What Can I Do if a Dealership Sold Me a Bad Car?

Find out if you're getting ripped off on your car insurance in less than two minutes.
No long forms · No spam · No fees
Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.
If you feel that a car dealership has ripped you off, you can take action by negotiating with a manager, filing an official complaint with a government agency, and—if all else fails—hiring an attorney to get your money back. 
  • The most common types of car dealer fraud include slipping in extra charges, adding unapproved upgrades, odometer rollback, and selling a lemon with undisclosed issues.
  • Research your state’s consumer protection laws, lemon laws, and your manufacturer’s return policy before attempting to negotiate a return deal with a car dealership.
  • Scammed car buyers can file official complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Attorney General, local consumer protection offices, and their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

How to know if a car dealer rips you off 

The biggest red flag for a
car dealership scam
is being charged a final sales price greater than the advertised price on the window sticker. Bad-faith dealers expect car-buyers to overlook extra charges added after all the legitimate fees, taxes, and other expenses.
What to do: Keep careful track of exactly what you’re paying for so you don’t get overcharged. Look out for these other common types of auto dealer fraud when you buy a car: 
  • Dealer adds optional upgrades or add-ons without customer consent
  • Mileage is different
    than what you agreed to
  • Car has undisclosed mechanical issues
  • Dealer pulls your credit score without your permission
  • You never received essential paperwork associated with the sale, including the
    car’s title
The bottom line: Be wary of anything a car salesperson does without your consent. It’s always easier to pull out of a deal early than to recover your money if you
end up with a lemon
MORE: 7 things to look for when buying a used car

Step 1: Do some research

State laws: Check your state’s consumer protection laws to see what rights you have after a car purchase with a bad deal.
Manufacturer return policies: You may have the option to return a new vehicle through the manufacturer, thus avoiding having to deal directly with the dealership again. 
Key Takeaway Call your local consumer protection office and explain that a car dealer overcharged you. They’ll help point you to resources to resolve the issue. 

Step 2: Talk to a manager to work out a new deal

Once you’ve armed yourself with an understanding of the law, you can call the dealership to negotiate a deal that allows you to return the car and get a refund. 
What to do: Ask to speak to the general manager and be specific about the issue you’ve discovered. Use the law to your advantage, as well as the following bargaining chips: 
  • Threaten to report the dealership to the
    Better Business Bureau
    or the state Attorney General
  • Tell the manager that you haven’t yet filled out the Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) and would give them a high score if they can resolve the issue.
Why it matters: These agencies and surveys are powerful determinants of a dealership’s success. The CSS is a particularly useful negotiation tool as it helps manufacturers decide how many cars to provide to each dealership. 

Step 3: File an official complaint

If the sales manager won’t work with you, it’s time to head to an official agency to register a complaint. Depending on the nature of the issue, you have a number of different places to turn. 
  • If you have concerns about false advertising: Report the dealership to the
    Federal Trade Commission
  • If there was a problem with your contract or your loan terms: Report the dealer to the
    consumer protection office
    in your state.
  • If the problem is with your new car’s warranty: Report it to the
    Office of the Attorney General
  • If you’ve got any other concerns about the business: Report them to the
    Better Business Bureau
  • Report the dealership with your local DMV: Whether or not you’re able to reach a resolution with help from one of the agencies listed above, reporting the dealership to the DMV can help protect other potential customers from similar scams. 

Step 4: Hire an attorney

It may be worth hiring an auto fraud attorney attorney to take legal action if:
  • A dealership scammed you out of a significant amount of money, and 
  • You’re not able to reach a resolution using the approaches above.
Keep in mind: Legal fees can be steep, but sometimes professional assistance is the only way to get justice after being ripped off by a shady dealer. 
“I felt like I was paying too much for my insurance policy, so I downloaded
. I literally only typed in 3 pieces of info and Jerry found my current insurance. In a few minutes, they pulled up 2 Progressive policies that showed $900 in savings over 6 months!” —Maeve J.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms
Find insurance savings
By R.E. Fulton
Licensed Insurance Agent —Senior Content Writer
Compare Car Insurance Quotes For Free
Jerry automatically shops for your insurance before every renewal. Members save $872/year.
rating primary
Rating on App Store
Start saving money!
12,000+ Reviews
Trusted by 3.5M car owners like you

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings