Unhappy About a Car Purchase? You Have Few Options

October 23, 2012
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Buying a new car is a big decision, and some people, for one reason or another, have regrets soon afterward.

While the dealer usually holds all the cards if a purchaser attempts to return a new or used car, there may be ways to unwind the deal, reports Edmunds.com, the premier resource for automotive information.

In some cases it might be good business practice for dealerships to provide customer satisfaction by simply agreeing to take the unwanted car back, but Edmunds.com reminds car buyers that dealers are generally under no legal obligation to do so.

“Your legal rights can be summed up in the one sentence that’s posted on the wall of many dealership sales offices: ‘There is no cooling-off period,’” warns Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed. “If you signed the sales contract, you own the car, and the law is on the side of the dealer.”

There are aggressive actions – such as lawsuits and filing grievances with consumer protection agencies – for buyers who feel wronged. But before taking those measures, there are ways to appeal to a dealer, and in some situations it makes sense for the dealer to accept the returned vehicle. Other times, there may be ways to fix the problems without fully unwinding the deal. Edmunds.com identifies a few common situations and suggests strategies for buyers to reach a satisfactory outcome:

1)      “I Bought a Lemon!” It takes time, and repeated visits to the service bay, to legally establish that a car is a lemon. (That designation, which is applied to a vehicle that continues to have a defect or defects that substantially impair its use, value, or safety, legally entitles its owner to a refund or “comparable replacement vehicle.”) In situations where there is a clear problem with a new or newly purchased used car, the dealer will probably fix it under warranty. If no warranty applies (or exists, as with many used cars), you can still lobby to have the car fixed. By doing so, the dealer can build good will and attract repeat customers.

2)      “I Got Ripped Off!” If the salesman didn’t keep his promises, or you suspect fraud, you might have a case. But don’t make wild, unfounded accusations. Instead, use any documentation you can find. If you feel you paid way too much, reference Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) pricing as proof of an acceptable price. But consumers who cry foul on price are at least partially to blame. Preparation and research are essential for such a large purchase and it’s important to do your homework before striking a deal.

3)      “I Have Buyer’s Remorse.” Your only recourse is to plead your case. You can say that you have discovered that you don’t like the car or that it will stretch your budget and put you in dire financial straits. Make your case with the salesperson first as a courtesy, but be prepared to contact someone higher up the dealership food chain, such as the sales manager, general manager or owner. Ultimately, it’s in the dealer’s sole discretion to undo the purchase. Another option may be to work out a deal on a smaller or more affordable car.

Of course, the best way to avoid a tense dispute with the dealer is to take the appropriate steps throughout the shopping and buying process.

“You can avoid the ‘unwind bind’ altogether simply by being a prepared buyer who knows a car’s pricing, reads the sales contract carefully and fully inspects a new or used car before taking ownership,” says Reed.

For more information on returning a recent car purchase, please visit http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/unwinding-the-deal-what-are-your-rights.html.

In rare instances, an unscrupulous seller may demand that you return a new car purchase if it could not deliver the financing terms it promised. Edmunds.com identifies these “Yo-Yo Financing” scams and advises car buyers on their rights at http://www.edmunds.com/car-loan/dont-fall-prey-to-spot-delivery-scams-and-yo-yo-financing.html.

About Edmunds.com, Inc.
At Edmunds.com, we’re committed to helping people find the car that meets their every need. Almost 18 million visitors use our research, shopping and buying tools every month to make an easy and informed decision on their next new or used car. Whether you’re at the dealership or on the go, we’re always by your side with our five-star Edmunds.com  iPhone and iPad apps and our Edmunds.com Android App. Our comprehensive car reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories offer a friendly and authentic approach to the automotive world. We’re based in Santa Monica, Calif., but you can connect with us from anywhere by following @Edmunds on Twitter or by becoming a fan of Edmunds.com on Facebook.

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3 Responses to Unhappy About a Car Purchase? You Have Few Options

  1. Jesse Boeglin on July 23, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I just bought a Nissan Juke from Girard Nissan and they were very pushy that I had to buy the car that day even though I was only there to look over the cars because I got a flyer in the mail that said I had was like a scratch ticket and in made it seam like I won something. When I got there they made no reference to the flyer and kept trying to put me into a car that day I kept telling them I would like to go home a do some research but they told me I was only able to buy it that day. When I first got there they made me sign off some documents saying if i found a car i like i would be willing to buy it that day and when i signed them I said I really wasn’t planning to buy anything that day they told me it didn’t mean I had to so I signed them. I kept telling them i wanted to do some research because I had not even heard of the car before I got got there so they printed out pricing that they said the bank using to get the values of cars which listed the car as valued at $19,800. I finally got them to come down to $17,700 but today I did some research and found they are selling as low as $14,000. Also they told me the car hold it’s value as well as a toyota tacoma which I later found out couldn’t be more of a lie is there anything I can do? Please help. Thanks, Jesse Boeglin

  2. Penny Fleck on March 12, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    I bought a used car and only drive it 4.5 days. On 2/23/17 i took used car off the lot and on 2/25/17 the car was burning through oil. On 2/27/17 when they opened it went back in because of engine issues. It was there till 310/17. 2 days later i had battery and alternator light come on. Can I get a full refund for this car? Purchased at used car dealer in Connecticut.

    • Penny Fleck on March 12, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      The car is going back in again on 3/13/17.





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