No ‘cooling off’ period for car purchases

Cars lined up at a dealership. - iStockphoto, courtesy Getty Images

Pump the brakes on any impulsive vehicle purchases, because if you change your mind, you’re likely not getting any money back.

One lucky Calgary couple is trying to spread that message after an impulse decision at a dealership nearly cost them $1,000.

Sonia Ambrosio and her husband took their car to a Nissan dealership for a repair, but a salesman talked them into buying a new one. They paid a $1,000 deposit, but later decided they couldn’t afford it. They called the dealer, who said the deposit was non-refundable because their car wasn’t in stock and had to be shipped in.

The dealership eventually refunded their money because it was “the right thing to do” (and presumably totally unconnected to media pressure from CBC’s Go Public).

Regardless, the couple did catch a break since many provinces, including Alberta, don’t allow refunds on vehicle deposits or even to return unsatisfactory vehicles at all.

Many provinces have “cooling-off” periods in which a consumer can change their mind about a purchase without penalty, but it doesn’t apply to vehicles. Sales are typically final and you can only get a refund or return if some contract stipulation wasn’t met. For example, a prospective buyer might insist that an independent mechanic okay the car before purchase.

Otherwise, a dealer is entitled to keep “liquidated damages” — the costs already incurred as part of the transaction — such as the Calgary dealership’s freight costs to get a specific vehicle shipped in.

Many consumers, however, tend to assume there’s a cooling-off period for cars. A 2014 survey by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council found that only 13 per cent of respondents knew that a car purchase was non-refundable.

It’s a major purchase, so think it through. This is one sector where rash decisions can really cost you.

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