How to Return a Used Car to the Dealer

Returning a use card to the dealer isn't as simple as showing your receipt and asking for your money back, like products you buy at a discount store. Convincing the dealer to reverse the sale requires understanding your state's laws about the legal reasons for returning used cars, and then calmly approaching the dealership about why it's imperative to do so.

Return Option Insurance

Before you buy the car, see if return option insurance is available. For instance, in California, the state requires dealers to offer this insurance, which is good for two days on cars that cost less than $40,000, according to Consumer Action. This insurance allows you to return the car to the dealer for any reason as long as you drove it less than 250 miles and bring the car back in the same condition as when you bought it. Bring the original paperwork when you return the car, including the contract and any financing paperwork. While the dealership has the right to charge a restocking fee, it can do so only after it subtracts the cost of the return option insurance.

Lemon Law

Some states have lemon laws in place that allow you to return a used car that has serious defects and is still under factory warranty. If the dealership has tried to fix the problem multiple times without success, lemon laws typically allow you to return the car to the dealership for a full refund. The exact process for doing so varies by state.

In Washington, if you discover a major problem, you must first send a notice to the dealership to alert it to the problem. The dealership may be unwilling to take the car back, so you must be prepared to take the business to court or to arbitration. Meanwhile, in New York, the vehicle must meet stringent requirements to qualify for the the lemon law. For instance, lemon laws may apply only as long as the vehicle is used for personal purposes, has less than 100,000 miles on the odometer and was purchased for more than $1,500.

Buyer's Remorse

Dealerships are not required to take your used car back just because you've changed your mind, says Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agents, a company that represents independent insurance business owners. That's where negotiating skills come in handy in explaining why you're not happy with your purchase, says senior consumer advice editor Philip Reed. These reasons can vary from realizing you're in over your head on the monthly payments, feeling the salesman was overly aggressive or the bank won't approve the needed financing at an acceptable rate. Bring documentation to back up your complaint.

Speak calmly and tell the manager you need help resolving the issue. Otherwise, your next step may involve going to court to attempt to return the car and get your money back.


About the Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.