Imagine this situation:
You find a car on a dealer’s lot after spending time online doing your research. You know exactly what you’re looking for and what price you’re willing to pay. Let’s just say the perfect car for you is a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta, and you happened to find one with just 40,000 miles on it. The dealer is reputable, the deal is fair, and you decide to pull the trigger.
You’re happily driving home to show your family and friends when a dash light blips on. The oil-pressure indicator is telling you there’s some kind of problem. Your heart sinks.
What do you do?
Here are your options:
- Turn around immediately and head straight back to the dealer.
- Continue home, wait a day or two, hope the problem goes away, and return to the dealer if/when it doesn’t.
- Assume you’re out of luck and kick yourself for a bad decision.
This kind of thing does happen, and when it does, you usually have some kind of recourse with the dealer, but only for a short period of time. Your best option is to head back at the first sign of trouble and attempt to have the issue addressed or even get out of the contract.
Here’s the real story of what happened with one particular Jetta.
A guy named Aaron bought the car, but before he got home the oil light came on. Rather than going back right away, Aaron waited 3 days before returning to ask the dealer to check out the problem. The dealer determined the problem was with the oil pump and assured him the car would be fixed.
At this point Aaron asked if he should consider taking advantage of the 3-day return policy or trust that the dealership would address the issue.
My advice: Get away from that car as soon as possible.
Of course the dealer wanted to comfort Aaron and downplay the problem to avoid taking the car back. But look at the facts here: The car was only a few years old, had just 40,000 miles on it, and had a problem with the oil pump—on the first day of Aaron’s ownership. That’s not a good sign as far as trouble-free ownership goes over the coming years. It’s possible the dealer hid or simply missed some vital information about the car, including a possible salvage title, previous repairs or an odometer rollback. It’s also possible that the problem was pure coincidence and the light was caused by a false reading from an improperly installed oil filter.
Aaron sat down with a sales manager, pleaded his case, said he’d lost trust in the car and that he was still within his contracted right to return it, which he ultimately did.
When buying a used car from a dealership, there is oftentimes a 3-day return policy written into the contract. If so, take advantage of it if you need it! For cars purchased as-is, be as thorough as possible checking it out and get a second opinion from a trusted mechanic before signing on the line.
Have you ever bought a car, then returned it?