Is it Possible to Return a Car to the Dealership in California

Is it Possible to Return a Car to the Dealership in California?

If you’ve recently made a car purchase, you may have the right to return the car to the dealership under state and federal laws. With a new vehicle purchase, the buyer is entitled to a “cooling-off” period and the dealership can request the vehicle back if a lender can’t be found.

Contact a California Lemon Law Attorney today to learn more about your rights. Whether you want a dealership to take your vehicle back or it is being requested back, it’s important for you to know what you’re entitled to. We’ve helped thousands of clients fight the manufacturers and dealerships for a favorable outcome. See what compensation you may be able to get with a free Lemon Law Consultation.

In this guide, we cover how the cooling-off period affects new and used car purchases. We also look at what to do if the dealership can’t get an auto loan for your vehicle and requests that the new car be brought back.

What are California’s Car Return Regulations and Lemon Law?

What are California's Car Return Regulations and Lemon Law?

While California has a lot of laws protecting consumers, there are no regulations requiring a dealer to take back a vehicle after you buy it. As per California’s Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 – 11713.21, there are laws about what can be sold as a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, and you may have recourse if there’s been some fraud from dealer.

However, under California law, buyers can purchase a cooling-off period for used cars, allowing two days to change their minds. This coverage allows customers to return a car if they have buyer’s remorse afterward.

Additionally, if there’s any discrepancy in payment arrangements or charges, you may be able to return the vehicle and sue the dealership. There are further laws regarding lemon laws and defective vehicles that deal with problems that cannot be repaired while the car is still covered by a warranty.

In What Situations Can I Return My Car to the Dealership?

Sadly, many consumers believe that new vehicles can be returned within 24 hours if there’s remorse about the purchase, but that’s not true if the cooling-off period wasn’t purchased. No matter what the sales manager tells you, unless the cooling-off period is in the paperwork, you don’t have the right to return it.

Many people have often asked themselves if they are allowed to return their vehicle after they have purchased it. Buyers are allowed to purchase a “cooling-off” period when they purchase their vehicle. On the other hand, the dealership does not have to pay anything to get their cooling-off period. Just about every deal agreement in California incorporates fine print that allows a dealership to request the buyer to return the vehicle within ten days if they are unable to find a lender.

If a car you just bought is defective, there doesn’t need to be any time frame specified in the sales contract. Instead, defective vehicles fall under California lemon laws.

There’s also the option to sue the dealership if there’s been any misrepresentation or fraud. Whether paperwork for the auto loans is incorrect or the sales tax wasn’t figured correctly, you may have legal recourse.

What is the California’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights?

According to the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, new and used car dealers must follow certain standards to prevent fraud. Under these guidelines by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, all licensed dealers must provide an itemized list for any financial item included in the purchase price. This list includes warranties, insurance, and other fees. Buyers are also entitled to their credit report with an explanation of how it gets used.

What is a Cooling-Off Period?

What is a Cooling-Off Period?

California’s laws allow you to purchase a cooling-off period for a pre-owned vehicle that costs under $40,000. However, it’s only for two days, and you need to pay for it before you leave the dealership with the vehicle! If you choose not to purchase the cooling-off period, the dealership will make you sign paperwork confirming that you are opting out of the cooling-off period. The dealership salespersons are trained to tell you that once you leave, you will not be allowed to return the vehicle under any circumstance.

That is not necessarily true. Just because you did not purchase a cooling-off period, it does not mean that there is never a situation that will allow you to return your vehicle and get your money back. If the dealership did something incorrectly during the deal, you might be able to return your vehicle and get all your money back. Most types of incorrect and sometimes illegal activity from the dealership come in the form of misrepresentations or non-disclosures.

Misrepresentations often require the salesperson to take an active role in misleading buyers. Examples often include false advertisements of the vehicle’s price, saying the vehicle has features that it does not or tampering with the odometer. At times, dealerships may be even more overt with their misrepresentation by labeling a vehicle as certified-preowned or labeling it as a new vehicle when it’s used.

Non-disclosures occur when a dealership does not disclose certain things about a vehicle that would cause a buyer to look for another vehicle. Non-disclosures happen when the dealership does not tell you that the vehicle was previously in an accident, used as a rental, sustained hidden damage, or has its warranty expired.

Practically every illegal dealership practice may allow you to return your vehicle and get your money back. If you think that you have been a victim of illegal conduct by a dealership, contact The Lemon Pros and we can analyze your claim.

Can You Return a Financed Car Without Penalty?

If you purchased the contract cancellation option agreement, you may be able to return the vehicle, but there could be fees incurred. For example, the dealership may be able to charge a maximum restocking fee, whatever was agreed on.

After the cooling-off period, the car can also be returned through voluntary repossession, but this can hurt your credit score and add cancellation fees.

Can You Send a Car Back if It Is a Used Car?

The same regulations apply to a used car purchased through a dealership. Sadly, there are no protections for private party sales through California law.

What is The Process of Returning a New or Used Car to the Dealership?

What is The Process of Returning a New or Used Car to the Dealership?

There’s a legal process to return a car in California. As long as it is within the cooling-off period, you must notify the dealer of your intent to return and it must be brought in within that window. The car must arrive in the same condition and be under the mileage that’s required as per the agreement.

You must have all necessary documentation with you to return the vehicle, such as the loan contract showing the registration fees and other charges, the purchase agreement and any communications. If you don’t have these, the dealership is not legally obligated to take the vehicle back.

Once all of the paperwork is signed and the dealership regains possession of the car, they will also need to return to you the trade-in vehicle collected, if there was one.

If the dealership requires you to return the vehicle because of trouble sourcing a loan provider, you will need to respond promptly. Typically, the dealer will tell you when to bring back the vehicle and what information needs to come with you.

Dealership’s Right to Demand Return of the Vehicle

The standard California vehicle contract permits the dealership ten days to find a lender that will finance the loan of the vehicle. In the event that the dealership can’t find a lender, they must inform you that they have to void the agreement. If that happens, you’ll need to return the vehicle to the dealership.

When you return the vehicle to the dealership, they are required to return all of your money and return any vehicle you may have traded in. The dealership is not entitled to keep any of your money for mileage or anything else. In some cases, a dealership may attempt to say that it was your fault because you had bad credit.

You should be careful. The dealership will often push you to sign a new agreement with a higher down payment and higher monthly payments. The dealership tries to force you to sign a new agreement because they do not want to lose out on the sale. If you sign a new agreement, the dealership will have ten more days to find a new lender.

If the dealership tells you that you must sign a new agreement or else you’ll face a vehicle repossession on your credit, that is a lie and may be illegal.Dealerships regularly engage in “spot delivery,” where they sell a vehicle without the buyer first being approved for a loan. That’s the reason they insert fine print into the contract, which gives them the option to demand the return of the vehicle if they cannot find financing within ten days.

Once the ten days are up, the dealership cannot request that you return the vehicle unless you gave them incorrect information on your credit application. The dealership will try to do everything possible to get the vehicle back if they cannot find a lender because, after ten days, the dealership will have to finance the loan and become the lender. If you think the dealership has engaged in illegal conduct, contact us today to review your claim.

How Long Does Returning a Car Take?

Because you have limited time to return a car, if you have the appropriate agreement, the process itself isn’t going to take long. Once you contact the dealer and arrange a time, it’s simply a matter of taking the car back in and signing some paperwork. It may take less time than it did for you to purchase the car.

Restocking Fees and Other Potential Costs of Returning a Newly Purchased Car

Restocking Fees and Other Potential Costs of Returning a Newly Purchased Car

While you may be able to get a refund on the purchase price, there are other fees you will pay when returning a new car. As part of the contract cancellation option agreement, you likely signed to pay restocking fees and other administration fees to the dealership. While you won’t be responsible anymore for the monthly payment, there’s no getting around the other costs.

Additionally, if there’s excessive mileage or wear and tear to the vehicle, you may be liable for damages. For this reason, it may be helpful to have a qualified lawyer on your team to review the paperwork.

Car Buyer Obligations when Returning a Defective Vehicle?

As part of the contract cancellation option agreement, you likely signed that the vehicle would remain under a particular mileage and would not experience more than reasonable wear. By law, the dealership must allow for at least 250 miles. Because the car depreciates the second you take it off the lot, the dealership has the right to withhold some money for the use you got from the vehicle. Dealers can charge a fee for the option to cancel and an additional restocking fee. The option to cancel fees varies between $75 and 1% of the purchase price, depending on the purchase price. Additionally, restocking fees average between $175 and $500.

If you return the vehicle with any substantial defects or damage, the dealership may not be obligated to take the car back. If you are unsure of your rights, speaking to an attorney is best.

Alternatives to Returning a Car

Alternatives to Returning a Car

If you don’t have the return agreement or you realize the hassle it could be, there are other options. To start, you could trade in the vehicle at the dealership for another car. You could also visit another dealership if you prefer to work with someone else.

The next option would be to sell the vehicle through a private sale. Vehicles sold privately tend to earn more money, although there is also more work involved.

There’s also the option of taking legal action. If you don’t feel that the dealership is treating you fairly or is breaking the law, you can start by filing consumer complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Depending on the level of fraud, it may be worth getting the State Attorney General’s Office involved and filing a complaint form. A lawyer will be able to guide you in the right direction.


If you don’t want your new vehicle within the specified buyback time, you can have the dealer or manufacturer repurchase the car back from you. While this timeframe is limited to a couple of days, you have more time with any major defect that could lead to a lemon law claim. Our state specific laws allow for a lemon law buyback as long as the problem occurred within the first 18 months of ownership, or before the warranty expired, whichever comes first.

Contact a lemon car lawyer in California to ensure your rights are protected. We have helped numerous clients get out of the cooling-off period and return lemon cars with ease. Your free Lemon Law Consultation will reveal what you are entitled to.

The attorneys at the Lemon Pros have taken on some of the biggest dealerships and manufacturers. We can help with lemon law claims if there have been a reasonable number of repair attempts made or file civil disputes for your compensation.

Visit us today at our Lemon Law Attorney Practice in Beverly Hills.


Can I return a leased car?

Only if you have a cooling-off period agreement. Otherwise, when you entered into the sales contract, you agreed to keep the vehicle. However, if it is a defective vehicle, you have further rights through lemon laws that can provide consumers with compensation.

What if I purchased the car from a private seller?

There’s no cooling-off period applicable when purchasing from a private seller. Additionally, there may be stipulations from the new car dealer, such as having no option for recreational vehicles, off-highway vehicles, cars priced more than $40,000 or those for business or commercial use. The cooling-off contract will list a few exceptions, so be sure to read that carefully.

How does returning a car affect my credit score?

If you return a vehicle as part of a voluntary repossession, you are going to take a decent hit to the credit score. The auto loan provider files with the credit bureau to discourage the practice and to warn other companies that may want to give you auto loans in the future.

Call us today for a free consultation before time runs out to pursue your claim.

Phone: (800) 917-7147


Why Choose The Lemon Pros?

Our specialty is Lemon Law, that is why we only handle Lemon Law claims. When you hire us, our attorneys will do all the legal work for you, because we understand the stress that consumers like you deal with when they have a Lemon.

We have an excellent success record in representing consumers just like you! We are award winning attorneys, but that has not gotten to our heads. We are attorneys who care and give personalized attention to each and every client, our attorneys directly handle your claim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to Call Us!