Cold Feet? How to Cancel A Car Purchase

Whether it's a deposit or a completed car purchase agreement, many wonder how to cancel a car purchase agreement.


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Anyone can get buyer's remorse, especially on a large ticket item like a vehicle. If you're wondering 'can I cancel a car purchase agreement?' the answer is a clear 'maybe.' Contrary to popular belief, the federal 'cooling-off' rule doesn't apply to car purchases, but that doesn't mean you're always stuck with a vehicle once you commit. Where you live matters, as legal ramifications can change from state to state. But the clearest determiner of how you cancel a car purchase depends on the stage you're in of the car buying process. Let's take a look at a few scenarios.

If You've Put Down a Deposit At A Dealer

A deposit at a dealership can be tricky. If it's for a car the dealer is special ordering for you, you'll want to read all of the paperwork before you sign to ensure that the deposit is refundable. If it turns out that the deposit is not refundable, ask to speak with the sales manager about your dilemma as soon as possible; they may be open to applying your deposit to another vehicle.

If You've Put Down a Deposit Online

Many car companies launch cars online and then ask interested customers to put down a deposit to hold their place in line. Often, these deposits are fully refundable. For example, Tesla offers a full refund on the $100 Cybertruck reservation. Rivian also provides refunds for their $1,000 R1S vehicle deposits as well.

If You've Signed Papers but Not Taken Delivery

Let's say you went into the dealership and they sweet-talked you into putting down a deposit and signing for a "real beauty." Then you get home and wonder, can I cancel a car purchase agreement? In this circumstance, call the dealership as soon as possible. If your salesperson isn't helpful, ask to speak to the manager and tell them you'd like to cancel the sale. The fact that you haven't taken possession yet may work in your favor.

If You've Signed Papers and Taken Delivery

This is the trickiest situation and, frankly, the most difficult to get out of. If you've signed the papers, taken delivery of the car, and have both at home, you may have no recourse. But it certainly is worth a try. Be careful not to put any additional miles on the vehicle and get into the dealership as soon as you can to plead your case. This may be easier if the purchase is on a used or certified pre-owned vehicle, especially if you live in California and meet the criteria.

If You Live In California

California has a special law for used car buyers to protect them against high-pressure sales. If you buy a used car from a dealer in the Golden State for less than $40,000, they must offer you a two-day contract cancellation option agreement. You'll have to pay a fee to return the car, but the law is still on your side.

Like most cases, the moral of this tale is to always read the fine print before signing anything. It may go without saying, but in the end nothing beats legal advice. So if you find yourself needing to cancel a car purchase, it's a good idea to call in that favor at your local attorney's office and ask them for help if all else fails.

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Amelia Dalgaard
From reading my dad’s car magazines under the covers to writing in the automotive space, my job is a dream come true. I am the woman who took her toddlers to car shows and married the man that thought a test drive was the perfect first date. I love nothing more than helping all consumers find a vehicle that will enhance their lives.