Any Recourse for Buyer’s Remorse?

void car purchase

When you go out and buy a new toaster today, you can return it tomorrow if you wake up and decide the toaster just wasn’t in your holiday budget. Aside from the hassle of locating the receipt and driving back to the store, you’ll get your money back quickly and easily.

Now let’s say you are in your 2001 truck and it doesn’t start right away when you want to go back to the store and return the toaster. When it does start, every rattle and clunky gear change as you drive makes you think you should get rid of the battle-worn old thing.

You stop at a dealer, just for information, but leave two hours later in a shiny new 2013 truck. You were taken by its smell inside, the new technology features and the incredible offer of a trade-in on your old rust-bucket.

You’re feeling great, go return your toaster, and drive home with the pride of a new vehicle.

Until morning. You wake up with a twist in your gut wondering what you did and how you’ll afford the monthly payments. You miss your old truck. You have a faint memory of hearing something about a 3-day return policy for cars, and you decide you’ll look into it.

But is it truly possible to return a new vehicle?

No. Well, maybe. But it’s not like returning a toaster.

Sometimes a dealer or automaker will run a promotion guaranteeing that buyers can return the car within a certain amount of time if they don’t like it. Sometimes they’ll say there is a 3-day return policy. But actually undoing the signed deal is rare, and legally the dealer has no obligation to allow the return.

I think that’s partly why the process of buying a new car is so time consuming. There’s plenty of time for second-guessing with so many papers to sign after going through the negotiation process and arriving at a mutually acceptable price.

Once the deal is done, the car and the financial obligations are legally yours. Unless you have some major grievance against the dealer, the car isn’t likely to be returned.

Then again, dealers do have the ability to unwind the deal and may be willing to help if you go in and calmly explain the situation.

The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse, of course, is to do the proper research and know exactly what you’re willing to spend, know how much the new car should cost and know how much you should get for a trade in.

Happy shopping!

Have you ever had buyer’s remorse after purchasing a new or used car?


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  1. That’s crazy. I’ve never had a reason to return a car, sounds like Randy actually got taken advantage of, good to hear the law was on his side! Lesson learned… don’t buy unless you’re truly ready. Wow.

  2. I can’t say so. I don’t buy big ticket items on impulse, and as cruel as it sounds, I think people who do so deserve what they get. I did make a mistake a few years ago in buying what I thought was a Brabus model Smartcar. Turns out I didn’t do enough homework on what constitutes a real Brabus model, and the dealer had misrepresented a regular Smart as a Brabus. Since I paid cash for the car (and with a personal check, too boot) I caught the mistake in time to stop payment on the check and return the car. The dealer was a very large multi-outlet/brand outfit that did everything they could to threaten anything from prosecution to lawsuits but they couldn’t explain away the substantial misrepresentation of the car, which turns out to be one of the few legitimate reasons to rescind a purchase contract. I bent over backwards to make sure the dealer wasn’t stuck with any costs like license plates and even gave them a reimbursement for the small number of miles I drove the car. In the end, they talked to their lawyers and found out they didn’t have a leg to stand on, and accepted the return and my settlement offer. One of the few times I’ve EVER heard of a consumer getting the better of car dealers, whom I consider to be a basically dishonest lot.

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