Buying a car is a significant financial commitment and a decision that can evoke strong emotions.

Sometimes, after the excitement of a new purchase wears off, a sense of regret, known as buyer’s remorse, can set in.

This feeling can lead new car owners to wonder if they can return their recently purchased vehicle.


In this detailed guide, we’ll explore the possibilities of returning a car, the legal aspects, and steps to take if you find yourself experiencing buyer’s remorse.

1. Understanding Buyer’s Remorse

What is Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s remorse is the feeling of regret or anxiety after making a significant purchase.

It can occur for various reasons, including financial concerns, dissatisfaction with the product, or the realization that the purchase doesn’t meet one’s needs or expectations.


Common Causes

Common causes of buyer’s remorse when purchasing a car include:

  • Financial Stress: Realizing the monthly payments, insurance, and maintenance costs are higher than anticipated.
  • Performance Issues: Discovering the car doesn’t perform as expected.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Realizing the car doesn’t suit your lifestyle or needs.
  • Better Offers: Finding a better deal after the purchase.

2. Returning a Car: Legal Aspects

Cooling-Off Period

Many consumers mistakenly believe there is a universal “cooling-off” period allowing them to return a car within a few days of purchase.

In reality, the Federal Trade Commission’s cooling-off rule does not apply to vehicle purchases.

The rule is intended for sales made at locations other than the seller’s usual place of business, like door-to-door sales.

Dealer Return Policies

Some dealers offer return policies as part of their sales agreement. These policies, sometimes called “buyer’s remorse policies,” vary by dealer and can range from a few days to a week.

It’s crucial to review the terms and conditions of these policies before making a purchase.

State Laws

A few states have specific laws regarding vehicle returns. For example, California’s “Lemon Law” provides some protection if the car has significant defects, and some states offer a short return window for used cars.

Check your state’s specific regulations for more information.

→ SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Buying a New Car

3. Steps to Take if You Have Buyer’s Remorse

Review Your Contract

Carefully review the sales contract you signed. Look for any clauses related to returns, exchanges, or cancellations. This will help you understand your rights and the dealer’s policies.

Contact the Dealer

If you’re within any return period specified by the dealer, contact them immediately.

Explain your situation and ask about your options for returning or exchanging the vehicle. Be polite and clear about your reasons for wanting to return the car.

Explore Trade-In Options

If returning the car isn’t possible, consider trading it in for another vehicle that better suits your needs.

While you may incur some financial loss, this option can alleviate buyer’s remorse by getting you into a car you’re happier with.

Sell the Car

Selling the car privately is another option if you cannot return it. While this can be time-consuming and you may not recoup the full purchase price, it can help you get out of a vehicle you’re unhappy with.

4. Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

Do Thorough Research

To avoid buyer’s remorse, conduct thorough research before purchasing a car. Compare different models, read reviews, and consider your needs and budget carefully. Visit multiple dealerships and test drive several vehicles.

Set a Budget

Determine a realistic budget for your car purchase, including the down payment, monthly payments, insurance, and maintenance costs.

Stick to your budget to avoid financial stress after the purchase.

Take Your Time

Don’t rush the decision-making process. Take your time to evaluate all your options and ensure you’re making the right choice.

Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision.

Tips to Avoid Buyer's Remorse With Your New Car - ABC News

Inspect the Vehicle

Whether buying new or used, thoroughly inspect the vehicle before making a purchase. For used cars, consider having a trusted mechanic conduct a pre-purchase inspection to identify any potential issues.

5. Understanding Your Financing

Loan Terms

Understand the terms of your auto loan, including the interest rate, monthly payments, and the total cost of the loan. Ensure the loan is affordable and fits within your budget.

Financing Options

Explore different financing options, including dealer financing, bank loans, and credit unions. Compare interest rates and terms to find the best deal for your situation.

Lease vs. Buy

Consider whether leasing or buying is the better option for you. Leasing can offer lower monthly payments and the flexibility to drive a new car every few years, while buying allows you to build equity and eventually own the car outright.

6. Legal Recourse for Defective Cars

Lemon Laws

If you discover significant defects after purchasing a car, lemon laws may provide recourse. These laws vary by state but generally require the manufacturer to repair, replace, or refund a defective vehicle within a certain timeframe.

Warranty Claims

If your car is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer or dealer to address any defects or issues. Warranties can cover repairs and replacements for specific problems.

Legal Action

As a last resort, consider seeking legal advice if you believe the dealer engaged in fraudulent practices or misrepresented the vehicle. Legal action can be costly and time-consuming, but it may be necessary to resolve serious issues.


Experiencing buyer’s remorse after purchasing a car is not uncommon. While returning a car can be challenging, understanding your options and taking proactive steps can help mitigate regret and financial stress.

Thorough research, careful budgeting, and understanding your legal rights are essential to making an informed decision and avoiding buyer’s remorse.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure a more satisfying and confident car-buying experience.

→ SEE ALSO: Pros and Cons of Leasing vs. Buying a Car