May I Cancel a Contract or Return a Product Within 3 Day of Making the Purchase in Virginia?

By: Sharen Sellgren

Buyer’s remorse, or a right of rescission, is a way of voiding a contract.  It’s when you want things to go back to the status before a purchase.  Unfortunately, unless the vendor or retailer specifically offers a return policy or a sale’s contract allows you to terminate the contract, there are only a limited number of laws, like the federal and Virginia law, that provide you with this rescission or canceling right.

I. Federal Law

Under federal law, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established some safeguards to protect consumers from the consequences of hasty decisions. In particular situations, there is a three-day cooling-off period during which a consumer can cancel a contract.  For instance, consumers have the right to rescind contracts signed in their home when they are solicited by door-to-door salespeople. Additionally, consumers who purchase items at a temporary business location rented by a merchant on a short terms basis– like at kiosks in a mall or at trade shows in convention centers — have the same three-day “cooling-off” period (as do home-sale parties, and special sales held at hotels or restaurants).

But, consumers do not have a three day right to cancel under federal law when buying items purchased in a retail establishment, such as a store or auto dealership or when buying things like:

  • Good that total less than $25
  • Real estate
  • Insurance
  • Securities
  • Farm equipment
  • Motor vehicle
  • Business or education goods (i.e., not personal or household goods)
  • When the purchase is entirely by mail, online, telephone, or involves arts and crafts at a fair-type venue

If you do qualify for the three-day cooling-off period, then you need to give cancellation notice to the seller by mail, or hand delivery within three business days of the sale, with the following information:

  • Your name, address, and contact information;
  • Identifying information for the goods or services you’re wishing to cancel (e.g., order number, account number, etc.); and
  • An unequivocal statement that you are canceling the contract.

II.  Virginia Law

If you live in Virginia, there are a several statutes that allow you to cancel a contract or agreement:

  • Home solicitation purchases (door-to-door salesmen) under Virginia Code § 59.1-21.3:
    • You can cancel the contract for 3 days after purchase.
    • You must give written notice of cancellation to the seller at the address stated in the agreement or offer to purchase.


  • Computer Transactions under Virginia Code § 59.1-508.2:
    • You may cancel your purchase of computer software, online databases, software access contracts or e-books, if there is a material breach that has not been cured or waived.
    • You may give notice of cancellation in any way reasonable under the circumstances.


  • Travel Clubs under Virginia Code § 59.1-448:
    • If you join a travel club, which is a group of business owners in the travel industry that join together and put together wholesale travel packages for an upfront cost, you may cancel the membership within seven days of purchase.
    • You may cancel by delivery, telegram, or mail with proper address and prepaid postage.


  • Camping Membership Virginia Code § 59.1-326:
    • If you join a camping membership (a private campground open only to members who typically pay a one-time membership fee and annual dues for the right to use the campground), you may cancel the membership within seven days from the date of purchase.
    • You may cancel by: mailing notice of your intent to cancel by certified US Mail to the membership camping operator at the address shown in the membership camping contract.


  • Health Club Virginia Code § 59.1-297:
    • A health club membership may be cancelled within three days after purchase.
    • If a health club closes or relocates its facilities, a buyer may cancel the contract if the club fails to provide comparable alternate facilities within five driving miles of the location designated in the health club contract.
    • A contract may be cancelled if you are physically unable to use a substantial portion of the services for 30 or more consecutive days.
    • You may cancel your membership by:
      • notifying the health club of cancellation in writing, by certified mail return receipt requested, or personal delivery to the address of the health club as specified in the health club contract.


  • Pay Day Loan Virginia Code § 6.2-1816:
    • You (the borrower), have the right to cancel a loan at any time before the close of business on the next business day following the date that the loan was issued.
    • You may cancel by returning the cash or other good funds instrument (i.e., a certified check, cashier’s check, money order or, if the licensee is equipped to handle such payments, payment by credit card) of the amount advanced, back to the lender.


  • Motor Vehicle Title Loan Virginia Code § 6.2-2215:
    • You (the borrower), have the right to cancel the loan at any time before the close of business on the next business day following the day the loan agreement is executed.
    • You may cancel by by returning the original loan proceeds check to or paying to the licensee, in the form of cash or other good funds instrument (i.e., a certified check, cashier’s check, money order or, if the licensee is equipped to handle and willing to accept such payments, payment by credit card, prepaid card, or debit card), the loan proceeds.


  • Refund Anticipation Loan Virginia Code § 6.2-2503:
    • You (the borrower), may cancel the loan on or before the close of business on the next day of business.
    • You may cancel by either returning the original check issued for the loan or providing the amount of the loan in cash to the lender or the facilitator.


  • Credit Services Businesses under Virginia Code § 59.1-335.8:
    • If you bought services to improve your credit, you have three days to cancel the services.
    • To cancel the contract you should mail or deliver a signed and dated copy of the cancellation notice.


  • Fire Insurance Virginia Code § 38.2-2105:
    • You may cancel your fire insurance at any time after your purchase.
    • You may request a cancellation to the insurance company (there is no specified cancellation method).


  • Virginia Property under Virginia Code § 55-509.4:
    • You may cancel a contract for property (that is not a cooperative or condominium):
      • within three days after the signing of the contract, if the purchaser is notified on or before the contract was signed, that the association disclosure packet will not be available;
      • within three days after receiving the association disclosure packet (or notice that the disclosure packet will not be available), you may cancel by hand delivery, electronic means, or by mail with a receipt; or
      • within six days after the postmark date if the association disclosure packet  is sent to the purchaser (or notice that the association disclosure packet will not be available), you may cancel by United States mail.
      • The purchaser may also cancel the contract at any time prior to settlement if the purchaser has not been notified that the association disclosure packet will not be available and the association disclosure packet is not delivered to the purchaser.
    • You may cancel the contract by:
      • Hand delivery;
      • United States mail, postage prepaid, provided the sender retains sufficient proof of mailing, which may be either a United States postal certificate of mailing or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming such mailing;
      • Electronic means provided the sender retains sufficient proof of the electronic delivery, which may be an electronic receipt of delivery, a confirmation that the notice was sent by facsimile, or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming the electronic delivery; or
      • Overnight delivery using a commercial service or the United States Postal Service


  • Condominium under Virginia code § 55-79.97:
    • You may cancel the purchase of a condominium unit:
      • within three days after signing the contract if you are notified on or before the contract was signed that the resale certificate will not be available; or
      • within three days after receiving the resale certificate (or notice that the resale certificate will not be available) delivered by hand, electronic means, or mail, and a receipt is obtained; or
      • within six days after the postmark date of the resale certificate (or notice that the resale certificate will not be available) is sent to you by U.S. mail.
      • You may also cancel the contract at any time prior to settlement if you have not been notified that the resale certificate will not be available and the resale certificate is not delivered to you.
      • A resale certificate is a a set of documents you receive within 7 – 10 days after making an offer on a unit in a condominium building. (It includes the Homeowners Association budget, the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) for the building, and a copy of the minutes of the association’s last meeting.)
    • Cancellation may be made by:
      • Hand delivery;
      • United States mail, postage prepaid, provided the sender retains sufficient proof of mailing, which may be either a United States postal certificate of mailing or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming such mailing;
      • Electronic means provided the sender retains sufficient proof of the electronic delivery, which may be an electronic receipt of delivery, a confirmation that the notice was sent by facsimile, or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming the electronic delivery; or
      • Overnight delivery.


  • Real Estate Cooperative Virginia Code § 55-483:  
    • You cancel an interest in a real estate cooperative within ten days of the purchase.
    • To cancel you may:
      • hand deliver notice to the offeror, or
      • mail notice by prepaid United States mail, to the offeror or to his agent for service of process.


  • Real Estate Time Share under Virginia Code § 55-376:
    • You have seven days to cancel a purchase of a time share.
    • You can cancel the contract by either:
      • hand-delivering the notice to the developer at its principal office or at the project, or
      • mailing the notice by certified United States mail, return receipt requested, to the developer or its agent designated in the contract.  Notice sent by certified mail shall be effective on the date postmarked.


  • Virginia’s Lemon Law: ​In addition, Virginia has the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act (Virginia’s “Lemon Law”).  A car is classified as a “lemon” if it has been repaired three times or more since its purchase or if it has been repaired once for a serious safety defect.  For more information, please see our blog post here. The Lemon Law requires that the dealer accept the vehicle for a refund or exchange or the purchaser may sue the dealer for the sales price and any other incurred damages (e.g., cost of repairs and attorney fees).

III.  Conclusion
Although federal law has a “three-day rule,” or a “right of rescission” to cancel a contract, the law only applies in limited situations.  Although Virginia laws expand the applicability of when you can cancel a contract, these laws also apply in only few, very specific situations (i.e., property purchases, health club memberships, and certain loans).  In general, there aren’t many instances when you can return a purchase without a sales contract allowing you to make the return, so buyer beware!

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54 Responses
  1. Rodney Leigh

    If i signed the purchase agreement and was approved for the loan on a motorcycle but was unable to get it insured can i cancel the contract, it was done yesterday, i have never taken possession of the bike. in Virginia

  2. For instance, consumers have the right to rescind contracts signed in their home when they are solicited by door-to-door salespeople. I truly appreciate your great post!

  3. I bought a used car 3 days ago..I live in Virginia…the car has lights now on the dash…it has rust underneath..they the lights were on when I boight…the sales man said no they werent…they won’t fix…I want my old car back…I. was high pressured in this sale..soon sad over this..I’m also handicap.. what can I do

  4. My wife and I entered into a contract with a construction company in Virginia. The contractor has already breached the contract due to his promise of when the job would be done. We have also had multiple instances where materials have been torn down due to poor workmanship and an inability to follow simple instructions. If we fire the contractor can we recoup the money paid prior to the job being started?

  5. I appreciated it when you shared that you are able to cancel a purchase of a time share by hand-delivering the notice to the developer at its principal office or at the project. My uncle just mentioned the other day that he is planning to cancel his timeshare since he does not think that it does give him much profit. I will suggest to him working with a reliable service that can help him with it.

  6. Hello. My husband and I drove out of state and purchased a vehicle for 5k and sold as it. It has been 24 hours right now. When my husband contacted them about driving up to see it they said nothing was wrong with it. We got there and it had a check engine light on, so we hooked up a scanner and it said it was module issue. We signed as is paperwork, cleared the code and drove 2 hours home. The check engine light never came back on YET… But we noticed A LOT LOT of rust that’s under the hood and the front seat bolts are all rusted out. The top window trim fell off on the way home. We are wondering if the car sat in water and they never told us. They didnt tell us much information about it. In the morning we are going to have it put up on a lift at a mechanics shop to see what underneath looks like. Do we qualify for the cool off period? Or Byers remorse? Or even lemon law?

  7. I signed a purchase agreement for a travel trailer in Virginia. I signed some of the financial paperwork. The finance guy told me nothing is final until I take possession. I put 4K down. I have not taken possession of said trailer since not on lot. Can I walk away from the sale?

  8. Hi! I bought a car in a dealership on Saturday right before they closed, on Sunday they were closed. May I return it back since there are some doubts. In the buyers’s guide it is said “buyer may cancel this agreement and receive a full refund before a receipt of a copy of the agreement signed by an authorized seller representative by giving a written notice of cancellation to seller.” Thanks.

  9. I bought a brand new 2020 Camry. Before it has even gotten 150 miles on the odometer, it has been in the shop twice, for the same check engine light. Turns out, I can’t drive it, until they fix it. I have had the car in the shop more days than in my driveway. What are my rights? Can you get me out of this car? One more complication, I work at the dealership, and only traded my old Camry in because my GM said he would give me the same payment and terms as my old car, obviously, that wasn’t true either. I don’t want a new car lemon. Help please!

  10. My father-in-law signed a contract with a horrible company back in August to do windows. To date, (12-2-20) no windows have been installed and they have since increased the price to 7k, almost 3k more than originally promised. He simply cannot afford this, which he has told them, but they threaten him with court to keep him in their grips. There must be something he can do, any help here would be much appreciated.

    We live in VA.

  11. My water service line broke. This plumbing inc. signed a contract with me on Friday (7/17/20). Next Monday (7/20/20), the company called me saying due to their equipment issues they could not fix the water line that day. They rescheduled to the following Wednesday (7/22/20). On Wednesday, a worker finally came and walked away saying that they are not going to fix the pipe. Although three business days have already passed, can I still cancel the contract by myself without penalty?

  12. My husband purchased a brand new car at the dealership in Virginia. We were pre-approved and had the car for 45 days now. We also put $20,000 down. The dealership ran 14 inquiries on his credit report. They could not verify his employment and would like us to return the car. What are our rights in Virginia? In Virginia, how long does a seller (dealership) have to cancel a car purchase contract?

  13. We signed a contract with vacation villages in Williamsburg today for a timeshare week but are deeply regretting our decision and want out. Is this still possible? Does the timeshare code sited above apply to our situation?

  14. Hi.
    My wife made some hasty purchase in a cosmetic store in Colorado pressured by quite aggressive sales tactics. it was expensive running a total of 3.700USD for some cosmetic products. The return policy printed on the receipt stated that they will charged 20% of the retail value to return it plus restocking fee. She thought she will bite the bullet the next day only to hear that she would only get 400$ back since they said she got discounted price and claim that the 20 % is counted on the full price. They later changed it to 800 when she got a police officer involved but the officer didn’t know who was in the right here. To me this feels like a scam or at the very least dishonest methods. The store is not listed anywhere online but have a street shop downtown. Dont know if its just temporary or not (thinking about the “Cooling-off rule). We could only find one review listing the same problem we have and that is all that exists of them online. Can you help us out? Does she has any rights here. This was one day ago.

  15. What if I bought a car, put a $1000 deposit, signed paperwork, but have not taken possession of it yet, Its been two days, can I back out and get my deposit back in VA?

  16. Hi. My husband and I signed a contract yesterday at 3:34 pm for windows. After reading more reviews we’ve decided it’s not in our best interest to work with this company. I know we have the 3 days in VA and will hand deliver the cancellation notice tomorrow. But when preparing to sign them we saw that he signed the form that states “I Jane Doe” have been provided…… and I signed the form that says “I John Doe”……… Will this cause a problem with cancelling?

  17. Purchased a kids recreational/educational activity books from a door to door sale. A payment agreement was set up. First payment was $25. After the usual 3 day cool off I requested to cancel my order and was denied. I have not received the product or finished paying for it. Can I still be denied a refund?

  18. i purchased a car with a dealership that has in their contract “No cooling off period”. 2 days later I want to cancel the contract and return the car. Am I able to do so in Virginia

  19. I purchase a triathlon bike via Facebook marketplace for $1100. Although I test rode it, the seller did not have it tuned up prior to purchase. Within 2 days I took it for a tune up, which revealed a crack in the frame, a major repair. I went to the seller, who initially said she would work with me and pay for the repair, but when I told her the estimate was $300, she backed out and is refusing to pay.
    Do I have any recourse?

  20. Our friend, brand new to this country, signed a contract yesterday morning to receive Invisalign from Bright Now Dental without reading reviews. She wants to cancel the contract. Friday, April 5 by 8am is three days. Can she use the Virginia law to cancel? She has gotten scans of her teeth but that’s it. Contract is for $4K+.

  21. My parents purchased a furniture set in Furniture Max the day before yesterday. They told my parents it would take two weeks for delivery, so they haven’t received the items. They then found a set they liked better at a nother retailer and want to get out of the contract. When my mother told them the next day that she wanted to get out of the contract they told her that the contract she signed stated it would cost her 25% of the total to get out of the contract. Does this fall under the 72 hours of buyers remorse,? Or are they stuck?

    1. Theresa — Likely out of luck, especially if they went to the store to purchase. Of course, if you wanted my firm to send a letter to try to cancel the contract, we could try, but I don’t think the business is legally obligated to cancel.

  22. I purchased a car from dealership in Fairfax. We financed the car and signed all paper work. I’ve had the car for one week. The Finance Dept contacted me and stated that they misapplied a rebate from the manufacturer and would like me to come in re-do the paperwork to fix the “mistake”. In other words they want to take away the extra rebate and increase my out the door price by over 10% (amount of rebate). What are my rights to tell them no? Am I legally obligated to fix their mistake?

  23. In the process of purchasing a used vehicle that is being transferred from another dealership out of state but being sold in Virginia. I felt extremely pressured to go through the purchase agreement and lease paperwork in order to initiate the transfer to the local Virginia dealership. They reassured me I am able to cancel the contract if I find something wrong with the vehicle when I see it in person and that the purchase isn’t finalized until the registration is transferred and I drive off the lot. Is this true?

    1. @Court – If it’s not in writing, it’s going to be very hard to enforce and the statutory right to return within 3 days would NOT apply to this transaction.

  24. I order appliances from a local electronic store. That same day (11 pm) I realized that what I ordered would not fit. I promptly emailed the salesperson to cancel the order. Can I be charged a restocking fee?

    1. @Sally — Probably, if it’s in the contract. If you’re going to order other appliances that do fit, it’s probably not a good business decision for the store, but it could be permissible.

  25. Hello,

    I bought a used car with a 3 month or 3000 mile warranty, it started pouring smoke after I left and drove 6 miles and then they kept it overnight. I’m going back today 3/15/2019 and want my money back. What can I do?

  26. I entered a contract with a door to door sales for a vaccum cleaner. The next day I decided that it would not be in my best interest to purchase so i canceled in two business days via next day delivery. the contract was canceled 1/29/19. Saturday morning 3/9/19 i get a very loud knock at my door from the seller demanding the equiptment. I showed him the contract and told him he didnt have the right to come to my house demanding anything as it was well pass the 20 days he had to recovery it He called the police and threatened to take me to court. The police officer stated that he could take me to court and it would be very expensive for me . I surrendered the goods but i felt violated is there anyway i can vindicate this violation of the contract and my rights as a consumer.

    1. @Susan – I don’t think you’re able to cancel the agreement and keep the merchandise. Obviously, the sales person’s behavior was unacceptable, but I don’t think the remedy is to keep the merchandise after you cancel the purchase.

    2. Hi Susan, I understand exactly what you’re asking and I’m not an attorney. Your question relates to VA Code § 59.1-21.6 which states, in part, “If the seller fails to demand possession of goods within twenty days after cancellation or revocation, the goods become the property of the buyer without obligation to pay for them.”

      Again, I’m not an attorney, but perhaps Mr. Krieger would be willing to take a second look at your question. If we look at the plain language of the Code, it seems like the merchandise should have been yours to keep because more than 20 days had passed when the salesman demanded it back. But you voluntarily returned the merchandise after 20 days and only an attorney can say for sure if there’s a legal remedy for that. VA Code aside, by returning the vacuum you probably kept some poor guy from having to pay for it himself. I imagine those door-to-door salesmen struggle to make a decent living. They’re probably independent contractors with a lot of out of pocket costs. Personally, I think you did the right thing even if you weren’t legally required to.

  27. I leased a car on Feb 28 and was told it was best for me to get out of my 1st lease because of miles and that all incentives I was eligible for would end that day. In less than 25 hours I called the finance manager to return the vehicle and was told I couldn’t because they had processed the information. I called The loan company and they said they didn’t have the paperwork for a new vehicle. I called several times to cancel the contract and after 7 days including the weekend was told nothing could be done because the loan had been processed and the loan company said it usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to process because they have so many it was rare for mine to be processed in a few days. My question is what is my right under Virginia law to return this vehicle and be restored to my previous contract to continue that lease or have it financed or to get my down payment refunded to me and just walk away without having to pay any additional fees

    1. @Sharon — I don’t think you don’t have a right to return within 3 days in this instance. Maybe there is some type of fraud or misrepresentation claim because of what you were told during the transaction, but that’s a very different claim than the right to return within 3 days. Sorry I don’t have better news for you.

  28. I signed a contract for window replacement on 9/5/18. That same day, I emailed the salesman to insure I could rehang my vertical blinds on the new replacement windows with and would not void the warranty at all. He responded on 9/6/18 that not only could I rehang my Next Day Blinds but they would advise Next Day Blinds. They replaced the windows on 12/27/18. Not only will the windows not support my blinds, but attaching anything to the windows will void the warranty. How am I supposed to exercise my right to cancel within 3 days when I am given misleading for false information? And, yes, I have these emails still.

    1. @Mitch — The right to cancel in 3 days only applies in a limited number of circumstances. If you’d like my firm to review your contract/email, please give us a call and we’ll set-up a consult.

  29. Is there a right to cancel in this situation. I put a deposit on a car advertised on Facebook based on the fact that there was nothing wrong with the car. There was no mention that it was nonrefundable on the receipt. I did not sign anything.

  30. We purchased a timeshare while on vacation in Virginia. When we got home 5 days later and began reviewing the contract we noticed several things that we didn’t agree with and mailed the contract back. They said it was post marked on the 8Th day and that they would not void the contract.Is there anything we can do?

  31. I signed a contract for a home to be built based on the information about the area from the selling agent. I learned this information was incorrect. Can I cancel this contract? I sent cancellation notice within 3 days.

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About the Author

Steven Krieger and guests (lawyers and non-lawyers) will periodically post about topics relevant to his firm and practice areas. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. 

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