California Used Car Return Law 2024 Explained

Mar 20, 2024

Navigating the world of used car purchases in California can be a complex undertaking. Because California does not offer a cooling-off period, buyers must familiarize themselves with their seller’s warranty and return policy prior to purchasing a used car. Understanding the nuances of the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, which is essentially California’s used car return law, can empower buyers to make more informed decisions and avoid potential hiccups.

The Buyer’s Bill of Rights and Its Impact on Transparency

The California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights is a set of statewide protections that are designed to protect consumers who are purchasing new or used vehicles from licensed sellers in California. Enacted on July 1, 2006, this bill ensures transparency between sellers and buyers and grants buyers certain rights, disclosures, and fairness in the car-buying process. Under this bill, the following mandates apply:

  • Used car buyers must be offered a two-day contract cancellation option agreement.
  • Used cars advertised as certified vehicles must meet specific requirements such as, but not limited to, the car having accurate mileage on the odometer and having a complete inspection report. It also cannot have been previously purchased as a lemon buyback.

Additionally, the bill mandates clear disclosure of financing terms and prohibits deceptive advertising practices across the board.

The California car buyer’s bill of rights promotes trust and confidence in the used car marketplace, which can often be complex and overwhelming to the average consumer. This bill empowers consumers by equipping them with important information and safeguards, enabling them to make more informed decisions when buying a used car.

California Contract Cancellation Option Agreements

Per the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, someone who purchases a used car for under $40,000 must be offered a two-day contract cancellation option agreement before signing their contract. Consumers have the legal right to purchase said agreement but are not required to. The buyer has two days to return the car and obtain a refund for any reason. California Contract Cancellation Option Agreement prices are typically priced as follows:

  • $75 for a vehicle costing less than $5,000.
  • $150 for a vehicle that costs $5,001–$10,000.
  • $250 for a vehicle that costs $10,001–$30,000.
  • One percent of the purchase price for a vehicle that costs between $30,001–$39,999.

These contract cancellation option agreements do not apply to motorcycles, private sales, or new cars or used cars priced above $40,000.

What if My New Car Is Defective?

If you recently purchased a used car that has persistent defects, you may want to consider filing a lemon claim. A lemon refers to a newly bought or leased vehicle with continuous substantial defects that reduce its safety, value, or drivability. Common issues can involve the brakes, transmission, or electrical systems.

If your vehicle has problems even after several warranty-covered repairs within 18 months or 18,000 miles of delivery, it may be considered a lemon. A California Lemon Law attorney can help you navigate the process.


Q: What Is the Return Policy on Used Cars in California?

A: In California, there is no authoritative return policy on used cars. Once a purchase contract is signed, it is difficult to reverse it. Dealerships/sellers have the liberty to offer their own return policies, but they are not mandated to do so by the state. Be sure to ask questions about your seller’s return policy prior to signing any contracts.

Q: Is There a 30-day Warranty on Used Cars in California?

A: In California, there is no statewide 30-day warranty requirement for used car sales. It is up to individual dealerships/sellers to develop and offer their own limited warranties or guarantees on used cars. You should always take the time to carefully read and understand the warranty agreement before purchasing a vehicle.

Q: Is There a Buyer’s Remorse Period for Cars in California?

A: Buyer’s remorse describes the change of heart buyers may feel after making an expensive purchase. California does not offer a grace period for buyer’s remorse after signing contracts, which includes car purchases. Once you’ve signed, the terms of the sales contract are legally binding, so it’s important to consider all your options and read the fine print before purchasing a car in California.

Q: Is There a Cooling-Off Period When Buying a Used Car in California?

A: No, there is no cooling-off period when buying a used car in California; however, consumers who purchase a used car for under $40,000 must be offered a two-day contract cancellation option agreement before signing their contract. It is important to note that contract cancellation option agreements do not apply to used cars priced above $40,000.

If you purchase a contract cancellation option agreement, you may return your car within the two-day window per the terms of the agreement.

Understanding the nuances of car returns in California can be confusing. Because California dealerships are not required to have a return policy, it is up to their discretion to create their own. When shopping for a used car, it is important to read and understand the many different return policies they all offer, as no two are likely to be exactly the same.

Fortunately, used car buyers still have a few protections under the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights. This legislation offers certain protections that promote transparency, fairness, and cancellation option agreements in very select situations.

Contact a California Used Car Return Law Attorney Right Away

Given the intricacies of these laws and the potential hurdles in the used car market, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible. By understanding your rights and the available options, you can make more informed decisions and avoid potential disputes after purchasing.

If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a consumer in the used car market, contact our office today for a consultation. Our experienced legal team at Lemon Law Pro is ready to guide and support you so that your rights as a consumer are protected throughout and after the purchasing process.



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As lead counsel on over a 1,500 cases, Kimberli has the experience needed to help you obtain the results you deserve.

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