Wednesday, June 12

What to Do If You Find a Problem With Your Brand New Car

When purchasing a used car, it’s understood that a certain amount of homework will be involved—looking into things like its mileage, title, and value, as well as whether there are any exterior issues, or problems under the hood.

However, as discussed in a recent Lifehacker post, brand new cars can get damaged prior to being sold, and for that reason, it’s important to check for problems before signing a contract and driving one off the lot.

But let’s say you don’t spot the damage until you’ve already brought the vehicle home. Here’s how to handle the situation.

A lot depends on the type of damage or defect you find in your brand new car, when you notice it, and what is covered in your warranty. According to an article in Car and Driver, “all car manufacturers offer buyers a factory warranty on their [new] vehicles,” the cost of which is built into the vehicle’s sale price. The dealership will likely try to sell you an extended warranty on top of that.

However, Mike Crossen, a mechanic at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center warns that the dealership may attempt to get out of fixing the problem. “If the issue isn’t found until after you drive the car off the lot, the dealership might try to have you run the work through your own insurance,” he explains in an article for Consumer Reports.

In situations like this, Crossen stresses the importance of taking action as soon as you notice the damage. Here’s what he suggests doing next:

Send the images to the salesperson you worked with either via email or text. “Even driving back to the dealership before you send the picture puts miles on the car and tilts the scale of liability further toward the customer,” says Crossen.

After sending the photos, arrange a time to come back to the dealership as soon as it’s possible. When you’re there, ensure that the relevant members of the dealership staff (e.g. the salesperson you worked with, their supervisor, etc) sees, acknowledges, and documents the damage on their end.

Verbal promises don’t count. Request a copy of the paperwork documenting the damage and how they’re going to fix it or compensate you for it—also known as a “we-owe”—to review before leaving the dealership. That way you can make sure they didn’t misrepresent the situation, or leave anything out, and if they did, they can amend the paperwork on the spot.

“[The dealership] may not agree to fix the problem if there’s no way to prove that the damage did not happen after you took the car, but they may offer monetary compensation or a service department gift certificate in lieu of repair,” says Crossen. “Remember that very minor damage, like a rock chip, could actually be better not to repair because there’s a chance that new paint won’t match the factory color.”

If none of this works, Crossen recommends contacting the manufacturer directly through their customer support line, explaining the issue with the dealership, and asking what you should do next.

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