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Your New Car May Not Be as New as You Think

A woman holding car keys while entering a car and smiling at a car dealer that illustrates how new cars might not be as brand-new as you think

If you’re forking over $30,000 for a new car…you expect it to be as fresh as it was when it first rolled off the factory line. Not to burst your bubble, but, that may be wishful thinking.

While manufacturers make every attempt to get their new cars to potential buyers in perfect condition, there are far too many unpredictable opportunities along the way, including the delivery route, from ship containers to auto carriers, to promise perfection. The fact is your new car may have been damaged in transit or on the dealer lot and, as is often the case, the dealership is under no obligation to inform you any repairs were performed on your new ride.

Scratches, dings, and sometimes more extensive damage can occur. Cars are usually shipped by over-the-road transport trailers if sold within the U.S., but if they arrive from overseas, they travel by transport vessel to reach their destination. Once the vehicle arrives, it can be moved along the port to a waiting truck to be taken to a dealership several hundred miles away.

The more times the vehicle is loaded and unloaded, the more vulnerable it is to damage. If minor visible damage is noticed, the vehicle is often pulled aside and repaired before being sent on to the dealership. But, the risk of additional damage doesn’t stop there. After the dealer takes delivery, it can face further damage by simply moving it around the lot or from other vehicles being moved or test driven around it.

If the vehicle sustains damage on the dealer lot, it will likely be repaired and can be sold as new, unbeknownst to the buyer, which could be you. Because the amount of the vehicle’s repairs can fall below a certain threshold, the dealership you purchase the car from is not required to disclose to you that repairs have been completed.

California, known for being a consumer-friendly state, sets the threshold at only three percent, while most other states have set their thresholds from three to six percent of the vehicle’s MSRP as the amount requiring disclosure to the purchaser. North Carolina state law requires car dealers to disclose damage on new cars that exceeds five percent of the MSRP but are not obligated to report damage to glass, tires, or bumpers, if the items in need of repair are replaced with original-equipment parts.

Therefore, a vehicle with an MSRP of $28,138 can have up to $1,400 in repairs done to it and the dealer doesn’t have to disclose it to you. While reputable dealers are more likely to disclose damage that may be serious, many others will not and will simply sell the vehicle without any warning whatsoever.

Expectations aside, you need to protect yourself by carefully inspecting your new car from top to bottom. Check the paint for:

  • For visible signs of buffing
  • Discoloration or mismatched color
  • Mismatched pigment, if metallic

Inspect the doors, hood, trunk lid, and bumpers for signs of touch-ups, repair or replacement. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer if repairs of any kind, including to the engine or transmission have been completed. In fact, some states actually require the dealer to respond truthfully and disclose repairs, regardless of the amount, if the customer asks.

So, if you’re about to buy a new car you believe to be perfect, pose the question. You never know what the dealer will volunteer.

It’s also important to ask questions when shopping for the best auto insurance rates available. Know what you’re paying for before you buy. Why not get a free auto insurance rate comparison today?

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