

Cars leases are for a specific amount of time, which the contract lays out. Most dealerships allow customers to cancel a lease early — but note that this may incur a hefty penalty. Learn more about how to get out of a car lease.

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