How to Cancel a Deal After Signing All the Papers at a Dealer

by Sampson Quain
A contract to buy a new or used car offers limited return options.

Used or new-car purchases are common, but not all sales leave a buyer satisfied. After driving a car for a day or two, you may find that you don't like the way the vehicle handles or you may discover mechanical problems. Canceling a deal after you have signed the papers is not easy. Though some transactions include a three-day right to cancel or a right to rescind, this not a legal requirement for vehicle transactions, and is usually at the discretion of the seller.

Step 1

Review the fine print of the contract you signed. Look for the terms of return (if any), which may allow you to return the car within a 72-hour period. Most new car deals do not include a right to rescind, and some used car deals are considered "as is," meaning that as long as the car is legal and safe to operate no warranty is given and no return is allowed.

Step 2

Check with your state attorney general's office to find out whether a vehicle purchase law exists. Though there is no federal law forcing auto dealers to offer a right to rescind on a contract, some states have created laws to protect car-buying consumers.

Step 3

Call the dealer to explain why you want to cancel the deal. If there is a mechanical problem, if the car is a "lemon" or if the vehicle is not the one the dealer promised you, you have legal basis for the return. However, if there is no legal reason for you to cancel the deal, you must convince the sales manager to take the car back because you changed your mind and no longer feel the vehicle is the right fit.

Step 4

Tell the sales manager at the dealership that you will forfeit your deposit in exchange for him taking the car back. This gives him financial incentive to accept the car back but does not guarantee that he will.


  • Read the purchase contract carefully before signing the deal, so you understand the dealership's return policy.

    Returning the car is easier if you are willing to buy another vehicle that is a better fit for your style and taste.


  • In some cases, you may have to keep the car or risk being sued by the dealership for breach of contract if you take the car back.

About the Author

Sampson Quain is a screenwriter and filmmaker who began writing in 1996. He has sold feature and television scripts to a variety of studios and networks including Columbia, HBO, NBC, Paramount and Lionsgate. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Photo Credits

  • IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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