What are my rights if a dealer fails to notice a defect/damage during an inspection prior to selling a vehicle?

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What are my rights if a dealer fails to notice a defect/damage during an inspection prior to selling a vehicle?

Within 10 days of purchasing a used van (not subject to new car lemon laws), a nail in a tire led me to take it to a mechanic for repair. During a vehicle courtesy check, water was noticed in the tail light as the seal is faulty. I was alerted that this could be a safety issue if not fixed as it could cause electrical problems, and that it should have been found during the dealer’s inspection. After contacting the dealer, they are only offering to replace the tail light at cost and are suggesting there isn’t too much cause for concern. Should I accept offer? What are my rights?

Asked on March 1, 2011 under General Practice, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If a reasonable dealer would have or should have noticed the defect, then this dealer may be liable for not finding it. However, the most you can get is the cost to repair, if it's a problem that can be readily fixed--you can't get additional damages or rescind the contract. Therefore, the most you could get would be parts plus labor. If they are offering to give you the labor for free and just charge you for the part, that might be worth taking; the alternative would be to sue them for the cost of the tailight, etc., which  I cannot imagine would be economically worthwhile. By all means, try to negotiate a better deal, but this may well be good enough that, at the end of the day, you should take it.


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