Auto Sales Cooling Off, But Another Big Year Ahead

Buy­ing a New or Used Car

Auto Sales Cooling Off, But Another Big Year Ahead

Buying a car is a major purchase; it is also usually a complex transaction involving a contract, financing, and a warranty. You will want to think carefully about each of these aspects of your decision. You will also want to be aware of some specific protections are available to you under the law.

Car Safety

You may consider the vehicle’s safety when considering a purchase.  Crash testing results are available at

When buying any car, new or used, you can check to see if the vehicle has any unresolved safety recalls and its safety recall history.  Visit to learn more.

Shopping for a Car

First you must choose between buying a new car and buying a used car. A new car may cost more but will come with a longer warranty and no history of abuse or neglect. However, new cars depreciate (lose value) almost immediately when they leave the new car lot, which means that if you can find a well-cared-for used car, it might be a good bargain.

Consider the price of the car. This sounds obvious, but car dealers, new or used, may tempt you with a low monthly payment. You should be sure to look at the total price of the car, including interest.

Newspaper ads and the Internet can give you an idea of price ranges. The Texas DMV website has information on the prices of both new and used cars.  Don’t forget to look up rebates and other incentives that may be available on a new car purchase.

There are multiple online resources such as the “Blue Books” used by dealers to determine price ranges for used cars. Many people sell their used cars themselves. Buying from the owner often means paying a lower price than you can get from a dealer. And buying from the owner means you can ask the car's complete repair history.

Dealers’ used vehicles may cost more, but, may offer services such as financing or warranties, and may also be able to provide vehicle history.

You should ask the seller for the history of the vehicle and even some repair history, although this may not be complete.  If the seller won’t provide a report you may purchase one through  a private service that researches insurance claims.

Whether you buy directly from the owner or from a dealer, consider:

  • taking it for a test drive;
  • taking it to a mechanic of your choosing or having a mechanic visit the lot for a pre-sale inspection; and
  • inspecting the title.

If the seller won't let you do these things, you may want to consider walking away.

Closing the Deal

Make sure that the final price you base your decision on is the final price of the car, with all the features you want and nothing else.

The car dealer may offer you many assorted products, such as extended warranties, nitrogen filled tires, window tinting, interior or exterior protection packages and other products.

These products will affect the price of the vehicle and you may decide that you don’t want or need the product or service. If you don’t want those products, just decline to purchase the vehicle or negotiate the price of the products.

You will have to sign a purchase contract. The contract protects you as well as the dealer, so do not skip this step or hurry through it.

When reviewing your contract, you may want to check:

  • that you have read and understood everything in it.
  • whether it has blank spaces.
  • whether it contains clauses or terms that are different from what the salesperson said to you.

If the salesperson has made written changes and you agree to them, make sure you both initial the new language.

If you are financing the car, make sure you understand:

  • how much you will pay and how often;
  • how many payments you must make in total;
  • how much you will have paid in total; and
  • what the annual interest rate is.

Don't just assume you will finance through the dealer. Sometimes, you can get better financing from your bank or credit union.

  You should also check your credit score before you go shopping as this can affect the terms such as the interest rate you are offered.  By shopping around, you may be able to negotiate a better deal. Note that Texas law sets maximum interest rates for financing used cars.

The rates vary according to the age of the car and the amount owed on it.


DO NOT leave with your new car before the contract has been finalized completely and signed by   both parties. This is especially true if you are financing through the dealer and/or leaving a trade-in vehicle behind.

It has been known to happen: the consumer leaves the old car as a trade-in and drives away in the new car with only a verbal agreement about the amount of the monthly payment. The contract just needs final approval – “a mere formality” – by a manager who is not immediately available.

What happens? The buyer's credit is not approved, the monthly payment will be significantly higher and the trade-in has already been sold. The buyer is stuck with the new car at the higher payment or no car at all.

Warranties and Insurance

Get all promises about service and guarantees in writing in the contract and in the final copy of the buyer's guide. If you were promised something but it is not in writing, do not sign. If the seller offers a warranty, it must be in writing for it to be valid.

All used car dealers are required by federal law to tell buyers whether a used car is being sold with or without a warranty. Dealers must clearly display this information on a side window of each used car. This buyer's guide, or window form, should state either:

  • “AS IS” — the vehicle does not have a warranty and the seller is under no obligation for repairs; or
  • “WARRANTY” — the vehicle has a warranty, and the window form must list exactly what parts and services are covered and for how long.

The buyer's guide becomes part of the contract at the time of the sale, and any guarantees listed on it override any restrictions in the contract. If the sale is in Spanish, the buyer's guide must be in Spanish. If you don't see the buyer's guide in the car window, ask to see it before you agree to buy a car.

Under the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, you usually do not have to use a dealership for regular maintenance or a manufacturer’s replacement parts to maintain your manufacturer’s warranty. For more information about your warranty rights under federal law, visit

The law prohibits rolling back or changing the number of miles on an odometer. Texas law requires the seller of any used vehicle to state on the title assignment the total number of miles the vehicle has traveled. Make sure you get a copy of the odometer statement when you sign the contract.

Texas law requires you to have liability insurance. Whoever finances your car might offer to include the cost of the insurance in the loan, but it is your responsibility to have it.

The financier might also require you to have collision insurance to cover the balance owed on the car. If it is required and you do not have it, the financier can repossess your car.

Before agreeing to allow the financier or the dealer to obtain insurance for you, shop around. Generally speaking, you will pay less for insurance you purchase yourself than you would for insurance purchased by your financier or arranged by the dealer.

Understand all your insurance responsibilities before you sign.

After the Sale

Under Texas Law, you do not have 3 days to cancel the purchase you may with some transactions the dealer is required to register and title the vehicle in your name within 30 days, regardless of if you owe money on the vehicle to the dealer or another financier. As soon as the vehicle is registered in your name, the dealer should provide you with the original title application receipt from the Tax Assessor-Collector's office.

If you owe money on the vehicle, the original title will be sent to your financier. If you pay in full for the car when you purchase it, you will be mailed the original title.

Keep all payment receipts and other documents in a safe place. Do not keep them in the glove compartment. If the car is stolen, or if a dishonest dealer illegally repossesses the car, you will have no records of ownership or payment.

Make your payments on time. If the dealer or your Lender says that you can change the payment dates, or pay late, get it in writing. Get a receipt for each payment.

Texas dealerships have the legal right to repossess your car without prior notice, even in the middle of the night. Keep your records safe and up to date for your protection.

Learn more about your rights after the sale with the Texas DMV.


Can a Buyer Cancel a Car Dealership Contract?

Auto Sales Cooling Off, But Another Big Year Ahead

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Can a buyer cancel a car dealership contract? The answer is sometimes, but there's more to it than that. The more you understand about car buying contracts the more confidence you can have at the dealership. Buying a new car can be an exciting time.

Heading to a dealership to test drive a new vehicle for you or your family can be exciting, and that can lead to a lapse in judgment.

So, what happens when you sign a buying contract for the car, but realize it may not be the best fit for you the next day?

Getting a Car Purchase

One thing many people try to rely on when trying to cancel a car buying contract is a cooling-off period. A cooling-off period is something written into sales contracts that can protect the buyer in cases of high-pressure sales tactics.

Many people consider shopping at a car dealership a high-pressure sales environment, however, Edmunds indicates there is not typically a cooling-off period for car purchases. Part of the reasoning for this is the value of the car.

If a cooling-off were required by dealerships, they would be forced to sell practically brand-new vehicles for a fraction of the price and would ly be unable to sustain operations.

Because of how car valuation works, there is not a cooling-off period required as part of a car buying contract.

If you signed your name on the dotted line for a new vehicle, it will be very difficult to return it or cancel it in most cases.

This could be a different story if you're shopping for a used vehicle in-which a dealer may allow you to return the vehicle after a short period of time.

Findlaw indicates that what's called a contract cancellation option may be available to you. This addition to a sales contract may be available at an added cost to the buyer, but if it's something you feel you might need, then it's worth asking for. The dealership is still under no obligation to offer such an addendum to buying contracts unless certain states require it.

Some states, such as Massachusetts, have other protections in place to help protect buyers from cars in poor condition.

For example, if someone in Massachusetts purchases a car and it fails a safety inspection within seven days of the purchase, the buyer is allowed to return the car for a full refund.

Check your state's local laws to see what protections car buyers have before trying to negotiate with a dealership as it's sure to be less of a headache.

Other similar protections include lemon laws that protect buyers from defects that the dealer is unable to repair. Lemon laws provide a wider net of protection. In Florida, for example, a buyer is covered for up to 24 months after the purchase of a new vehicle:

  • A dealership has three attempts to fix the issue and return it to the buyer.
  • If the dealership is unable to complete the repairs, the buyer must then contact the manufacturer.
  • The manufacturer then has 10 days to direct the buyer to a third-party repair shop.
  • If the independent repair shop is unable to make the necessary repairs after 30 days, the buyer is entitled to request a refund.

There are certain things you can do if you feel you've been a victim of fraud in the car buying process and there are some steps you should take in the event of fraud, starting with filing a complaint with the Attorney General of your state. If there was no fraudulent activity and you did not pay for or have the ability to purchase a contract cancellation option, your options will dwindle greatly. Pocket Sense lists a few things you can look for in that case:

  • Study the fine print on your car buying contract. Look specifically for a return policy. Some dealerships include one, but they are not common for new vehicles.
  • If you can't find anything on the contract, check in with your state's Attorney General's office to see if there are any car buying protections in your state.
  • Call the dealer and explain your situation and why you'd to return it. They may be willing to work with you, but it's not granted and they are under no obligation to actually do so.
  • If they still aren't interested in working with you, you can try to offer them your deposit. This could sway the dealer's position at the cost of your deposit, but you would be the contract. Weigh your options carefully.
  • A dealership might be more apt to work with you if you are interested in another vehicle they have as well.

Canceling a New Car Purchase Agreement With a Dealership

Car buying contracts are pretty tight and per the Consumer Law Group, canceling one once you sign on the dotted line is pretty difficult. There are a few conditions that could lead to a car buying contract being canceled.

One such event is called a yo-yo sale. This is when the dealership gives you the keys and has you sign the paperwork prior to having final approval on the loan terms from a lender.

If the lender doesn't want to accept the deal, the contract is canceled.

You may be able to return your vehicle if the dealership misled you or didn't disclose the full history of the vehicle. Other things that would be in your favor would be if the vehicle failed a safety inspection or if there was an undisclosed mechanical issue with the vehicle.

Returning a Used Car to the Dealer

Consumer Action Law Group discusses returning a used car to a dealership and states returning a new car to the dealership is, in most cases, a lot harder to do than returning a used vehicle.

Dealerships that specialize in used car sales may even advertise friendly return policies to attract potential buyers.

In order to return a used vehicle, there are usually a few thresholds you need to meet:

  • It ly needs to fall under a certain amount of miles since it was bought.
  • It needs to be in the same condition.
  • You need your copies of the paperwork you signed originally.
  • The car should be free of tickets or liens.

Getting a car buying contract can be tricky. The more you know ahead of time can help you in the long run if you think you may want to return a vehicle purchase.

Information and research in this article verified by ASE-certified Master Technician Duane Sayaloune of For any feedback or correction requests please contact us at


How to Return a Used Car to the Dealer

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