You are really going to do it: you’ve done your research, you’ve checked the websites, you’ve located the exact vehicle, and you’ve even gone so far as to secure your financing. Today is the day you are going to buy your new car. As you settle into the chair across from your salesman, and steel yourself for the 4-hour ordeal that lies ahead, you go through that mental checklist. You were even prepared to hear your salesman say, after numerous trips back and forth between his desk and the sales manager’s tower, “my manager is going to kill me for doing this deal.” You finally sign on the dotted line and drive your new baby home.

The next morning, as you look out your window at the gleaming assemblage of steel, plastic, rubber and aluminum in your driveway, you feel pangs of anxiety in your stomach. Maybe you selected the wrong color which now clashes with the light blue paint on the side of your home. Whether from an actual illness or possibly a life event, you feel the need to return the vehicle to the dealership. But can you?

Generally, no.

Typically, when you sign on the dotted line, it’s with the understanding that all sales are final. In the case of the mismatched color, and the fact that you have possibly put less than 100 miles onto the new car, a dealer might be willing to exchange it for a more attractive hue, minus a “restocking fee” for the inconvenience. He still gets to count the car as a sale, and you get to take home the color that better suits your style, all in the interest of good customer service.

But what about buyer’s remorse? Unfortunately, buying a car is not like going to your local big box warehouse which usually has extremely liberal return policies. Other factors are already in play here, which may include documents that are on their way to the Department of Motor Vehicles, banking instruments that are headed to the various finance companies, and your trade in that may already be on its way to the auto auction. Ultimately, the answer will likely turn out to be no. If, after signing the papers and driving the new car home, you decide that you still do not want it, you could always sell it on the open market, hoping to get whatever it will take to satisfy your previously negotiated sale price. And then you will likely have to buy another car to take the place of your recently departed trade in.

And contrary to any popular opinions, there is no Federal “cooling off” period in which you can return the car for a full refund.

An exception to the rule.

Actually, more of an accommodation. States all have their own “Lemon laws” that can protect consumers in the case of a faulty vehicle, appliance, or product. In the case of an automobile, it is not always a quick fix. A dealership service department will try to fix the problem to your satisfaction. If your new car needs to make return visits to fix the same problem over and over again, you would likely qualify for protection under the lemon law rule.

Act human.

All dealers would like to reach a satisfactory conclusion for their customers. They want to have more ratings stars for being “good guys” rather than gaining a reputation for being “tough to deal with.” Start by contacting your salesman to tell him of your situation. Perhaps you “overbought” (buying too much car for your budget), or some other factor. Catch them on a good day, and chances are you will find a sympathetic ear willing to put you into something more affordable. It’s a win-win for all parties this way, with the dealership being able to maintain a sale, and you being able to drive away in a vehicle that you can afford.


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