Can a Dealership Take a Car Back After a Month if I Don't Like it?

What happens when you get a serious case of buyer's remorse with a car? We'll explain your options.


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The excitement has worn off—that shiny new or used car just isn't a good match for you. Now you're left wondering: can a dealership take a car back after a month?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is almost always no. That said, some dealerships do offer return policies, but it may be worth taking a few precautions earlier in your car-buying process to help avoid this cumbersome step.

What are car dealership return policies?

Return policies vary greatly by dealership, if they offer one at all. In most states, car dealerships are not required to take back new or used vehicles after they're sold.

Legally, a new car cannot be returned unless it is proven to be defective after repeated attempts to perform a repair. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires that automakers clearly spell out warranty details, though so-called "lemon laws" vary from state to state. However, a car is rarely a "lemon" within the first month as problems tend to take longer than that to manifest. Either way, attempting to return a car that is defective means convincing the automaker to buy it back, not the dealership.

If you're looking to get your money back on a new vehicle simply because it is not a good fit for you, odds are you're out of luck unless the dealership happens to offer a return policy — and these policies are rare. Nonetheless, some major dealerships do offer return policies on used cars. Autonation offers a 5-day, 250-mile guarantee on used cars, while Carmax has a 30-day, 1,500-mile guarantee for used cars.

If a dealership offers a return policy, what strings are attached?

If asking a dealership to take a car back after a month, the dealership will need to clean it up and reverse any registration paperwork filing before they can sell it to someone else. This can take a long time, which leaves the dealership with a vehicle in inventory that they cannot sell until its paperwork is squared away.

Big national dealerships such as Autonation and Carmax can absorb these costs better than a small, family-owned dealership that may require you to pay a restocking fee if they allow you to return the vehicle. If registration paperwork was already filed, your new car is no longer considered new to anyone else — so the dealership is legally required to sell it as a used car. In most cases, a used car will sell for less than a new car, which erodes the dealer's profit margins.

An extended test drive is probably a better idea

You can save yourself—and the dealership—a lot of headaches and hassles if you can spend more than a drive around the block in the car you're considering. Dealerships will often allow you to take a new or used car home for the night or even over a weekend if you want to put it through its paces on your regular commute. Sometimes, all it takes is staring at a car in your driveway to know if it's the one for you.

Even if the dealership cannot provide the exact specification you're considering buying, a similar model should give you a feel for important factors such as seat comfort, outward visibility, and ease of parking. An extended test drive may allow you to rack up a few miles, but don't plan to treat the car like a rental that you might use for a road trip. Usually, the dealership will specify a certain number of miles. It's still their car, after all.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz has had cars in his blood ever since he gnawed the paint off of a diecast model as a toddler. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he earned a journalism degree, worked in public relations for two manufacturers, and served as an editor for a luxury-lifestyle print publication and several well-known automotive websites. In his free time, Andrew loves exploring the Rocky Mountains' best back roads—when he’s not browsing ads for his next car purchase.