While it is generally accepted all used car sales are final, this is not the case. It is true in all transactions between private parties and when buying from dealers in most states. But, when buying a used car from a car dealer in California, it is not true.
On July 1, 2006, the Car Buyer's Bill of Rights went into effect in California, giving used car buyers the ability to cancel a sales contract within 48 hours. That's right: in the state of California; if you buy a used car from dealer (described as any entity that sells six or more cars a year), you have the right to purchase a two-day sales contract cancellation option.
Yes, you read that correctly, you have to PURCHASE the option to do so. However, to prevent dealers from making the fee so exorbitant that nobody ever takes advantage of their rights, the pricing structure has been set by the state as follows:
Dealers are also entitled to charge a restocking fee if a vehicle is returned. That pricing schedule has been set by the state as follows:
As you might well imagine, there are a number of caveats that must be met in order for the law to be enforceable. After all, what's to prevent somebody from buying a car in San Francisco on Monday, driving it to Utah and back on Tuesday while using it in series of drag races, breaking a bunch of traffic laws, and putting it up as collateral on a loan, before returning it for a refund just in time to take advantage of the 48 hour rule on Wednesday?
Under the stipulations of the Car Buyer's Bill of Rights, the buyer must return the vehicle:
If the car is returned in compliance with the law, the dealer must give the buyer:
This goes a long way toward removing much of the risk of buying a used car. Plus, it gives a buyer time to live with the car in their day-to-day lives and decide if they've really made the best purchase possible. Don't be surprised if you have to ask though. Odds are, most dealers won't tell you about this.