Different tires front/back on AWD, did dealer rip me off?

I bought an AWD Pont. Vibe (Toyota Matrix) from a used car dealer, it had different tires on the front and on the back. At the time I did not know this was a problem, but I took it to the tire shop the other day because my steering wheel would vibrate at around 65. They pointed out the strange wear on one of my front tires and told me about the fact that on AWD all the tires are supposed to be the same. So did having the different tires cause damage? Did the dealer rip me off? Help please.

The used car dealer or the previous owner of the car did what was cheapest for him (replacing two tires instead of four), despite the fact that this practice results in excess wear on the AWD mechanism. Unfortunately, this does not really surprise me, as sellers of used cars will frequently do almost anything–be it ethical or not–in order to unload a car.

The reality is that the used car marketplace is a veritable shark tank into which many people wade without having done their due diligence. Before buying a car–whether new or used–you owe it to yourself to do enough research on that model so that you know its pros and cons and you know what to look out for if the vehicle is a used one.

A pre-purchase inspection by your mechanic might have caught this problem, or maybe not. It would depend on the mechanic’s own diligence. That is why you as a car owner need to know as much as possible before buying a car.

You might try going back to the used car dealership (Honest Achmed’s Car Emporium?), but don’t be surprised if you get the cold shoulder to your request for satisfaction. At least the next time that you are in the market for a used car, you will be likely to be much more cautious.

The dealer did not rip you off. This is on you for not doing homework before buying a vehicle and as to the strange wear that may not be related to different tires at all.
Depending on the wear pattern this could be caused by wheel balance, faulty strut or shock absorber, or an alignment fault due to age/miles, worn suspension part, or something bent due to a past collision.

Different brand of tire, etc. no problem. Different size tire, maybe.
You might elaborate on exactly how this tire is worn and then maybe a guess could be made as to what the cause is. It may not be related to AWD at all.

…the tire has one area on the inside that looks almost like a gouge was taken out of it. About 5’ long 1.5 wide going along the tire (not across it).

I do understand that this is really on me for not checking into the AWD version of this car, I did not realize it was AWD when I was doing my research and I don’t think the dealer knew it was AWD either.

thanks to both of you for the help!

Just guessing without seeing a pic of the tire but if this one spot is all that exists this could point to a badly out of balance tire or one that has suffered a flat spot due to locked brakes at one time. (as in slamming them on to avoid a collision)

The latter would be less likely as something like this would cause a pattern across the entire tire, UNLESS the front end was seriously out of alignment and the wheels were toed out a lot.
I’m leaning towards a long term out of balance tire that may have started off a little out of balance and eventually led to a lot. This kind of thing snowballs and gets progressively worse.

No matter, a tire like this needs to be replaced and the main thing is to keep the tires the same diameter. It’s preferable the brand and tread be matched but if this can’t be done the diameter is a must.
Hope that helps.

I will add this. It is not necessary for the back tyres and front to match in all ways. The two front tyres need to match and the back two need to match and the outside diameter likely needs to match very very close on all four tyres. Toyota should be able to tell you how close.

It would be best if the front and back tyres matched the other.

Mismatched tyres can cause handling problems. They are the kind of problems that don’t show up until it is too late. Under normal conditions and even under some harsh conditions they may act fine, but under a given emergency situation, it could mean you controlling the car or the car blindly going another direction.