Buyer Remorse Car - What You Need to Know
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Buyer Remorse Car - What You Need to Know

By Autolist Editorial | February 4, 2021

Buying a car is one of the most significant purchases a person usually makes. Like buying a house, it's not easy to get out of a new car purchase, and in many cases, it's nearly impossible. How can you avoid regretting your new car purchase? What exactly is buyer's remorse, and is it possible to return a newly purchased car? Let's take a look at some of the options you have if you buy a new car and then decide that you don't want it after all.

Initial Options:

Can You Take Your New Car Back to the Dealership?
In most cases, the answer is no. But you won't know for sure until you ask. The best time to ask is before you finalize the purchase, for example, at some point during the car buying process. Some dealerships have a return policy, but it's better to find that out in advance. Still, most dealerships are unlikely to allow you to return a vehicle unless there's something seriously wrong with it.

What Kind of Dealer Return Policies Are There?
Some dealerships that don't follow the traditional model do have return policies to help car buyers. For example, companies such as Carmax and Carvana have certain conditions that will allow you to return a newly-bought car. The policies usually have some strict guidelines to follow, like a specified return window or mileage limits. There's no federal or state law requiring dealers to have a return policy, so it's entirely up to them if they want to work with you or not. Again, it's a good idea to find out if there's any policy for returning a car before you buy it.

What is a Lemon Law, and How Can It Help?
Most states have some form of lemon law in place to protect buyers from buying or leasing a car with severe defects. If you end up with a vehicle like this, the car dealer usually has some time to rectify the problem so that the vehicle is safe and usable again. If they can't do it after a certain number of attempts, then the buyer is generally eligible for a refund or replacement vehicle with a similar value. Lemon laws vary from state to state, and they typically only apply to new cars, but some also apply to used vehicles.

Other Options to Consider:

Selling Your Vehicle
An alternative to returning a car that you now have buyer's remorse on is to sell it. You can also trade it in for a different vehicle. The most challenging part of this is that a new car depreciates almost immediately when you drive it off the dealership lot. Getting full value for a new vehicle to recoup what you paid for it is very unlikely. If you've financed your new car, then the process is even more difficult. If you end up having to sell it for less than you paid for it, then you will be on the line for the difference in the remaining loan amount.

Refinancing Your Car Loan
If the primary cause of your buyer's remorse is that you can't afford the payments, then you might consider refinancing the loan. You might be able to get a longer term or a lower interest rate to lower your monthly payments. If you end up stretching out your loan term, it's important to remember that you'll pay more interest in the end.

Repossession
If you can't make your car payments and you can't sell your car or get refinancing, then you might be able to get in touch with your lender and opt for a voluntary repossession. If you do this, you might be off the hook for repossession costs, which the lender would otherwise stick you with an involuntary repossession. However, you will still be on the hook for paying the difference between what you owe on the car and what the lender can sell it. The other problem with this is that lenders might report you to the credit bureaus, which will lead to negative marks on your report for as long as seven years. This option should be your last resort in getting rid of your car.

Does the Cooling-Off Rule Cover Cars?
The cooling-off rule is something you may have heard of that allows buyers to back out of a purchase or purchase contract. The Federal Trade Commission is wholly in charge of this rule and they specify what exactly is covered. However, it does not cover car purchases, so it's essential to understand that before going in to purchase a new car.

Ask For a Limited No-Risk Return
That requires some foresight on your part. During negotiations to buy your new car, you might be able to express enough doubt in whether the vehicle is right for you to convince the sales manager to give you a limited return window. Usually, this is something like two to three days where you can drive the car home and, if you're not fully satisfied, you can bring it back. The dealership will likely impose mileage restrictions on top of the time limit, and they will also likely charge a restocking fee if you return it.

How To Avoid Buyer's Remorse in the First Place:

Being stuck with a car that you no longer want is not pleasant. Especially since you ultimately have so few options on how to get rid of it. There are some precautions you can take to make sure that you're getting the car you want and, more importantly, a vehicle that you can afford.

Know the Car's Value
Before you start going to dealerships, you must know what the fair market value is for your prospective vehicle. Check sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmonds to find out what your vehicle is selling for in your area. That can help you get a fair price and avoid overpaying.

Set a Firm Budget
It's also crucial to know how much car you can afford. Start by getting a preapproval so that you have some idea what your interest rate and loan amount might be. It's also a good idea to take a look at your monthly expenses and find out what kind of car payment amount will fit in comfortably.

Take a Good Test-Drive
Most buyers take a test-drive of their prospective vehicle, but if you're having second thoughts, you might consider taking multiple test-drives before you decide. Don't just drive the car you're interested in either, but rather compare it with other vehicles in the same price range. Take note of anything that you don't like during that process. Even small annoyances can later turn out to be big problems and leave you with buyer's remorse. If you don't love the vehicle, then it's probably a good idea to take some extra time to make a decision.

Don't Rush
As previously mentioned, buying a car is a huge purchase. Not only is it expensive, but it's something you'll likely be spending a lot of time with. It's never a good idea to rush into a new car purchase. Take as much time as you need to research the cars fully you're interested in and take as many test-drives as you need to make sure you like it.