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GM’s refund promise: the details

General Motors allows buyers to return their new cars within 60 days for a full refund. The offer runs to the end of November and applies to Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac brands, but buyers should know the fine print. General Motors allows buyers to return their new cars within 60 days for a full refund. The offer runs to the end of November and applies to Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac brands, but buyers should know the fine print. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Dan Strumpf
Associated Press / September 24, 2009

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NEW YORK - You fell in love with that $22,000 Chevy Malibu’s color, style, and price. After driving it home, you realize there’s a lot to hate - maybe the way it handles, or the location of the upholders. Don’t worry. Bring it on back for a refund, no questions asked, says GM’s chairman and new TV pitchman, Edward Whitacre Jr.

But is it really as easy as returning an ill-fitting shirt to Macy’s?

It’s a good idea to read the fine print. You’ll need to drive very carefully and limit how many miles you put on the car. Don’t die. And don’t expect your wallet to be made whole - even if you follow the fine print to the letter.

Q. So, I can bring back my car or truck to the dealer anytime?

A. No returns are allowed within the first 30 days. It’s anytime between day 31 and day 60 of ownership.

The policy makes sense for GM. Buyer’s remorse can set in within days for new customers, who grouse over things like knobs and upholders. Owners can grow more accepting of problems over time, says Jack Gilles, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America.

Q. Do I have to cite a defect?

A. No. You can hate the color, for all GM cares. But the policy says a returned vehicle can’t have more than $200 in damage - and GM gets to decide.

Lena Pons, transportation analyst at the consumer watchdog Public Citizen, says the amount of damage GM assesses depends on “how much they’re going to nitpick.’’

The lesson for consumers: Be extra careful during those first two months. And no car can be returned if it’s been in an accident.

Q. If I keep the car free of dings, I get all my money back?

A. In this case, “money back’’ doesn’t mean all your money. Just the cost of the vehicle and sales tax. GM won’t refund the title, registration, and other fees.

“It’s not really unfair because otherwise you’ve rented the car for free for 30 to 60 days,’’ says Terry Connolly, dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University.

GM also won’t refund any accessories purchased through the dealer, such as paint or rust protection. So choose those add-ons carefully.

Q. What else?

A. Don’t go on a cross-country jaunt. The vehicle cannot have more than 4,000 miles on it. Also, owners must be current on payments. And if you die, no refund.

The program runs through Nov. 30.

Q. If I return my vehicle and everything is in order, will I get my old car back?

A. No.

Q. With all the restrictions, why would I want to participate?

A. Several consumer experts say the hassle isn’t worth it, particularly when you consider GM is quietly offering an incentive not to participate. Customers who waive the return policy receive a $500 rebate. The sensible choice seems to be to settle on the car you really want and take the rebate, says Gilles.

“In my book, spend a little more time checking the car out and take the 500 bucks.’’