How to get back a cash deposit when buying a car

Updated November 22, 2016

Car dealerships will not keep your deposit if you purchase a vehicle, but if you want your money back from a dealer or private seller after deciding you no longer want the car, you should read over your receipt to see your rights. Have the seller write "deposit refundable if buyer changes mind" on your receipt, or pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charge, if necessary, with your credit card company. You need to know how you can get your deposit back when shopping for a car.

Reduce your purchase price by the deposit amount if you intend to buy the car you left a deposit for. If you are worried about the seller not returning your deposit amount, just subtract it from the purchase price. If you're buying from a dealership that provides your loan, refuse to sign your contract until the loan amount reflects your deposit refund.

Leave your deposit on a credit card. If the dealership won't refund it, call your credit card company to dispute the charge. If you left the deposit by check and it hasn't been cashed yet, stop payment on the check by calling your bank.

Do not leave a deposit without obtaining a receipt, especially if you're leaving cash. Ask the seller to state that the deposit is refundable. If he refuses, do not leave the deposit.

Ask to speak to a sales manager before taking further action if a dealership will not refund the deposit. Tell the sales manager you will contact your state's Better Business Bureau division. Also say that you will put in a complaint with the division of your state's motor vehicles department that handles dealerships. You most likely will receive your deposit back if you know whom to send your complaint to.

Call your state's motor vehicles department if a dealership does not return your deposit, and make sure the dealer knows you've done this. Because the state regulates dealers, making a phone call asking for an investigation can motivate or require a dealership to refund your deposit immediately.

Check with your county's small claims court to take further action if none of the previous methods were effective. However, if the dealership ordered a vehicle for you, or you drove it during the time your sale was pending but changed your mind, the dealer may be legally entitled to keep your deposit or a portion of it.

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About the Author

Shanan Miller covers automotive and insurance topics for various websites, blogs and dealerships. She has extensive automotive experience, including auction, insurance, finance, service and management positions. Miller has worked for dealer sales events around the United States and now stays local as a sales and leasing consultant for a dealership.