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Does painting over vehicle rust constitute dealership fraud?

On Behalf of | Aug 13, 2021 | Dealer Fraud

Many different factors influence how much people will pay for a used vehicle. The mileage on the vehicle, the overall consumer satisfaction and safety rating of the model, and even appearance can influence what someone will pay for a specific used vehicle when shopping at a dealership.

Most people assume that they can quickly spot damage that would affect its value, but unfortunately, some dealerships will actively try to hide issues from potential buyers. For example, the dealership could have purchased a used vehicle from another buyer or at auction that has substantial cosmetic rust damage.

Rather than replacing the affected parts or treating the rust to avoid the risk of it spreading, they might just paint over it to hide the cosmetic issues. Do you have any rights when you discover significant rust damage on a used vehicle you recently purchased?

Were you informed about the paint job?

One of the big factors that might influence your rights is whether the dealership was open about the fact that they had applied a layer of cosmetic paint to address rust issues. If the salesperson said that the vehicle was rust but they gave it a paint job, you may not have grounds to bring a complaint against the dealership for fraudulent behavior.

However, if they lied to you about the condition of the vehicle or didn’t disclose the presence of rust, they may have violated your rights and dealership fraud laws. Trying to hide defects in a vehicle to trick a consumer into paying a higher price for it is unethical and likely a violation of Pennsylvania law, especially if the rust damage is substantial enough to affect the vehicle’s value.

What can you do after you discover an issue with undisclosed vehicle rust?

When you take your car to the car wash or into a repair shop for routine maintenance, you or a professional might discover a rust issue that the dealership actively tried to hide from you.

Documenting the extent of the rust damage can give you an idea about the strength of your claim. Minor rust spotting in one place on the vehicle may not constitute a significant act of fraud worth pursuing, but extensive rust that could affect the resale value or even the structural integrity of the vehicle is another matter.

Buyers who feel like a dealership misrepresented a vehicle may have grounds to take legal action against that dealership for their fraudulent sales practices.

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