Ask our experts | Legal
"I've just signed a contract for a second-hand car. Is it too late to change my mind?"
In SA, used-car buyers have what’s called ‘cooling off rights’. This means they have two clear business days after they’ve signed a contract to change their mind. This can include weekend trade, depending on the opening hours of the dealership.
There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with the car to be able to ‘cool off’; the buyer can simply decide they’ve made the wrong choice.
However, to exercise these rights, there are a few steps that must be followed.
Firstly, if the buyer decides they don’t want the car anymore, they must notify the dealer of their intention in writing, and deliver it in-person, by registered post, fax, email, or to a responsible person at the dealer’s address.
To be protected by the cooling-off period, the car must remain with the dealer during this time, while your trade-in vehicle (if you had one) stays with you.
The dealer can request a deposit when the contract is signed but, if the purchaser exercises their right to cool off, all but $100 of this deposit (which the dealer may retain) must be refunded before the end of the next clear business day, after a notice to cool off is received.
The law does allow buyers to sign a waiver of their cooling off rights; however, it’s an offence for a dealer, or anyone employed by the dealer, to coerce a prospective purchaser to waive these rights.
Don’t forget to carefully read any documentation before signing a contract. If you sign a waiver of your rights, it’ll be difficult to prove later on that you were unaware of what you were signing.
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