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Can You Rescind an Auto Purchase

How long do I have after a purchase to return the vehicle because of breach of contract?

How long do I have after a purchase to return the vehicle because of breach of contract?

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(13 Votes) | Find Learn Save
In this article:
  • Learn about the common misconception of a "cooling off period."
  • Find what conditions a car sale contract can be voided.

Generally speaking, there is no time period during which you can return a vehicle and cancel the sale. The existence of this right, called a “cooling-off period,” is a common misconception among American consumers. Once you sign a purchase contract with a dealer, you are basically stuck with the car, unless you can prove that the dealer intentionally misled you about some aspect of the contract or vehicle, in which case you can sue the dealership and finance company in an attempt to have the contract voided. In real life, it is almost impossible to prove that a car salesman lied to you about a vehicle, as you likely have no written evidence to back up your claim. This type of case is basically your word against the dealer’s word, which makes proving wrongdoing very difficult. In addition, purchase agreements are usually written to favor the dealer, so establishing that the dealer breached the contract will likely be an uphill battle.

You will almost never find a dealership who will willing accept the return of a vehicle and the cancelation of a sale because the buyer alleges breach of contract or buyer’s remorse. If you believe that the dealership intentionally misled you about the terms of the contract or the condition of the vehicle, you can sue to have the contract voided, but proving these allegations will be difficult. I encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney if you feel that you may have a case against a dealership for breach of contract. An attorney licensed in your state will be able to advise you of the strengths and weaknesses of you case, and whether filing a lawsuit is appropriate.

I hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



(13 Votes)
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  • 35x35
    May, 2020

    Just purchased a 2017 vehicle, with a 4,000 downpayment. We were told there was a special deal where we would receive free maintenance for the first year, free oil change and tire rotation. Looking through itemized page which we were not shown during purchase shows a $875 prepaid maintenance charge. The 4,000 check has not been cashed if I cancel will this force financing to fall through. I want the car, but do not want charge. I am afraid if I wait and don't cancel check I will be stuck. But not sure if I could get in trouble for canceling.

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2020

      Pat, I can't give legal advice, as only an attorney can properly do so. Here are a couple of thoughts, with the understanding that I am not giving you legal advice.

      I don't think not cashing the check is going to void the deal, necessarily, as you agreed to the terms of the agreement. A first step is to speak to the manager on the lot and say that they didn't disclose to you the terms and had you known, you would not have purchased the vehicle. See what they say.

      Speak with an attorney about canceling the check before you do, as it could be deemed bad faith on your part, if you do this unilaterally.

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2020

    I purchased a new vehicle with the understanding I was purchasing GAP at the time of the sale. The cost of GAP is listed in my purchase agreement and I have the GAP contract as well. I received a letter saying that the GAP I purchased was could not be put into effect into their system. If they do not honor the GAP I purchased when I purchased the vehicle, would that be a breach of contract on the dealerships behalf? Would that give me grounds to return the vehicle and void the sales contract? Would the dealership then have to refund my down payment?

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2020

      Your questions are all reasonable and clear, so I regret that I can't answer them. One reason is that you are asking for legal advice and only a lawyer can properly give legal advice. 

      Another reason is that there are a number of facts that are not clear from your question. Was the GAP something the finance company told you that you need to get? Who gave you the understanding that you were getting the GAP coverage?

      I recommend you speak with the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection to see if you get any answer or to a lawyer who can examine your paperwork and, with an understanding of your applicable state laws, offer a clear answer.


  • CM
    Apr, 2017
    Upon finalizing a lease of a new car, we opted to purchase (or add via the Due Bill) an additional alarm system. We opted to add this due to the fact the finance lady said it would save us money on our car insurance (friday evening). Monday morning we called our insurance to add the car and inquired on the additional savings as mentioned by the dealership...they said there are no additional savings as we already have an Anti Theft discount. Question is: Can we rescind this Due Bill purchase of the "extra alarm?" Alarm has not been installed by the dealer and dealer has not called to set up an appointment (monday)
    • 35x35
      Apr, 2017

      The first step is to speak with the dealer about voiding the purchase of the alarm system, but keep in mind that there is an additional benefit to the alarm aside from the discount that did not materialize. It protects your car.

      However, if you feel you were given false information that caused you to make a purchase you would not have made otherwise, then explain that to the dealer. Perhaps they will agree. If not, go on their Facebook page and Twitter account and request that they assist you. If still no assistance is forthcoming, complain to the Consumer Protection Division of your state's Office of the Attorney General.

  • AG
    Dec, 2014

    Great article. Thanks for the info, it’s easy to understand. 

  • NB
    Germantown, MD,
    May, 2014
    I bought a Honda EX in Maryland over the weekend. I am not happy with my purchase.

    1. I miss having leather seats so I should have gone with a EX-L.
    2. The dealership at first told me at the beginning of the discussion i can get a 0% loan. After spending 5 hrs at the dealership i ended up leaving with a 4.46% interest.
    3. I found out now that their add-on extended warranty is more expensive than other dealers.

    I really want to return the car and go with another dealer. I went back today to speak with someone but they were too busy to talk to me and request i come back the following day. I feel like I'm getting the round around from them and don't want to do business with them at all. My questions are:

    1. Do I have to give them the title for the car I traded in? If they are being difficult i want to do the same thing.
    2. When processing my loan she did not ask for my green card or passport? They only have my license. When i went in today she asked me for it. I told her i want to return the car and Im not giving any documents.
    3. By not providing the documents will they have to take back the car?
    4. How would this all impact my credit if i do this?
    • BA
      Jun, 2014
      Unfortunately, unscrupulous car dealers drag out car purchases in such a manner that the customer is so worn-down by the ordeal they buy anything to free themselves from the showroom. Your buyer's remorse is common.

      For the benefit of other readers, know exactly what you want and how much you can afford before you leave your home. Also, your first stop should be your bank or credit union to learn how large of a loan you qualify for, and the interest rate you qualify for. The buying process will be much more satisfying if you know exactly what you can afford and the model you want before you step foot in the first dealership.

      On to your questions, Nicky:

      1. There is no cooling-off period when you buy a car. If you signed a contract to trade-in your old car, you are in breach of contract if you fail to deliver the vehicle as promised.
      2. I do not understand why the dealership's finance department would require your green card. Your state-issued driver license should be sufficient to establish your identity. I imagine the finance company is asking for the green card because you can't provide a valid Social Security number.
      3. As mentioned, you are in breach of contract if you do not deliver the vehicle with a clear title as promised. I am guessing if you were residing in the US illegally (without a visa or green card), the finance company would not approve you for loan. If you were an illegal resident, then my guess is it would require you to surrender the vehicle as a voluntary repossession.
      4. If leather seats and your credit score are your highest priorities, then trade-in the vehicle and buy the model with the leather seats. This is a costly option, but then you get the model you want with no impact on your credit score.

      A voluntary repo will cause the most damage to your credit score, and will ultimately cost you the most in fees. Try to avoid a repossession.

      Our advice? Make nice with the dealer, and try to negotiate the best possible deal you can when you trade in the car with cloth seats for the model with leather seats.