Guide to Buying Cars Online and Understanding Return Policies

In recent years, buying cars online has become increasingly popular, offering convenience and a wider selection of vehicles. However, understanding the return policies and ensuring the quality of your purchase requires careful consideration.

Dealership Refuses to Honor a Vehicle Warranty

Return Policies of Online Car Retailers

Not all car dealers allow returns, but some, like CarMax, Carvana, and Vroom, do under specific conditions. These conditions often include a set time frame (like seven days) and mileage limits. It's essential to understand these policies before you purchase, as they can vary significantly between dealers.

Lemon laws in various states offer protection for defects that affect the car's use, value, or safety. These laws typically apply to new cars, but some states extend them to used cars. If a car is deemed a "lemon," the buyer may be entitled to a refund or replacement.

Pre-Delivery Inspection

Before the car is delivered, it is wise to schedule a professional mechanic inspection. This inspection can identify any hidden mechanical problems and provide peace of mind about the vehicle's condition. It's also useful for negotiating with the seller, especially if any issues are found.

Online Car Sales: Availability and Delivery

Most car manufacturers and dealerships offer online purchasing and home delivery services. Companies like Ford, Audi, and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles have developed online buying programs that include home delivery options.

However, services like CarMax's home delivery are available within certain geographical limits and may not be offered in all states. It's important to check with the specific retailer for their delivery options and policies in your area.

Checklist Upon Car Delivery

When you take delivery of the car, inspect it for any physical damages or discrepancies. Ensure all paperwork matches the agreed terms and the vehicle's specifications. If possible, take a test drive to check for mechanical issues. Also, verify the mileage is consistent with the advertisement.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Online


  • Convenience: Shop from home, avoiding multiple dealership visits.
  • Selection: Access a broader range of vehicles.
  • Transparent Pricing: Fixed prices eliminate haggling.
  • Detailed Information: Comprehensive vehicle histories and photos.


  • No Physical Inspection: Inability to see or drive the car beforehand.
  • Delivery Time: Potential delays and additional costs.
  • Return Process: Can be complex and restrictive.
  • Depreciation and Loan Issues: Cars depreciate quickly, affecting resale value.

Buying a car online offers convenience and a wide selection, but it's crucial to be aware of the dealer's return policy and to thoroughly inspect the vehicle upon delivery.

Scheduling a pre-delivery inspection and understanding the logistics of home delivery are also key to a satisfactory purchase experience. Always ensure you are well-informed about the vehicle's condition and the terms of the sale to make a secure investment.