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Suggestion Requested for a Certified Car with Undisclosed Body Repair Due to an Accident

I am a single woman who could use some wise guidance and help. On December 29, 2016 I bought a 2015 Prius at a Toyota Autonation dealership which is about an hour and a half from where I live. It “looked” gorgeous and had less than 4,000 miles on it. It has been running quite well, but on October 29th I found that my right rear bumper appeared to have popped out. I did some research on what could have caused this, and based on what I found decided i should take it to the dealership I purchased the car from and have them fix it. The problem was the dealership (in Irvine, CA) is quite far from my home. I called the Irvine dealership and they told me to take it to my local Toyota dealership in San Diego county, where I live. The Irvine dealer said all Toyota dealers are under the parent Toyota company so this would be okay. I took my car to the collision center in my local Toyota dealership, where I was immediately informed that my car had been in an accident. The Toyota collision repair man could see auto spray paint on the internal screws, buffer cream in the crevices and found masking tape on the inside of the bumper, which he said was used when the car was repainted but never removed. Needless to say, I was shocked. Because I wanted to have m ducks in a row before confronting the Irvine dealership, I thought i would double check on this conclusion. I took my car to another very reputable collision center in my town who told me the same thing and added that there were scratches on the body work due to poor sanding. At this point, I decided to get my car thoroughly inspected to find out the extent of any body and frame damage. I hired an inspector from a business called Auto Doc. He found "bent and broken tabs on the bumper panel, filler with “substandard bodywork and painting” on the right rear quarter and the right rear door. In looking at the frame of the car he found filler in the right “right rear C pillar post” of the back right door. I have done NOTHING to this car. This is clearly the way it came., when I bought it, but was unaware at the time. I might also add that he had one of those sonar paint sensors which clearly had a different number count around the back right quadrant of my vehicle. The auto inspector wrote a detailed report for me with lots of photos and documentation. When I spoke to him he said that the body work was so poor, that it could have taken very little for the right rear bumper to pop out because it was not in securely. He also pointed out the variance in the luster and clarity of the paint in the right rear door verses the right front door. He stated the right front door had been painted simply so the colors of two doors would seemingly blend together. I am still under warranty. I realize more could be wrong with this car but it seems to run quite well. I just want the dealership to “properly” fix the right rear bumper so it is secure and won’t pop out again, as well as properly sand and repaint the the right side of the car so as to eliminate the poor sanding and paint job which was done before. This auto damage did not appear on the Carfax report. Unfortunately, the dealership is not calling me back. i left 2 messages to them, so far. What recourse do I have? My brother-in-law said contact the consumer reporters at our regional television stations and area newspapers. He also suggested i contact our local congressman and the Better Business Bureau as well as raise a stink on Yelp. My other brother in law suggested I just take them to small claims court. I just can’t understand why this dealership would want to jeopardize their reputation by not getting back to me and trying to make this thing right. BTW, the Carfax report indicates the car was leased from Toyota in Glendora CA, and then auctioned off by the dealership. This is where Toyota of Irvine picked it up, and within 8 days they sold it to me. I figured that if a car was “Certified” with a clean Carfax report it was in good shape. Silly me.

You have a problem that can’t be solved on an internet forum. The warranty you have left on this does not cover body damage. Also the body repair warranty if there was one has expired. You can talk to a lawyer but don’t get your hopes up.

I wholeheartedly agree with Volvo on this one. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have an independent inspection done BEFORE buying the car. It’s yours now unless you can prove fraud… an almost impossible task. .

Now the good news! Apparently it’s running well and you like it. Everything you’ve commented on is, while not correct, cosmetic. We get many posts from people, and I’ve had many friends, who bought a late model used car and discovered that it has serious operational issues. That’s far worse.

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The advice here is pretty consistent. Whenever buying a used vehicle, even if certified from a dealership, pay your own mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection before signing any checks. I’m presuming you didn’t do that. It’s quite possible the dealership wasn’t aware of the prior damage when it sold you the car. Car fax reports don’t catch all the problems all the time. So it is pretty much up to the buyer to have the pre-purchase inspection done. Even if it were done, with this problem they still might not have caught it. but at least you’d have had a chance to catch it.

As far as your question goes, that’s really a contract law question. It depends on the exact wording of your contract and warranty and the laws of California. If I had the problem and the dealership was giving me grief, to me it wouldn’t be worth the hassle of time and energy involved for what’s really just a minor problem. I’d just find a good body shop to fix what needs fixing, and be done with it. It doesn’t seem like major work from what you say.

If this is your first car, well at least you know about the pre-purchase inspection thing now. Car ownership is always an expensive endeavor. You at least picked a car that’s rated for good reliability, so you got that in your favor going forward. Just get the body repairs fixed, and enjoy your ride I guess is my advice.

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Certified pre- owned just means that it is a used car that they have found a way to sell for more money.

I really think that you need to drag Corporate Toyota into this. Contact the regional office and provide copies of the information you have.

Unfortunately, you have found out that both Carfax and Certified are nothing but empty words sometimes.

“Certified” is always good for an additional few thousand extra on the sale price.

If it were me, I’d want that car gone from my possession; as in the dealer buys it back and you move on to something that hasn’t been patched.
Front bumper issues, rear quarter issues, rear door, C pillar hit. Sounds like it was broadsided by an Expedition…


I don’t think 8 days would have been long enough to do the repairs so I think the work was done by the first dealer and put on auction. So guess the 2nd dealer was blind to the problems anyway. One question though is if body work is included in the warranty? I kinda doubt it but they may agree to repair the bumper anyway and fix the paint just as a good will measure. Leased car, the leasee got clobbered and just turned the car in. The dealer just fixed it and never reported it on the title. Why would they, it was still their car-just rented out. I had a new Buick special order that required painting right off the transport truck so just having overspray and tape would not be killers but the body filler and missing tabs suggests more.

At any rate no point I don’t think of calling out the Marines. Just try to work out the best deal for the repair and drive on.

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I have a very important question . . .

Did you buy a certified pre-owned Prius from the Irvine Toyota dealership . . . ?

Or did you in fact buy a regular non-cpo used Prius from the Irvine Toyota dealership

I read the title of your discussion, but nowhere in your paragraph did you specifically state you purchased a cpo car

All that means is no accidents, salvage, theft recovery, etc. appear on the carfax report . . . it doesn’t mean anything beyond that. Many cars are repaired and not reported to any insurance company. If that were to happen, as it apparently did in this case, how in heck would Carfax know about it? Carfax is really just a marketing tool.

If you bought a regular non-cpo car from the Toyota dealership, then I’d say your situation is difficult

If you did in fact buy a cpo car, then you have some leverage. Toyota could buy the car back from you and decertifiy it. I’ve actually seen that happen.

When buying any used car, you shouldn’t assume anything, or take anybody’s “word” for it, so to speak. That is where an independent inspection comes in. And the guy doing the inspection should have absolutely nothing to do with the dealer and/or seller.

I’m with Volvo on this . . . you have remaining new car warranty, but it won’t cover this situation.

If it really is a non-cpo car . . . my advice is to have it repaired properly and just enjoy the car.

Just as you would have a house inspected before buying it . . . you should also pay to have a used car inspected before finalizing the deal


If you want to negotiate for the repair of your rear bumper cover you will need to do this in person at the selling dealer. I don’t believe contact with your congressman or the news agency will improve your relationship with the dealer.

There are a number or requirement for a used car to meet to be “Certified” but to be collision free is not one of them.

Your awareness of the body repair nearly one year after the sale will work against you, you cannot prove the repair was preformed before or after the sale. One of your body shops pointed out apparent flaws in the body surface and paint that seem to be acceptable at the time of sale and for the last 11 months.


I’m not so sure I agree with that, depending on WHO is doing the cerfifying

When I worked at the dealership, any car that was in a collision was excluded from receiving factory cpo certification. They were either sold as regular used cars, dealer traded, or wound up at an auction. Toyota dealers sell plenty of used Toyotas which are not cpo, for whatever reason, even though they may be young enough and have low mileage. When I was at the Benz dealership, they sold plenty of used 2 or 3-year old non-cpo Benzes

That said . . . if you’re talking about Carfax, it’s a different story, I believe. If they can legitimately prove that no collision was ever reported, I suppose they could “certify” it . . . for what it’s worth :smirk:

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I have a Lexus CPO inspection for in front of me, I would expect Toyota to be the same. There is a check list for fit and finish, frame and floor but nothing to exclude a vehicle based on prior collision repair.

A Carfax report is required for CPO vehicles however if this was a loan car or demonstrator (salesman’s demo) the repair may be performed in house, not reported.

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Yeah, I’m imagining how receptive a congressman’s office would be to “they sold me a car with a replaced bumper cover!” Unless you’re golfing buddies with him, can’t see this getting priority.

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Did they explicitly state “no damage history?” If so, did they do it in writing?

Cars with repaired damage get sold every day; in fact, probably the majority of used cars have at least “swapped paint” or “bent metal” at some point in their lives. There has to be a means for such cars to get sold, after all, or the system grinds to a halt.

It’s possible the dealer wasn’t aware of the damage. In any event, you’ll have a hard time PROVING they were aware of it. I think you best bet is some form of “goodwill” from the seller, and that is likely predicated with being on civil terms with them.

As to whether you have any,more confrontational, options…best to talk to a lawyer, not car repair enthusiasts.

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 Unfortunately, i am a bit naive.  I had another Toyota, for many years, which just finally conked out.  I had bought that car used from a friend, who i knew had taken excellent care of it.  When i prepared to buy this car i asked my mechanic for the safest way to buy a used car and she said (yes, i said “she”) “Just make sure it is certified”, so i did.  It never occurred to me that I could have a car from a dealership inspected by an outside source.  Live and learn. I thought I would have to drive it off of the lot and they wouldn’t allow that, but the “Auto Doc” who inspected my car a few days ago, said he takes all of his equipment to the dealership and just inspects it right there on the lot.  He also told me that Toyota cannot certify a car with damage to more than 3 panels, and they do not have to disclose this damage when they say it is certified.  I watched him do the entire inspection and the damage was to just 3 panels, no more.   He did say that it looked like the car took a pretty heavy side hit.  What I find suspect is why the Glendora Toyota did not sell it as one of their used cars.  Why did they send it off to auction? 
 Anyways, I appreciate all of your input.  I really have felt alone in all of this, and even though some of your comments were not that encouraging (though honest), I still appreciate every single one of them.  I am going to take all of your suggestions and advice into account and plan my next step.  The hardest part is that I paid a little over $21,000 for the car, and with the body damage, I am not sure if it was really worth that much.  Anyhoo, i really appreciate all of your advice.  Thank you all, so much.
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We’re all friends here. Just trying to help.

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That’s encouraging. Thank you.

It is a dealer certified car, I really do appreciate your feedback. Lesson learned. I have purchased a used vehicle which i had inspected, before, but i bought it from a private party who allowed me to take the car to my mechanic to have it inspected. I didn’t think the auto dealership would let me take the car off their lot to do the same, so i just figured an inspection was not a possibility, and was relying on the dealer certification to cover my bases. I have since learned that inspectors can come directly to the dealership and inspect the car. I would definitely had done this, had i known better. BTW, my current mechanic, who i have had for the last 5 years, had recommended that i buy a certified car if i was going to buy a used vehicle… I trusted her (yes, “her”). This was, perhaps my first mistake. I now realize that being “certified” and having a clean Carfax record certainly does not cover all bases.

I think it is very possible that the salesman that sold the car to me knew nothing about the bodywork. In fact, i would agree with the earlier poster that perhaps even the dealership itself was unaware that this ca had been in a collision.

Either previous body damage is not one of the 160 inspection points Toyota brags about or the bulk of the “inspection” is done sitting at a break room table with a cup of coffee.

When I bought my Toyota as a Certified pre-owned, it was certified by Toyota, had a long list of requirements including no history of major accident. Now who knows what is major but this one would have pissed me off too.

I would get all the reports from the body shops and copy and mail it to Toyota with a cover letter. That is if the local dealer is not willing to do anything about it. If you like the car you might want to take some cash in lieu of getting an accident car but be careful not to void your CPO warranty. A letter from a lawyer might be more help but then it might not be cost effective on a Prius.

On a different note, I once finalized a deal on a Highlander on the internet and then phone. Went to the dealership to pick it up and the rear bumper and quarter panel had been repainted. I asked the salesperson and he said “we didn’t paint it” which meant the shop next door did :slight_smile: I walked out, but it is a dirty business.

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