There’s no federal law that lets you return a car within a few days of purchase

Dealers aren’t required by federal law to let you return a car. But there might be some other protections that could apply to your purchase.
Credit: Rido -

Everyone has suffered from buyer’s remorse at one time or another. And for expensive items like a car, it can be especially easy to second-guess a recent purchase. 

Roger asked VERIFY if you can return a new car within a few days of purchase.


Does federal law allow you to return a car within a few days of purchase?



This is false.

No, federal law does not allow you to return a car within a few days of purchase.

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There are no federal or state laws that guarantee a consumer experiencing buyer’s remorse can cancel a purchase of or return a new car, according to Carfax, a vehicle history report database. And federal law doesn’t protect a consumer’s right to cancel the purchase of any car, new or used, says Autotrader, an online car buying guide.

The one major exception is if the car is a “lemon,” which is when a car has a significant malfunction or defect that makes it unsafe to drive, Progressive Insurance says. In that case, the federal government and all 50 states allow a car buyer to return a new car for a refund or replacement if it’s still under warranty and meets certain criteria.

But that process typically takes longer than a few days. That’s because the manufacturer is obligated to make a reasonable number of attempts to repair the car before it can be considered a lemon, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

So if you buy a brand new car and its engine quits two weeks later, and continues to fail after several repairs, then it’s likely a lemon and you may be allowed to return your vehicle and get a replacement.

Federal lemon law generally allows you to file a claim within four years of the purchase of a new vehicle, Krohn & Moss Consumer Law Center, a law firm that specializes in lemon law, says. While federal law offers broad protections, some states have even more consumer-friendly laws.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does have a “cooling-off” rule that allows consumers to cancel and return certain purchases within three days. This rule mostly applies to purchases made when the seller comes to you, like those made from a door-to-door salesperson. The FTC rule doesn’t apply to motor vehicles.

When it comes to used cars, the FTC says some states may require more flexible return policies. For example, used car dealers in California must offer customers the option to purchase an add-on option to be able to return their car within two days. But if a customer doesn’t buy that cancellation option when they sign their contract, the dealer doesn’t have to accept the return.

But in most states, Carfax says, the car dealer gets to decide if they will accept car returns regardless if the car is new or used. That means any ability to return a car would likely have to be written out in the sales contract you sign. Carmax, Carvana and Vroom are three nationwide dealers that accept limited returns within a certain period of time, Carfax says.

Dealers are less inclined to offer return policies for new cars because they would lose money, according to Autotrader. 

A car is no longer considered “new” once the buyer’s name appears on the car’s registration, which happens after the contract is signed and money changes hands, Autotrader says. Cars immediately lose significant value as soon as they stop being “new.”

“The immediate car depreciation plays a vital role in consumer protection laws surrounding auto sales,” Autotrader says. “If dealers resell returned vehicles, they would have to sell them as used and most likely at a loss over a new model.”

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