How to return a used car to the dealer

Updated March 23, 2017

When you purchased a used car from a dealer, both parties have certain rights and responsibilities after signing the paperwork for the purchase. If the car turns out to be a lemon, you may have the right to return the car to the dealer for a full refund. If you are not protected by lemon laws in your state, the dealer may still be able to offer you a full or partial refund depending on the terms of sale written in the contract.

Learn about lemon laws in your state. Every state has its own rules and regulations regarding "lemon laws" whereby a buyer is protected when he purchases a car that is damaged. You will need to contact the state's attorney general's office, or visit the attorney general's website, to find out if you are eligible for lemon law protection.

Review the details of your return policy. Go through all the paperwork and purchase contract in detail to confirm what rights you have now that you want to return the vehicle. You will need to have all original, signed paperwork in your possession to proceed with the return.

Confirm that the vehicle is in its original condition. Check the car for minor scratches, dents or other problems that may have occurred after you purchased it. If there are any visible problems or technical issues with the car, you may not have the same rights for returning the vehicle to the dealer.

Prepare to contact the dealer. Make copies of all contracts and paperwork for your records. You will need to take the original contract and paperwork back to the dealer to proceed with the return, but can protect yourself by having a copy of everything in your possession before giving away the originals.

Contact the dealer. Talk to the person from whom you purchased the car, and explain that you want to honour the used car return policy discussed during the purchase and/or outlined in your purchase contract. You may need to set up an appointment for the return.

Drive the car back to the dealer. Make sure the car is clean and in its original condition; take all of the original paperwork, your insurance card and any accessories that came with the car out of the car before you drive it to the dealer's office.

Sign the cancellation contract. The notice of cancellation must be provided by the dealer and signed with the date of the return. You will need to provide your contact information, and ensure that the contract includes details about the original purchase, the return, and deems you free of any responsibility for the vehicle under the original purchase agreement.


If the dealer refuses to honour the return policy listed in the original purchase contract, seek legal advice. Learn about lemon laws and car buyer's protection options before setting foot inside a dealer's office so you are well-prepared. Make sure you understand any restocking fees or return fees associated with your purchase before signing the purchase contract.


Ask the dealer what the return policy is on any warranties purchased at the time of sale; some dealers may not disclose whether you have rights for a refund on the warranty unless you ask. If the dealer lied about the car's condition to make the sale, contact an attorney.

Things You'll Need

  • Original contract with return policy
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About the Author

Sabah Karimi is a professional Web and print copywriter. She specializes in several niches including travel, fashion, beauty, health, fitness, lifestyle and small business. Karimi has an educational background in business administration and marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.