Usually, after you buy a car, you can’t wait to take it for a spin, play with the new technology and see what it can do on the freeway. But what happens when you buy a car and drive it home, only to realize you've made a huge mistake? In this day and age of online shopping, we’ve grown used to the 'buy now, return later' approach. Unfortunately, returning a car isn’t going to be as easy as sticking a return label on it and shipping it back to the seller.

So what steps can you take to remedy your very costly mistake? This will depend on whether you purchased a new or used car and the reason for the buyer's remorse.

Why the Buyer's Remorse?

genesis g90 rear 58
You thought you could afford the payments on that Genesis G90, but you were wrong.

My Car Payments Are Too High

If you're having second thoughts because you failed to budget and now realize your car payments will be too high, you can attempt to contact the seller, explain your situation, and see if they'll be able to help you out. In some cases, dealerships will want to accommodate customers and keep your business for vehicle service and future purchases. However, we wouldn't say to hold your breath on this one.

You may have heard that there is a law that the FTC put into place called the 'Cooling-Off Rule' which gives you the ability to back out of a purchase in certain cases. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but you will not be able to return your car under this law because cars are specifically excluded. So what else can you do?

If the high payments are due to your car loan terms, you can look into auto refinancing. Many people think they can only refinance after a significant amount of time has passed since they bought the car, but that is not the case. If for some reason your financial situation has changed, you can apply to refinance and lower your monthly payments immediately.

Man upset about being ripped off
Think you were deceived by the salesperson? You can try to take your case to management.  

I Was Ripped Off!

If you feel that you were ripped off on the price or deceived by the salesperson that sold you the car, you can try to prove your case to the dealership. First, you should compile evidence that proves you were wronged and then contact the dealership manager to present your argument.

car broken down

I'm Experiencing Mechanical Issues

What if you immediately encounter mechanical issues with the car you just bought? You'll want to contact the dealership to let them know right away. If you're making multiple trips to the service department, make sure to note each repair that is made so you can present your case. If the issue is not resolved, you may be covered under Lemon laws in some states.

Return Policies and Legal Action

Car contract
Always read all the fine print on the contract before you sign. 

Once you sign off on the contract, the dealership is typically under no obligation to take the car back or let you exchange it for another one. However, if your buyer's remorse is due to the car having mechanical issues as soon as you take it home, you can look into legal action. According to, there are a few rare circumstances where the dealership policy or the legal system can work to your advantage. Unfortunately, taking legal action requires a significant time commitment and the help of an attorney.

No Risk Returns Policy

Sometimes you'll find dealerships that offer no risk returns, but they are the unicorns of the automotive sales world. Usually, this option will apply to used cars only and with strict stipulations. An example would be a no-risk return policy where you must return the car you bought in 48 hours or within 300 miles and the car must be in the same condition as when you purchased it. 

lemon law car
You may have bought a lemon. What are your options now?

Lemon Laws

A car is considered a 'Lemon' if it requires significant repairs and is determined to be unreliable during initial ownership. Lemon laws protect the customer and require the dealership to cover the cost of repairs or replace the car entirely. Usually, Lemon laws solely apply to new cars with only a few states that have explicit Lemon laws for used cars. 

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)

This code covers the car buyer with an implied warranty for used cars. All 50 states are covered under this law and it gives the customer the right to be refunded or exchange their car if they were sold a Lemon. Some dealers try to dodge this liability by selling cars 'as is''. Look into your specific state's laws because certain states will prohibit the dealer from selling 'as is' cars and will force them to honor the warranty. 

mechanic working on car
The Magnuson-Moss Act protects your warranty if you have to get your car serviced.

The Magnuson-Moss Act

This law acts as an additional backup if the seller claims that your warranty isn't valid. It applies to both dealers and manufacturers and covers your car whether you had to get it serviced at the dealership or if you had a third party do maintenance. 

In order to avoid the hassles of pleading with the dealership for a refund or taking legal action, it's important to do your due diligence before you buy your car. You should know what your budget is and stick to it, research fair prices for the cars you're interested in and keep a sharp eye out for warning signs when buying a used car.