When you purchase a brand-new car directly off a dealership’s lot, you have every reason to expect that you’ll be given the keys to a vehicle in pristine condition.
However, there’s every possibility that the vehicle you get has hidden, undisclosed damage. While reputable dealers should disclose any significant damage, many do not.
There’s a legal limit on what dealerships can hide
Pennsylvania’s New Motor Vehicle Damage Disclosure Act requires dealerships to make disclosures to purchasers regarding damage repairs that exceed the greater of $500 or 3% of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the vehicle.
That may not sound like very much damage, but consider this: First, the dealership probably does its own repairs, so that 3% reflects their cost, not what you’d have to pay for repairs at an independent shop. Second, when even a modestly priced new vehicle can cost $50,000, 3% equals a $1500 repair. That can translate into significant damage that they’re under no legal obligation to disclose.
How do new cars get damaged in the first place? Probably the vast majority of cases involve problems with transport and handling. New cars have to make it somehow from the factory to the dealership, and the journey along the way can leave them exposed to a lot of hazards, including accidents and damage from vibrations during transport.
Mishandling by the dealership staff or potential customers can be another source of accidents. A car can get dented, scratched or damaged in other ways when it is being moved around the lot, but the real danger comes during test drives. All it takes is one potential buyer on a joyride to do some significant damage to a car.
Weather and environmental hazards can also damage a vehicle while it sits on a lot. Some unscrupulous dealers may engage in a little title washing or paperwork shuffling to hide the fact that a vehicle was, at one time, sitting on a flooded lot in another state, for example.
If you’ve purchased a new vehicle and found hidden damage, it may be wise to explore your legal options.