It's a bad feeling to drive your new car off the dealer's lot and realise you've made a mistake once you get it home. That bad feeling will quickly be compounded when you discover there is no easy way to return a new car to the dealer. You may be able to do it under certain circumstances, but it can be almost impossible if there is no problem with the car.
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Buy a car from a dealer or manufacturer offering a special deal with a return policy. Even though new car dealers are under no legal obligation to let you return a car once you finalise the purchase, some will do so as part of a special promotion. If you can find a dealer who is making this offer, pay careful attention to the length of time in which the car must be returned and any conditions, such as limits on the mileage and liability for damage. You may also be required to pay a restocking fee or other costs.
Ask the new car dealer to include a return clause in your contract or to allow you to try out the car for a day or two before finalising your purchase. Even if the dealer is not offering a special dealer, he may be willing to allow you a trial period. However, he is under no obligation to do so---he may refuse, particularly if you are purchasing a popular model.
Go through your state's Lemon Law process if you want to return your new car because of an ongoing problem. Lemon Laws won't force the dealer to take your car back immediately, but if you follow the correct process and the dealer is not able to solve the problem, he will eventually be required to take the car back. This process can take several months and requires good-faith attempts to fix the situation before a return.
Do a voluntary repossession. If you financed your new car purchase, you can arrange to turn your new car in to the lender. This should only be done if you are in desperate financial circumstances---you will probably owe more than your new car is worth unless you offer a substantial down payment. You will be liable for the difference between the loan amount and the amount your lender is able to recover by selling the vehicle. Also, the repossession will have a negative effect on your credit rating.
Tips and warnings
- If the ability to return your car to the dealer is important to you, consider purchasing a used vehicle from a place such as CarMax that offers a satisfaction guarantee. CarMax alows you to return a car within five days for any reason.
- Don't rely on verbal promises from anyone at a car dealership. If the salesperson, a manager or anyone else says you will be able to return your new car, make sure they put it in writing in the contract. Otherwise, the promise is worthless.
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