Automobile fraud is a serious issue, and it can be extremely costly for victims. Purchasing a vehicle is one of the biggest purchases most people will make in their lives outside a home, so misleading and illegal sales practices should be a major concern for anyone who wants to buy a car.
Not only can automobile fraud cost you a great deal of money, it has the potential to be very dangerous if the vehicle has undisclosed defects which you were unaware of.
When buying a used car, it is important that you look closely for any signs that the vehicle has been tampered with, has had major repairs, or was in any sort of accident in the past. There are telltale signs which every potential used car-buyer should be on the lookout for before committing to the sale. We have detailed six of the most important below:
1) Vehicle History Report
When purchasing a used car, whether from a deal or a private buyer, you should always start by checking the Vehicle History Report. You can run a report online by entering the car’s VIN number and learn about past owners, whether the title of the car is clear, and whether or not the vehicle has been in accidents in the past. The Vehicle History Report is not guaranteed to have all the vital information you need, and it is possible that the car has accidents in its history which have not found their way onto the report, but checking this report is a great place to start.
2) Fresh paint job
If a used car was freshly painted, you could choose to believe that the seller simply wanted to spruce it up. More likely, however, is that the paint job was used to cover up signs of damage. Look to see if there is paint on things like trim and wiring that would not have been painted when the vehicle was built in the factory. You can also look for variations in texture or coloration in the paint. These are all signs that paint was potentially used to cover up defects or damage.
3) Body panels do not match up
Look at the car from all angles. Is the space between body panels on one side of the car significantly wider than the space between those same panels on the opposite side? This may not seem like a serious issue to the untrained eye, but it could mean the vehicle has severe frame damage that could cause a snowball effect of issues with how the car operates and its safety.
4) Hood bolts
When the hood is attached in the factory when a vehicle is built, the bolts will be painted over. After that, rarely is there any reason to tamper with these bolts outside of vehicle body damage. Check to see if the paint on the hood bolts has been scratched from tampering with or removing them. If the hood has been tampered with, it could indicate that the vehicle had body work done to it.
5) New dash, interior paint, or airbag covers
The exterior of the vehicle is not the only part of the car that can alert you to an undisclosed accident or damage. Check to see if the dashboard matches the rest of the interior trim. Are there signs of new paint? This could indicate that the dashboard had to be replaced, likely do to a collision. Also, look closely at the airbags. Check for seams that indicate the airbag was deployed in the past, replaced, and repaired.
6) High water marks
In an ideal world the Vehicle History Report would disclose if the car was ever in a flood, but this is not always the case. Check inside the care and look closely for a high-water mark. If the car was filled with water at some point, you will probably be able to see a faint line left over from water damage that represents the highest point the water reached. Avoid vehicles with water damage at all costs.
If a used vehicle is marked “as-is” in Missouri, the dealer is not required to disclose any past issues or defects with the vehicle, so it is especially important that you look closely and try to have a professional and trustworthy mechanic inspect the car before buying. In general, the best way to prevent buying a used car with undisclosed damage is to have it inspected a mechanic you know and trust.
However, if you have been purposefully misled by a car salesperson with regard to the state of the vehicle, you could be entitled to take legal action. If you have been the victim of automobile fraud, contact Bell Law today and let us evaluate your case and advise you on your potential options.