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Is there a Three Day Auto Return Law in California?

Updated on April 30, 2011

In California, no law exists to provide consumers a three-day return period for vehicles. However, in July of 2006, a new law was established for Californians, with substantial changes to the way new and used vehicles are purchased. The Car Buyer's Bill of Rights allows a vehicle to be returned in some situations, and car buyers may benefit from becoming familiar with this law before purchasing a new vehicle.


The Car Buyer's Bill of Rights does not provide any legal return allowance for new cars. Used cars, on the other hand, may be returned within two days. However, this option is only available when used car buyers purchase the optional two-day sales contract cancellation. Under the new law, a dealer is prohibited from selling used vehicles priced at less than $40,000 retail to noncommercial buyers, without offering a contract cancellation option agreement. The charge for this cancellation option uses a sliding scale, starting at $75 for a used vehicle that costs $5,000 or less, up to 1 percent of the vehicle's purchase price for a car costing from $30,000-$39,999.99.

Buyer Obligations

The contract cancellation option has specifics that the buyer must adhere to in order to keep the contract valid. Buyers must return a vehicle to the dealer they purchased it from by the close of business within the two-day period, unless additional days were allowed in the contract. The vehicle must not have excess mileage over the amount permitted in the contract, although a dealer cannot limit mileage to less than 250 miles. All original sales receipts and the cancellation option contract must be provided. The vehicle must be in the same condition as when purchased, with the exception of reasonable wear and tear, or any mechanical problems or defects that occurred after the car buyer took possession of the vehicle. Additionally, the vehicle must be free of any liens or encumbrances, other than the one created by the original sales contract.

Seller Obligations

Car dealers, when accepting a return, must provide a full refund to the buyer. This includes sales tax, registration fees, and any trade-in vehicle or deposits collected from the vehicle buyer. The cost of the contract cancellation option is not refundable. Additionally, the dealer has the right to refuse a return of the vehicle if a buyer does not adhere to the required standards in the contract. If the dealer rejects the vehicle, he must provide written notice to the buyer.

Dealer Noncompliance

If a car buyer attempts to return his vehicle within the guidelines of the contract cancellation, and his dealer does not comply, the buyer should complete a record of complaint form (INV 172A) and mail it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. This form is located on the California DMV website,, under the forms menu. Additionally, individuals can call the DMV's 800 number, (800) 777-0133 and request a form in the mail. DMV field offices also have copies of the form, which includes the address information for the DMV Investigations district office.


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