Car Buyer's Guide: Let the buyer beware
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Surface rust around the chassis welds
That theory about, “the newer the vehicle, the less to find wrong” can come back to bite you.
Some years ago I was involved in a dispute where a near-new vehicle which had passed its warrant of fitness inspection prior to sale was returned to the dealership by the new owner a short time later with serious corrosion issues.
On close inspection the vehicle had suffered from extensive underbody exposure to salt water spray.
Though the vehicle was repairable, the new owner understandably didn’t want a bar of it.
The dispute was finally resolved by the dealership refunding the purchase price in full.
The original owner argued the vehicle had been taken for an independent WoF inspection and service as part of the sale agreement, had passed with flying colours, so the dispute had nothing to do with them.
The obvious question when it came time to review the dealership’s warrant of fitness processes was: how could a vehicle with such obvious underbody corrosion issues pass its inspection?
The answer was fairly simple. The person carrying out the inspection made an assumption that, because the vehicle was only a couple of years old and with a very low odometer reading, they didn’t need to inspect the underbody.
Above-ground checks indicated a clean bill of health. It was a very expensive error of judgment by the inspector concerned.
Roll the clock forward and the same assumptions can be easily made when purchasing near-new vehicles sight unseen.
Driven was made aware of a case recently where a ute, which was barely 12 months old, was purchased sight unseen with surface rust appearing around the chassis welds.
It was not bad enough to earn a WoF rejection but a worrying sign for the new owner all the same.
The franchise argued that it was some kind of environmental fallout and therefore, not their problem. The new owner’s independent inspection suggested a quality issue at assembly which they weren’t prepared to put in writing.
At the end of the day another messy situation where there are no winners. In this case the product gets bagged repeatedly by the new owner to whoever is within earshot while the franchise dealer firmly stands behind the decisions made by their new vehicle distributor when they get involved.
In this case I felt the new vehicle distributor and dealer could have done better. Regardless of whether the corrosion was an assembly problem or not, it would have taken no time to clean it up and apply a coat of paint in the interests of customer satisfaction and long-term retention.
It certainly didn’t help matters either when the owner pointed out new, unsold models — the same as his — sitting in the yard with similar issues.
But let’s get back to the point of this week’s column.
Often sellers are not aware of any underbody issues or other major defects and sell in good faith.
It’s up to any potential buyers to carry out the necessary checks regardless of a vehicle’s age or odometer reading.
Utes in particular can be exposed to a very harsh environment right from the start of ownership or even as company demonstrators.
Purchasing a near-new vehicle has its benefits such as buying at a depreciated price. The downside is the vehicle has been on the road and therefore exposed to the elements. And the reality is some owners treat them better than others.
Best to find any problems before purchase, and discuss just how and if they are going to be resolved.
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