You’re a financially responsible individual. You know you’re ready to purchase a new vehicle and have done your research, but have you heard of the buyer’s remorse laws? You’ve looked on the websites of nearby dealerships and have searched for the best deals. Once you’ve selected your car of choice, you make a trip out to the dealer to take a test drive or two. You and your significant other have had long and serious discussions about whether this car is right for your lifestyle and if you can afford it. The decision has been made; the next day, you go back to the dealership to make the deal. But, how can you be certain that this is the car for you?
Once you decide to purchase the car, something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you feel uncomfortable with the price you agreed to. Maybe your car payments will be too high and you suddenly aren’t sure if you want the additional costs to be a part of your monthly budget. Maybe your insurance premium isn’t as cheap as what you once had. Or, maybe the car seems to be having problems as soon as you drive it off the lot. Whatever the case may be, you are having buyer’s remorse.
The following is a real-life example of buyer’s remorse. It is a common problem, which will hopefully never happen to you. However, you should be prepared, should you find yourself in a similar position.
A woman who had been having difficulties with her old vehicle was at the car repair shop again. This time, she spent over $1,500 to fix the problem. She didn’t mind because she loved her car, but she knew it was time for a new one. While waiting for her vehicle to be fixed, she walked over to the car dealership and began to look around. She found a car she liked and decided to go for a test drive. Curiosity turned into a sudden and unexpected excitement over the possibility of owning a newer car with fewer problems. That day, she purchased the newer used car.
After she drove it home, she realized her mistake. She hadn’t done her research and felt as though she had paid too much for the vehicle. She also noticed dents in the car caused by hail, something she hadn’t noticed in her excitement of finding a new car. Unfortunately for her, the car dealership would not let her return the vehicle for a refund. She was stuck.
According to Gary Eisenstein of BetterAutoBuying.com, “Car buying is largely an emotion driven experience for most of us whether we are aware of it or not. Unfortunately, too many people fall prey to their emotions and impulsively make poor buying decisions, falling in love at first sight with the wrong vehicles. Some careful deliberation can help you select the right vehicle and prevent regret.”
Reasons to Return a Car
There are many reasons why you may want to return a car, including price, mechanical problems, choosing the wrong type of car and pressure from the salesman. The question becomes whether this is a legitimate reason for the car dealership to take your car back. Below are a list of buyers remorse laws and procedures. Be sure to do your research before immediately going back to the dealership and complaining.
The Cooling-Off Rule
The federal government has what’s called the “cooling-off rule“. The purpose of the buyers remorse law is to protect consumers from high-pressure sales situations. Unfortunately, this does not include protection from automobile sales. Signing the purchasing agreement or contract when purchasing a car essentially flips the protection to the dealer. The law is now on their side and not on yours.
Another part of the hesitation on the part of the car dealer to refuse a return and refund is the complex web of organizations involved in the transaction. At face value, it may only seem like an exchange between you and the car salesman, but there is much more to it than that, and, consequently, a lot of paper work and backtracking that needs to be done. Below is a list of individuals and associations who are part of the process:
- Car dealership staff who were involved in the sale and received a commission
- DMV, which has paperwork on vehicle title and licensing
- Bank, which provided the loan to finance the car
- Insurance company, which filed paperwork for the car to be insured as soon as it was purchased
- Government agencies involved in the handling of car sales tax
Exception to the Rule: No-Risk Return Offers
Car dealers are aware of buyer’s remorse and know the pressures you may feel when deciding to make such a big purchase. Unlike buying a new pair of shoes, which you may do several times a year, buying a car is a big purchase that most people do not enter into lightly. For this reason, dealers may occasionally offer no-risk return deals.
In a no-risk, no-hassle return offer, the dealership will allow you a set number of days and miles driven in which to make up your mind. If you change your mind, the limitations are usually set for less than a week and under 500 miles. Sometimes, there is a catch, like a “restocking fee” or enrollment in their dealership program. The dealer usually requires that the car be in the same condition as when you purchased it. That means no accidents and only reasonable wear and tear.
The federal government has other means to protecting the consumer, if you have purchased a car and don’t qualify for the cooling-off rule. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, or “lemon” law, your purchase of any item over $25 that included an “express written warranty” is protected. Each state has their own lemon laws which are similar to the federal act. According to Edmunds.com, “In general, if the vehicle has had a “reasonable” number of repair attempts for the same defect within the warranty period, and the defect has not been repaired, the vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon.’”
Of course, there are always stipulations that may prevent your car from being classified as a lemon, including what your state considers to be a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle, and if it is a known safety defect or recall by the manufacturer. Also, if your car did not come with a warranty, like many used cars, then it also won’t qualify.
Once you have followed the correct procedures for proving that your car is a lemon, you qualify for a refund, or “comparable replacement vehicle.”
Other Acceptable Reasons
There may be other instances in which a car dealership will allow you to return a vehicle. There may be extenuating circumstances that they will consider, but it is up to the individual dealership to make the decision. For example, the salesperson may have misrepresented the car’s performance and functions or made some promises that they can’t keep. The salesperson will not be the one making the final decision on whether or not to accept your reason as a valid excuse for returning the car. While your initial conversations may be with the salesperson, be prepared to speak with the management.
Buyer’s remorse is a serious issue and can involve high stress, anxiety, and anger. Be sure to investigate your options before going back to the dealership. There are many resources available to you, including:
Other Enhanced Insurance articles related to car care and purchasing:
Enhanced Insurance is not written by attorneys. If you’re looking for legal advice, you need to contact a lawyer. Further, insurance practices and forms change constantly and are varied from state to state. For definitive answers in your area, contact a local agent.
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