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driving concerns

Question: Is there such a thing as a clause that allows the return of a new car when buyer’s remorse sets in? What about when there’s something wrong with the car? A friend just brought a new car and its computer system shut down 10 days later. – Ann, Toronto

Answer: When you buy a car, satisfaction isn’t guaranteed.

In Ontario and most other provinces, once you sign a contract to buy or lease a new or used car, there’s usually no getting out of it.

“The basic rule with car sales is that a contract is binding,” said George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association (APA). “A sales agreement may not even have to be in writing to bind the customer, although I have not heard of a dealership trying to enforce a verbal agreement to buy a vehicle.”

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In Ontario, car sales are covered by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA).

Under the MVDA, the dealership has to tell you basic information about the car before you buy it, said the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) which regulates the province’s dealers.

For instance, they have to tell you the correct mileage and whether the car had been used as a taxi, limo, police car, emergency vehicle or rental car.

If they didn’t, you can cancel the contract within 90 days.

But if the dealer didn’t deceive you and you just changed your mind, you’re stuck with it, Iny said. Under the CPA, similar rules apply if you buy a car privately.

In most provinces, including Ontario, cooling-off periods – a few days in which you can back out of some contracts – don’t apply to car sales.

But Quebec gives you two days to back out of a sales contract with a new or used dealer – but only if you took out an auto loan through the dealer as part of the sale. If you bought with cash or through a personal loan, you’re out of luck.

In British Columbia, there is a one-day cooling-off period for lease transactions, Iny said.

We’ve come to expect that when we walk into a store, we can return anything we buy – but that concept has mostly “eluded the best minds in auto retailing,” Iny said.

Some used car sites, including Clutch, allow you to return or exchange a car within 7 to 15 days after you buy it, Iny said

No lemon aid?

Once you sign that contract, most glitches and repairs are normally covered by the warranty.

But what if your car keeps needing repairs and is constantly in the shop? Can you return or exchange a lemon?

“Laws on warranties in most provinces allow it, but no auto maker recognizes a consumer’s right to return defective goods,” Iny said, “You would have to sue, which can take years and cost a bundle.”

Unlike the U.S., Canada doesn’t have lemon laws to protect you if your car is plagued with problems that dealers can’t fix, Iny said.

Instead, we have the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP).

It handles disputes over defective cars and can order a car maker to fix a car or buy it back.

Car makers aren’t required to join CAMVAP, even though most do. It’s not always hard enough on car makers, Iny said.

“The APA likes the idea of a specialized auto arbitration process for bad cars, but it should be independent, not a creature of the car makers,” Iny said. “Fiat Chrysler recently pulled out of CAMVAP because decisions weren’t going their way.”

In 2019, 29 Fiat Chrysler (FCA) cars faced CAMVAP arbitration. The company had to buy back 15 and repair three.

When asked what a buyer should do if a new vehicle is facing problems, FCA said it would “continue to honour our warranty obligations.”