Undisclosed New Car Damage

When you look and look for just the new car or truck that matches your life style and you have made up your mind that it will fix into your budget, the last thing you want to find is that it was damaged and the dealer covered it up. Well it happens and I hear about it from outraged consumers several times a year.

When you buy a new vehicle, one that has not been registered with the state, it cannot have any repaired “material” damage that you are not notified of in writing. The dealer is required by California Civil Code 2982 to notify you of any repaired “material” (significant) damage to a new vehicle. Most states have a similar consumer regulation. Lets say a porter backed the new car into a pole and did “material” (significant) damage to the bumper and dented the trunk lid. The bumper must be replaced with a new bumper and the trunk lid must be repaired, and you must be informed that these repairs were make before you sign the contract for the new car.

Material damage means damage that:
1. Exceeds 3% of the manufacturer’s suggested price or $500, whichever is grater.
2. Occurred in connection with the theft of the vehicle.
3. Is to the frame or drive train.
4. Is to the suspension, requiring repairs other than wheel balancing or alignment.

California Vehicle Code 9990 says damage to components that are bolted or attached to the vehicle, such as bumpers, tires and glass are exempt from this disclosure requirement only if replaced with identical new, original manufacture’s components-unless the repairs exceed 10% of the manufacture’s suggested price.

New car dealer’s demonstrator vehicles are legally considered used cars, so these disclosure laws do not apply, even if the dealer gives a new car warranty.

Always go to a dealer you know you can trust. Once you sign the contract for a new car or truck you own it, unless you can show fraud or violations of the above vehicle regulations.

Some of the material in this story came from Nolo.com, which is a good source for consumer rights information.

Reference stories: Buy a New Car, under Auto Related Topics on Consumer Tips Page of TroubleshooterJudd.com.

Filed October 2002.