Damaged car sold as new/unused

Hi folks, I need some advice in case I haven’t thought of everything I need do before trying to resolve this car issue.

Problem: Remember that nice, NEW 2007 Chevy Impala I bought in November 2007? Well, it now has 14,500 miles on it after 2 years. Up until today, I had taken it back to the dealership for all service, which has consisted of multiple oil changes, rotating tires once, and two warranty issues with electronics.

Today I took it to the independent mechanic I used to take the old cars to get an oil change and do the second tire rotation. I asked them to make sure the tires were balanced as I’ve begun lately having increasing problems with a noticable “wobble” feel from the tires.

To my shock and anger, it turns out the problem is that the supposedly “new” car I bought obviously had been in a wreck and repaired prior to when I bought it and that fact was NOT disclosed to me. Had it been so, I would not have accepted delivery of the car and bought it.

Note: the car was one the dealer acquired from a second dealer about 35 miles away because the dealer I bought from did not have the particular mix of options I wanted in stock on the lot. So it is possible the second dealer swapped this damaged car to my dealer without disclosing the fact. I simply don’t know. However, my dealer certainly has never brought to my attention the repairs apparent from underneath and they told me the tires are fine when the are not.

The rear left quarter panel area shows extensive body work underneath, with lots of Bondo and what is still distorted and ragged metal. The entire rear suspension is badly out of alignment, and apparently has been the entire two years I’ve had the car. In defense of why I have not previously noticed the bad alignment, prior to buying this car I was driving the old car with major suspension issues, so the new car felt so much better I simply didn’t feel the problem, only that it was much improved over the old car.

The bad alignment has ruined the tires. The rear tires are showing excessive wear on the inside part of the tread and one of the tires has a belt separating with the tire in imminent danger of total failure. The front tires, which started out on the rear and were rotated to the front about 7,000 miles ago show similar excessive wear on the inside tread.

The dealership obviously has had the car up on the rack multiple times and even rotated tires with that excessive wear pattern without ever telling me that. I specifically asked at the time of the tire rotation if the tread was holding up properly, etc. and was told all was well.

Now the car needs a complete alignment and four new tires, which isn’t cheap.

More importantly, I am concerned about what other hidden damage there may be that will eventually show up as early failures of other parts and/or systems, possibly just beyond the warranty.

I have notified my insurance agent’s office and will be getting a call from him tomorrow. I have also spoken with the Missouri Attorney General’s office and was told they can process a complaint if I file one and they can provide mediation if I request it along with a complaint. I will also be calling a cousin this evening who is an attorney for his advice.

My question to all of you is this, even though I was sold a supposedly new, undamaged, unused car with only 42 miles on it (35 miles from the second dealer that supplied it), would it be fair to expect either a new car in replacement or to get my full money back and let the dealer have the car? Obviously, I’ve had use of the car for 2 years and 14,500 miles and it’s value has already taken the biggest hit on depreciation. I do not want to take unfair advantage of anyone but neither do I feel I should be stuck with a damaged car when I was sold the car as totally pristine new.

Even if the dealer provides the alignment and new tires at no cost, I have a car with who knows what hidden damage and which will reduce it’s resale/trade-in value.

Frankly, however this plays out, I do not want to keep the car and will end up replacing it one way or the other since I cannot know what, if any, other damage is hiding and waiting to manifest as an expensive and potentially dangerous problem down the road.

Yeah, the moral of the story is, never, ever buy even a supposedly new car again without paying the independent mechanic I trust to put it up on the rack and give it a thorough examination. Beyond that, any suggestions folks? Insurance agent, Attorney General, and family attorney being consulted. But what would you all think is a fair resolution???

Gad, I feel like a total damned fool and am just sick and kicking myself.


…still reading, still learning!

First of all, Marnet, you should not feel like “a damned fool”. You had no reason to suspect that you were being sold damaged goods, and you are right to go after the dealership that sold the car to you. If your dealership feels that they were suckered by the other dealership, then they can go after that other dealership in court.

Knowing how carefully and methodically you researched this car purchase, I am confident that you will do everything necessary to be made whole in this situation, and it certainly does appear that this is the case. As to exactly how you can be made whole, that is up to your attorney to propose, but since it could possibly be argued that you were put at risk by driving a car that had been in an undisclosed collision, I think that you should discuss punitive damages–as well as compensatory damages–with your attorney.

The only other thing I can suggest is that you might want to contact a few local TV stations, as they might be very interested in doing an expose of how dealerships operate. Caveat Emptor is the order of the day, and at least one TV station might love to run with this story. In fact, once the film crews arrive at the dealership, it is possible that you might be offered an out-of-court settlement!

My money is on you, Marnet. I just hope that the dealership recalls the old adage, that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”!

Thanks VDC. I just didn’t need this right now. I’m out of work, like lots of other folks, in a job market that is one of the most depressed in the country. I need a reliable safe car for job hunting transportation and I simply don’t need the expense and time spent solving this. Arrggghhh!!!

Frankly, I want either a totally new Impala or my entire money back. Preferably my money back so I can get a replacement car from a different source, thank you very much for my distrust.

Thanks for the suggestion about compensatory damages because I’ve been worried about having to pony up the big bucks for state sales tax on any replacement, as well as any additional outlay for a new car.


Few things get me more agitated than somebody taking advantage of decent, hard-working people, and I would venture to say that a lot of people feel the same way that I do. If I was a TV News Director, I would JUMP at the opportunity to run a story under the heading, “Local Chevy Dealership Cheats Unemployed Woman”.

In the current business climate, your dealership just may be willing to settle this out of court if your attorney approaches them the right way. This kind of publicity could quickly change their showroom traffic from slow to non-existent.

Guess they saw a single woman with, at that time, an elderly and failing father and decided we’d never know the difference. As, in fact, we didn’t.

Whatever replaces this car will get the once over from my indie mechanic even if supposedly spanking new from the factory! Y’all have preached the wisdom of that when buying a used car; I just didn’t think it necessary with a “new” car.

Oh well, my late father was fond of saying that not all education comes out of a textbook! This is part of my education.

correction: car bought in Nov. 2006; it’s a 2007 model

Another thought, Marnet. While it is possible that the car was in an accident with only 35 miles or 42 miles on the odometer, it is also very possible that the odometer was rolled back as a part of this scam. I suggest that you discuss this issue with the nice folks at the Missouri AG’s office.

If either or both dealerships engaged in odometer fraud, they are in for a whole heap of trouble beyond selling you damaged goods. In fact, mailing documents bearing a falsified odometer mileage would constitute Mail Fraud, which is a fairly serious Federal offense.

Did they mail any of the registration or purchase documents to you after you bought the car? Did these documents have an odometer reading on them? If so, and if it can be proven by the AG’s office that the odometer was rolled back, Federal prosecution in addition to prosecution by state authorities could spell the end of this dealership.

Consulting with your family attorney is certainly the right thing to do. One more avenue to look into is getting a professional opinion or two about whether the vehicle meet all the safety requirements of a new car and all the safety claims that GM made for this model year.

If any of the safety devices were not restored to factory new condition, all crush zones restored and the car certified to deliver on all of GM’s safety claims, you could have a strong case for exposing you to excess danger. One thing to look at first is the seat belt where it anchors to the floor. There is a pull out section that is there to absorb the shock of hitting the seatbelt. There will be a tag or a line across the belt that says something like replace if visible. Anyway, work with your lawyer on this, you might get a lot more than just a new car or your money back.

BTW, your original sales contract probably had a clause in the fine print designed to protect the dealership from liability in this type of case. It can be enforced for damage that was only cosmetic. It won’t protect them from safety issues. Any serious safety flaws could also lead to criminal charges to the dealer by either the state or the feds.

Thanks VDC. Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that too.

AG’s office said they can give no legal advice, only process a complaint and provide mediation; it is up to me to retain a lawyer at my expense and try to get a fair settlement.

I presume I’m not being unfair believing, despite 2 yrs and 14,500 miles, that I’m entitled to more than repairs and a pat on the back?

Thanks Keith. I’ll go back and read all the fine print of the contract for just such a clause! I’d forgotten to think of that.

That’s why I brought this question to the board here, just to get such valuable suggestions for details I’ve overlooked.

“your original sales contract probably had a clause in the fine print designed to protect the dealership from liability in this type of case”

Fraud is fraud, pure and simple. Selling a car as new and pristine, when in fact it is not in that condition, is something that no fine print on a sales contract can protect a dealership from.

It does sound like the selling dealer was snookered by the transfering dealer. It would be nice to know if the two of you could gang up on them, but how could you really know ? We’ve had new, still on the lot, trucks damaged before ( Ford dealer, rt66 has a slight ‘S’ in it, driver drove 40mph straight into six trucks on the lot. ) but it’s the lack of disclosure that bothers me.

I’d be a bit more than hot over this myself if I were in your shoes.
Odds are the dealer who sold you this car did not know about the damage either and the transferring dealer did know about it and saw an opportunity to dump the car off.

Just to throw something out there. If this car has been legitimately wrecked and hit that bad then maybe this car actually had more than 7 miles on it before it was delivered to the dealer who then sold it to you.
Maybe this car was a dealer demo that got wrecked (and it does happen, believe me) and repaired. To carry it a bit further maybe the ECM, speedometer cluster, etc has been altered or modified to show a lower mileage than what actually exists.

I would contact GM and find out exactly what the story is behind this car. Say very little to them and provide the VIN number off of the top of the dashboard.
GM will have a record of this as to when it was sold, or possibly even more importantly, when it was put into service as a demo if that’s the case.
If it was a demo in it’s previous life…ouch. Let the stuff hit the fan.

If the car really has been wrecked then my opinion is that nothing less than a brand new vehicle on a straight across swap would be acceptable.

And don’t kick yourself or feel dumb over this. YOU have done nothing wrong. Period.

Be patient. Don’t use the TV or newspaper consumer affairs folks just yet. Remember it for later, but you need to take it one step at a time.

I’m sorry to hear that you are out of work. But this can be an advantage here, because you have more time to spend on this issue and may get it resolved more quickly.

Your next job:

One of my neighbors was out of work for a several months a couple of years ago. He took odd jobs and even worked as an usher at professional football games to make ends meet. He is an assistant program manage in an aerospace business; a professional, but willing to work temporarily for less to get through the lean time.

Develop a sales pitch for yourself that tells your listener in up to 30 seconds what you want to do and who you are. Then ask you relatives, friends, neighbors, church members - everyone - if they can help you find a job. Tell them you need a coach to help you find a job for someone with your talents and experiences. Never ask for a job, just for help finding one. As soon as you ask for a job, the answer is yes or no. If you ask for help finding one, you can return for more help. Eventually you will meet people you don’t know but are likely to have a job for you. Still treat them as your coach in finding a job someplace. Most people are flattered that a mutual acquaintance thinks of them as a good resource and will be happy to help you. Eventually, one of these people will offer you a job even if they didn’t think they had an opening because you will show them you deserve it.

And yes, this really works.

This reminded me of something. Many years ago when I worked for a multi-line import dealer there was a Chevrolet dealer right next door.
One day at noon while several of us were walking across the street to a steak house for lunch a transport driver was unloading some new Chevys off of the truck.

He misjudged one while coming off too fast and we saw him fall right off the edge of the ramp. Totally caved in the passenger side of the new Monte Carlo and no doubt did some wheel/suspension damamge. The driver was unhurt except for a few bumps and bruises.
Maybe this is what happened to your car?

That is exactly what my indie tech suggested may be the case.

And I can understand patching a car and then selling. But, as noted, it is the lack of disclosure that has me so steamed!

I’m going to get documentation from my insurance company and from the state proving my squeaky clean driving record and let my insurance agent steer me toward the appropriate attorney best to handle this.

I’ll let the attorney advise me as to if/when/how to file a complaint with the AG and/or the media. I’m trying to get all my ducks lined up in a row and then open fire. I’ve decided I’m not saying a thing to the dealership or driving the car onto their lot until I have legal representation and follow whatever advice I’m paying to get from the lawyer.

Sorry folks, the more I think about this the madder I get but I’m trying to let my common sense trump emotions here.

Thank you JT. It always helps to be refreshed in such advice on how to job hunt!

I’ll look into that, Keith. Thanks!

Have you confronted the dealer who sold you the car??? That’s step one. Since there are TWO dealers involved, things could get sideways pretty fast, but step one is to confront the dealer and let THEM inspect the car and see what happens.

If they stone-wall you, THEN see a lawyer. But Good Luck. 2 years and 14,000 miles is a long time and it’s your word against theirs…

I think you are on track! Best of luck or go get em girl…
Get back with us on the progress when it is appropriate for you to do so.