How to Return a Defective Used Car to the Dealership

Updated April 17, 2017

Purchasing a used car can be tricky. The risk of buying a lemon is always present, and you never know what to expect from your used car. However, if you purchase a defective used car from a dealership, you may be able to return it under certain conditions. Nevertheless, as a buyer, you should be aware that many used cars are sold "as is."

Call the dealership immediately when you discover a defect in your newly purchased used car. Or, if you are nearby when you discover the issue, stop in and let them see the problem themselves. By contacting them as soon as possible after discovering the problem, the possibility of them declaring that the defect is a result of wear-and-tear or abuse is lessened. If you can't get in touch with them immediately, stop driving the vehicle when you get it home. If possible, do not drive it again until you have spoken with them. Note the mileage when the defect was noticed.

Review all paperwork you signed when purchasing the vehicle and any other documents that pertain to your purchase. Often, warranty information is included in these documents. The documents should indicate the length of any available warranty and the conditions. Also, the mechanical parts warrantied should be specified. If the vehicle is not under warranty, most dealerships offer a 15-day or two-week warranty for any immediate or catastrophic mechanical failures, unless the vehicle is sold "as is."

Negotiate with the dealership if you have no warranty on your vehicle or it has just gone out of warranty. If they will not replace or repair it for free, they may agree to repair the problem at a discounted rate.

Stop payment on your check if the check hasn't yet cleared the bank. If the dealership refuses to work with you on any repairs or refuses to accept the returned vehicle, contact your bank and request a "Stop Payment" be placed on the check.

Contact an attorney. Some states have lemon laws or other laws that protect consumers from merchants. An attorney should be able to help you negotiate with the dealer.

Things You'll Need

  • Documents from purchase
  • Proof of defect
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About the Author

Vicki Wright, writing and editing professionally since 1996, has extensive business management, marketing and media experience. Wright has a Bachelor of Science in socio-poltical communication from Missouri State University and became certified as a leadership facilitator from the Kansas Leadership Center in 2010.