My son recently graduated from college, and he and his wife went to buy a car. They never discussed financing with the dealer. They agreed on a price, went to the bank and brought back a cashiers check for the amount. They brought the car home, and two days later the dealership is saying that a mistake was made and the price included a discount for him being a new graduate, but only if he financed the car.

Am I wrong, or is that their problem? He has already paid for it and taken possession.

  • 17
    Have they cashed the check? If so, the deal is closed.
    – Peter K.
    Jul 7, 2015 at 12:30
  • 25
    As per the other comments/answers: What was actually signed? Did the title change hands? What's the locale (City/State/Country) as I assume different locales have different laws?
    – WernerCD
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:26
  • 14
    I wonder if this is better served on Law, since it sounds like this is an issue of contract law?
    – Joe
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:38
  • 12
    Whether or not they cashed the check is irrelevant, it's a cashiers check not a personal check. It might as well be cash. Jul 7, 2015 at 17:23
  • 19
    @maria make sure you update us on what your son and his wife did and how it went.
    – mikeazo
    Jul 7, 2015 at 18:57

13 Answers 13


Let me get this straight.

  • Your son went to a car dealer
  • Your son negotiated a price
  • Everybody signed paperwork
  • Your son then went to the bank with the paperwork and got a cashiers check.
  • Your son delivered the check to the dealership
  • Everybody signed more paperwork
  • Your son drove away with the car
  • Now two days later they want more money.

I would stand my ground. Your son negotiated in good faith. Either they messed up, or they are dishonest. Either way your son wasn't the one supposed to know all the internal rules.

I don't think it matters if they cashed the check or not. I would tell them if they have cashed it, that is even more evidence the deal was finalized. But even if they they didn't cash it, it only proves they are very disorganized.

If for some reason your son feels forced to redo the deal, have him start the negotiations way below the price that was agreed to. If the deal for some strange reason gets voided don't let him agree to some sort of restocking fee.

  • 35
    Part of the answer is that the error wasn't large enough to negate the deal. e.g. if the son were sold a car based on a typo, and charged $3000 for a $30000 car, we might be having a different conversation. A reasonable person wouldn't notice the discount wasn't 'correct', as it was probably just a few percent of the price. If the dealer continues, the OP should tell them they are harassing her and she will sue them. Jul 7, 2015 at 13:13
  • 60
    I would also add, don't be emotionally attached to the car. Your son's position should be if they don't accept the deal as negotiated, he returns the car and they return the check, at no cost to him. The dealer needs the sale a lot more than your son needs this particular car.
    – KeithB
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:14
  • 34
    Why shouldn't his son's position be the deal is already concluded, and it doesn't matter to him whether the dealer regrets it or not?
    – bdsl
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:34
  • 49
    "he returns the car and they return the check" - Why? The transaction is concluded. Jul 7, 2015 at 14:25
  • 20
    @Taemyr - understood. Still I disagree with Keith's comment and suggestion that " if they don't accept the deal as negotiated". There's nothing to accept. It's over. Jul 7, 2015 at 14:34

I had a similar situation when I was in college. The difference was that the dealer agreed to finance and the bank they used wanted a higher interest rate from me because of my limited credit history. The dealer asked for a rate 5 percentage points higher than what they put on the paperwork. I told them that I would not pay that and I dropped the car off at the lot with a letter rescinding the sale. They weren't happy about that and eventually offered me financing at my original rate with a $1000 discount from the previously agreed-upon purchase price. What I learned through that experience is that I didn't do a good-enough job of negotiating the original price.

I would suggest that your son stop answering phone calls from the dealership for at least 1 week and drive the car as much as possible in that time. If the dealer has cashed the check then that will be the end of it. He owes nothing further. If the dealer has not cashed the check, he should ask whether they prefer to keep the check or if they want the car with 1000 miles on the odometer. This only works if your son keeps his nerve and is willing to walk away from the car.

  • 27
    Uber perhaps..? Jul 7, 2015 at 16:47
  • 7
    @JoeTaxpayer - I wish you could have seen the big smile on my face when I read your comment. That's economic poetry. Jul 7, 2015 at 19:50
  • 8
    @NathanL You're mixing things up. The fact that it was bought in good faith then does not change the fact that you're encouraging to act with ill intent now. Defending a deal that's closed is one thing. Deprecating value of the item is another. It's not something that can get you arrested, but if this ever ends up in some kind of dispute resolution, it can be exploited and twisted to show buyer's ill intent. Buyer is squeaky clean here, going for dirt can do more harm than good. Plus, it only works for a new car.
    – Agent_L
    Jul 9, 2015 at 10:25
  • 13
    Perhaps a better suggestion is use the vehicle as if there is no dispute. By that I mean, do not use it any less because the dealer is messing you around.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 9, 2015 at 10:32
  • 6
    @jpmc26 - The decrease in the asset's value is asymmetric as far as the buyer and the dealer are concerned. The buyer isn't going to have as much of a decrease in the value with respect to the price he can get from a third party since he has already driven it off the lot. The dealer however has a hard time positioning it as new when the odometer reading goes above 1000. Someone else might consider a dealer running a yo yo scam the person who is "being a jerk". Look it up, this is a textbook example. This is my final response to anyone who believes my suggestion is unethical. Jul 11, 2015 at 2:47

I'm sorry to hear you've made a mistake. Having read the contract of sale we signed, I do not see any remedy to your current situation. However, I'm interested in making sure I do not take advantage of you. As such, I'll return the vehicle, you can return my money plus the bank fees I paid for the cashiers check, tax, title, and registration, and I will look at buying a vehicle from another dealership.

This seems to be the most fair resolution. If I were to pay for your mistake at a price I did not agree to, it would not be fair to me. If you were to allow this vehicle to go to me at the price we agreed to, it wouldn't be fair to you. If I were to return the car and begin negotiations again, or find a different car in your lot, it would be difficult for us to know that you were not going to make a similar mistake again.

At this point I consider the sale final, but if you'd prefer to have the vehicle back as-is, returning to us the money we gave you as well as the additional costs incurred by the sale, then we will do so in order to set things right.

Chances are good you will see them back down. Perhaps they will just cut the additional payment in half, and say, "Well, it's our mistake, so we will eat half the cost," or similar, but this is merely another way to get you to pay more money.

Stand firm. "I appreciate the thought, but I cannot accept that offer. When will you have payment ready so we can return the car?"

If you are firm that the only two solutions is to keep the car, or return it for a full refund plus associated costs, I'd guess they'd rather you keep the car - trust me, they still made a profit - but if they decide to have it returned, do so and make sure they pay you in full plus other costs. Bring all your receipts, etc and don't hand over the keys until you have the check in hand.

Then go, gladly, to another dealership that doesn't abuse its customers so badly.

If you do end up keeping the car, don't plan on going back to that dealership. Use another dealership for warranty work, and find a good mechanic for non-warranty work.

Note that this solution isn't legally required in most jurisdictions. Read your contract and all documentation they provided at the time of sale to be sure, but it's unlikely that you are legally required to make another payment for a vehicle after the sale is finalized. Even if they haven't cashed the check, the sale has already been finalized.

What this solution does, though, is put you back in the driver's seat in negotiating. Right now they are treating it as though you owe them something, and thus you might feel an obligation toward them. Re-asserting your relationship with them as a customer rather than a debtor is very important regardless of how you proceed. You aren't legally culpable, and so making sure they understand you aren't will ultimately help you.

Further, dealerships operate on negotiation. The primary power the customer has in the dealership is the power to walk away from a deal.

They've set the situation up as though you no longer have the power to walk away. They didn't threaten with re-possession because they can't - the sale is final. They presented as a one-path situation - you pay. Period.

You do have many options, though, and they are very familiar with the "walk away" option. Present that as your chosen option - either they stick with the original deal, or you walk away - and they will have to look at getting another car off the lot (which is often more important than making a profit for a dealership) or selling a slightly used car. If they've correctly pushed the title transfer through (or you, if that's your task in your state) then your brief ownership will show up on carfax and similar reports, and instantly reduces the car's worth. Having the title transfer immediately back to the dealership doesn't look good to future buyers.

So the dealership doesn't want the car back. They are just trying to extract more money, and probably illegally, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction.

Reassert your position as customer, and decide now that you'll be fine if you have to return it and walk away. Then when you communicate that to them, chances are good they'll simply cave and let the sale stand as-is.

  • Just as an added note, don't return the car until the money has been returned in full. Make sure that you verify with your bank, that the dealership can't do the banking equivalent of a charge back. Also make sure that you document in writing exactly what has happened. Jul 8, 2015 at 13:53
  • 4
    "What this solution does, though, is put you back in the driver's seat in negotiating." Literally. Jul 8, 2015 at 15:15
  • 23
    When has a car dealer ever agreed to "undo" a deal due to a misunderstanding or mistake on the part of the buyer? Cars sales have always been final, final, final. Dealers reap what they sow.
    – Rocky
    Jul 8, 2015 at 19:42
  • 1
    One further warning, if the vehicle is being returned, title transfer should be dependent upon the dealer cheque clearing. They have been known not to clear. Usually for trade-ins.
    – mckenzm
    Jul 9, 2015 at 10:20
  • 1
    @RemcoGerlich I agree: this is a way to build a bargaining position. It won't work in all situations, but it's a less confrontational option to get the dealership to stop bothering them. Personally it would depend strongly on the type of relationship I wanted to have with the dealership in the future. If I felt I'd have to go back to them later for maintenance or otherwise, I'd want to at least attempt to smooth things over. If not, I'd probably just tell them to sue me if they feel there's been a breach of contract.
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 9, 2015 at 14:07

The sales manager and/or finance manager applied a rebate that did not apply.

It's their fault.

They have internal accounts to handle these situations as they do come up from time to time.

The deal is done.

They have no legal ground.


I have one additional recommendation: if the dealer continues to press the issue, tell them that they need to drop it, or you will write a Yelp review in excruciating detail about the entire experience.

Used car dealers are very aware of their Yelp presence and don't like to see recent, negative reviews because it can cost them a lot of new business.

(I'm assuming this is a used car. If it's a new car, you could go over their heads and bring up the problem with the manufacturer. Dealers hate it when you go directly to the manufacturer with a dealer complaint.)

  • 1
    The restrictions on the discount are likely imposed by the manufacturer. It's not clear to me how the manufacturer would respond to a dealer attempting to correct an error in complying with the terms for granting a discount.
    – Eric
    Jul 7, 2015 at 18:06
  • 11
    @Eric It's still deeply unprofessional and affects their reputation. The manufacturer's ideal outcome is that the dealer is stuck with the cost out of their (dealer's) own pocket, since it was their mistake.
    – Random832
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:41
  • 8
    @Rocky: I'm not a lawyer, but isn't there a risk of this "accept the previous terms or I'll write a review" being seen as extortion? For that reason alone, I'd be cautious of attaching negative consequences. Jul 7, 2015 at 23:14
  • 3
    @AndrewCoonce: just give them a friendly reminder that Yelp reviews are a thing, that you were always planning to write one, and that you're going to stick to a factual report on the experience you had with the dealer regarding this transaction. Jul 9, 2015 at 13:59
  • 10
    @RemcoGerlich: This is a really nice dealership you have here. It'd be a shame if someone started writing bad reviews of it... Jul 9, 2015 at 14:04

Don't take the car back! The dealership wants you to take it back to try and earn more money. Simply stated, the dealerships hate paid up front cash deals. They make money on the financing. So to call back and try to up their fee is them realizing their not making a large enough profit. Say thank you and move on. The deal is done!!


On the surface this sounds ridiculous, which makes me suspect that there might be something that the dealer intends to cling on to; otherwise it sounds like the dealer should be ashamed to even call your son about its own incompetence.

I'd recommend politely refusing the request since said mistake didn't happen on your end, and wait to see if the dealer comes back with some sort of argument.

  • Refusing might create problems with warranty later, if there is such a thin in the OP's country.
    – simbabque
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:44
  • 5
    Assuming the deal is complete, it won't create any legal problem with the warranty. It might create a practical problem with the warranty if the car needs to be serviced at the same dealership (or it's problematic to bring the car to some other authorized service shop), as they may take other steps to make life difficult that aren't strictly illegal (or at least obviously provably illegal).
    – Jason
    Jul 7, 2015 at 16:57

I've been an F&I Manager at a new car dealership for over ten years, and I can tell you this with absolute certainty, your deal is final. There is no legal obligation for you whatsoever. I see this post is a few weeks old so I am sure by now you already know this to be true, but for future reference in case someone in a similar situation comes across this thread, they too will know.

This is a completely different situation to the ones referenced earlier in the comments on being called by the dealer to return the vehicle due to the bank not buying the loan. That only pertains to customers who finance, the dealer is protected there because on isolated occasions, which the dealer hates as much as the customer, trust me, you are approved on contingency that the financing bank will approve your loan. That is an educated guess the finance manager makes based on credit history and past experience with the bank, which he is usually correct on. However there are times, especially late afternoon on Fridays when banks are preparing to close for the weekend the loan officer may not be able to approve you before closing time, in which case the dealer allows you to take the vehicle home until business is back up and running the following Monday. He does this mostly to give you sense of ownership, so you don't go down the street to the next dealership and go home in one of their vehicles.

However, there are those few instances for whatever reason the bank decides your credit just isn't strong enough for the rate agreed upon, so the dealer will try everything he can to either change to a different lender, or sell the loan at a higher rate which he has to get you to agree upon. If neither of those two things work, he will request that you return the car. Between the time you sign and the moment a lender agrees to purchase your contract the dealer is the lien holder, and has legal rights to repossession, in all 50 states. Not to mention you will sign a contingency contract before leaving that states you are not yet the owner of the car, probably not in so many simple words though, but it will certainly be in there before they let you take a car before the finalizing contract is signed.

Now as far as the situation of the OP, you purchased your car for cash, all documents signed, the car is yours, plain and simple. It doesn't matter what state you are in, if he's cashed the check, whatever. The buyer and seller both signed all documents stating a free and clear transaction. Your business is done in the eyes of the law. Most likely the salesman or finance manager who signed paperwork with you, noticed the error and was hoping to recoup the losses from a young novice buyer.

Regardless of the situation, it is extremely unprofessional, and clearly shows that this person is very inexperienced and reflects poorly on management as well for not doing a better job of training their employees. When I started out, I found myself in somewhat similar situations, both times I offered to pay the difference of my mistake, or deduct it from my part of the sale. The General Manager didn't take me up on my offer. He just told me we all make mistakes and to just learn from it. Had I been so unprofessional to call the customer and try to renegotiate terms, I would have without a doubt been fired on the spot.

  • please edit this wall of text. Paragraphs help readability. Jul 29, 2015 at 10:16
  • 1
    One thing that I didn't mention in my answer about the financing debacle was that the dealer called me 3 weeks later, not the following Monday. Sep 10, 2015 at 22:06

As others have said, if the dealer accepted payment and signed over ownership of the vehicle, that's a completed transaction. While there may or may not be a "cooling-off period" in your local laws, those protect the purchaser, not (as far as I know) the seller.

The auto dealer could have avoided this by selling for a fixed price. Instead, they chose to negotiate every sale. Having done so, it's entirely their responsibility to check that they are happy with their final agreement. Failing to do so is going to cost someone their commission on the sale, but that's not the buyer's responsibility. They certainly wouldn't let you off the hook if the final price was higher than you had previously agreed to.

He who lives by the fine print shall die by the fine print. This is one of the reasons there is huge turnover in auto sales staff; few of them are really good at the job.

If you want to be kind to the guy you could give him the chance to sell you something else. Or perhaps even offer him a $100 tip. But assuming the description is correct, and assuming local law doesn't say otherwise (if in any doubt, ask a lawyer!!!), I don't think you have any remaining obligation toward them

On the other hand, depending on how they react to this statement, you might want to avoid their service department, just in case someone is unreasonably stupid and tries to make up the difference that was.

  • 3
    I wouldn't offer a tip to the salesman at this point. That might serve to substantiate the notion (however false) that the buyer did something wrong and feels morally/ethically compelled to pay for it. The dealer knows their own costs and their own arrangements with the manufacturers. If the dealership can only make money on a sale if they get the additional interest, or a kickback, from the financing, it's their responsibility to both know that during negotiations and to be honest about it *so the buyer fully understands they are in fact paying the dealer more than the negotiated price." Jul 12, 2015 at 18:55
  • Valid point, @craig; it's a judgement call based on how much sympathy you feel for the salesman who screwed himself out of a commission. I grant that nobody, including me, feels a lot of sympathy for most car salesmen. Just tossing it out as a thought to use or ignore as one sees fit.
    – keshlam
    Jul 12, 2015 at 19:00
  • I totally get that, and have no issue at all with the sentiment. ;-) It's just that actually handing over a tip in the form of cash to "make up" for the situation has at least the marginal potential to provide the dealership (not even the salesman) a legal argument that could result in real financial action. Kind of unfortunate, maybe, but that's why I wouldn't touch it. Jul 12, 2015 at 19:07
  • We agree that we disagree. I am not a lawyer.
    – keshlam
    Jul 12, 2015 at 19:08
  • 1
    I am not disagreeing. I like your sentiment. I am urging caution and saying that I personally would err on the side of not handing ammunition to an enemy holding a gun, that's all. ;-) If you feel an emotional need to pay the $100 tip, I would consult an attorney first to make sure you can't hurt yourself by doing so. Jul 12, 2015 at 19:14

Lets look at it this way. Your son bought the car and then 2 days later, he wants to change the price. Will the dealership let him do that after all the paperwork is signed?

  • 2
    They might, if, for example, he found out he was eligible for an advertised manufacturer's incentive discount that he was not given.
    – Ben Miller
    Jul 11, 2015 at 21:25

As mhoran_psprep and others have already said, it sounds like the sale is concluded and your son has no obligation to return the car or pay a dime more. The only case in which your son should consider returning the car is if it works in his favor--for example, if he is able to secure a similar bargain on a different car and the current dealer buys the current car back from your son at a loss.

If the dealer wants to buy the car back, your son should first get them to agree to cover any fees already incurred by your son. After that, he should negotiate that the dealer split the remaining difference with him.

Suppose the dealership gave a $3000 discount, and your son paid $1000 in title transfer, registration, and any other fees such as a cashier's check or tax, if applicable. The remaining difference is $2000. Your son should get half that. In this scenario, the dealer only loses half as much money, and your son gains $1000 for his trouble.


Your son is in the right. But he broke the "unwritten" rules, which is why the car dealer is upset.

Basically, cars are sold in the United States at a breakeven price. The car company makes ALL its money on the financing. If everyone bought "all cash," the car companies would not be profitable.

No one expected anyone, least of all your son, a "young person," to pay "all cash." When he did, they lost all the profit on the deal.

On the other hand, they signed a contract, your son met all the FORMAL requirements, and if there was an "understanding" (an assumption, actually), that the car was supposed to be financed, your son was not part of it.

Good for him. And if necessary, you should be prepared to back him up on court.

  • 2
    This is partially true, but buyers go to the dealership with a check all the time, many just getting their financing from somewhere other than the dealer. The dealership doesn't know if the son used cash from a savings account or a loan. (For that matter, neither do we.)
    – Ben Miller
    Jul 11, 2015 at 21:21
  • Dealers actually make their money on rebates and incentives and by reselling trade-ins at a profit, not just on financing.
    – rob
    Jul 13, 2015 at 17:42
  • 1
    @rob Don't forget screwing people with ridiculous prices for poorly done service at book rates. Jul 15, 2015 at 7:33
  • 1
    @dodgethesteamroller Oh, how could I forget that one!? It isn't just dealers, either. I know the book rates are supposed to even out the cost of fast jobs vs. long jobs, but when I take my car in for a supposedly 10-hour job (by the book) and they haven't even started working on it at 5 PM, but they call me an hour and a half later to say it's done, that's just wrong to charge 10 hours anyway.
    – rob
    Jul 15, 2015 at 15:05
  • If they quoted him a price, weren't willing to sell the car at that price, and didn't mention that, they were negotiating in bad faith. They need to have this happen to them as many times as it takes for them to stop doing that. Jul 16, 2018 at 4:28

If the discount is only for financed car then their software application should have accepted the payment (electronic transfer ID) from financed bank. In this case the bank should have given the payment on behalf of your son.

I believe the dealer know in advance about the paper work and deal they were doing with your son. Financing a car is a big process between dealer and bank.

  • The dealer's argument is that the discount only applies when you use the dealer's own financing option. Whether or not the purchaser used his own money or borrowed it from a third party doesn't matter to the dealer; either way, they got cash.
    – Ben Miller
    Jul 8, 2015 at 12:13
  • @BenMiller The dealer did get cash, but they may also get money from the manufacturer to cover the discount if the sale was financed through the dealer.
    – Eric
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:13
  • More likely a (trailing ?) commission from the true finance provider. Which they are shaving for the offered price, no commission at all means less profit.
    – mckenzm
    Jul 9, 2015 at 10:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .