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I Purchased a Damaged Certified Car? Can I sue the car dealership?

Yes you can sue the car dealership for selling you a damaged CPO or certified used car.

Buying a CPO or Certified Pre Owned vehicle IS NOT A SURE THING!!


Each of the major manufacturers have what is known as a certified pre-owned warranty program. These makes, and manufacturers include Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler Lincoln Mercury, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hummer, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Cruiser, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mercury, Mini, Nissan, Pontiac, Porsche, Saab, Saturn, Scion, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

CPO or certified pre-owned car are supposed to be better than the average NON-certified used car since it undergoes a rigorous inspection and also is backed by the manufacturer.

Each major manufacturer has its own standards when a used vehicle can be certified as a CPO. And if you look at those standards it appears it would be unlikely that car that was damaged to be certified or, at a minimum, if the vehicle was damaged an experienced franchised dealership would certainly be able to determine if the vehicle had been in a prior accident. Thus, the dealership would be obligated to make this disclosure when selling the vehicle. This has not been the regular experience in the industry. If you ask the dealer representative, salesman, whether or not the vehicle that is been certified by their dealership, a franchise dealership, can be certified I assure you that you will not get a clear answer. I would assume that the best answer you might receive would be no, a vehicle that is certified cannot have been in a prior accident.

Remember, who wants to pay extra money for a top end, exclusive, used vehicle when it has been in a prior accident? NO ONE. The entire concept is that the dealer has expertise and it has closely looked at the car to make sure it's better than other used cars.

There is a separate pricing guide and there is a higher premium for used cars that have been certified. It is accepted in the industry that a dealer has higher costs for used car that are certified. These higher costs are in the form of a specific warranty which the dealer has the purchase from the manufacturer and in some way role into to the purchase price. This brings up an entire separate category of claims against the dealer and the manufacturer however that would be left for separate time. Most people do not understand (nor explained to them) that the reason a certified preowned vehicle costs more is because there is a warranty which is purchased by the dealer from the manufacturer.

The reason for the added cost is the added expertise and the added quality to this vehicle in addition to be backed by the manufacturer’s warranty. You are not getting some third-party warranty that you cannot trust. Most people think they can trust the manufacturer more than a warranty administrator sold in conjunction with a used car warranty. And this is a good bet and one would rather deal with the manufacturer rather than a warranty administrator or warranty company that might wantonly or willfully deny the claim just because they can deny the claim.

Most of the written buying guides and online buying guides such as Carfax and NADA all have separate specific pricing guides for certified vehicles. Thus, the conclusion that certified vehicles have a specific higher value based on the dealer expertise the manufacturer’s warranty and the hope that you're getting a used car which is of higher quality than the typical quality of that the use cars that might be on the road. This theory, this concept, is the purpose behind paying more money free vehicle was certified used vehicle. The issue is really getting what you are paying. Was the car certified? Was the car inspected? Was the vehicle inspected by a trade mechanic? The dealer does their due diligence in inspecting the car? There a host of other issues and concerns buying a certified used vehicle when you pay more money.

All of the franchise dealers have the CPO or certified preowned literature in their car dealerships and you should read very carefully and ask a lot of questions. In the questions should be can a certified vehicle have been in a prior accident? Can a certified vehicle have sustained prior body damage? Can a certified vehicle be returned for any reason? Can the warranty be refunded or canceled? If I have a claim is the claim against the dealer or the manufacturer? There are a host of claims which must be addressed based on the literature in the relationship between the parties.

The manufacturers’ marketing objective with these programs is to elevate their status over other used vehicles in the marketplace. In my opinion, they do this by attempting to increase the quality of these vehicles through a process backed by the manufacturers and authorized dealers. In essence, the entire program is simply offering a manufacturer backed warranty on used vehicles. It seems rather simple. However, it is a little more complicated. The complication arises with their marketing and promotions department wherein these vehicles are portrayed as better vehicles than other vehicles on the market by dealership representatives, in my opinion.

The manufacturers do this by indicating that there were certain procedures and/or processes authorized and issued by the manufacturers and approved by the manufacturers to assure that these vehicles are of significant quality. Usually, the marketing program emphasizes both the benefits of the manufacturers backed warranty on used vehicles as well as the number of point inspections undertaken on the used vehicles. As an example, a manufacturer might say that you receive a warranty issued by the manufacturer for a certain amount of years based on the authorized dealership performing a 100 and so point inspection. As an example, the Nissan certified pre-owned program represents that there is a 156-point inspection which a used Nissan must go through in order to get certified.

Ultimately, the devil is in the details and how this program is done, how is it implemented, who performs the inspection and the method by which the inspection performed is key in the details.

One of the other significant issues is the history of the vehicle. And when I am referring to history, it is the accident history. Several of these programs indicate that they will provide a CARFAX as part of the certification process. However, it is still open for debate as to whether or not the authorized dealership and the manufacturer are providing certain representations as to whether or not the vehicle has been in an accident.

Question: If a dealership provides a CARFAX on a certified pre-owned vehicle which is authorized and inspected by manufacturer’s authorized personnel such as the selling dealer and it turns out that a CARFAX is clean, but the vehicle has been in an accident, should not the manufacturer be responsible? In my opinion, the answer is yes. The buying public is permitted to rely upon the representation from the selling dealer that the vehicle has not been in an accident. Ultimately, if the vehicle has been in an automobile accident, the selling dealer cannot claim that they are not responsible for the product that they sale and the ‘promises’ provided as part of this program.

New Jersey law under the Model Civil Jury Charges for consumer fraud say that the concept of caveat emptor or buyer beware has been abandoned in this state. New Jersey no longer abides by the basic theory of caveat emptor or buyer beware, but it is rather seller beware to make sure that you are certain that the product which is sold is in fact as promised.

If you have purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle and this vehicle has been represented without an accident either with or without a CARFAX and it ultimately turns out the vehicle is in accident or has been in an accident, the value has been adversely affected both by a negative CARFAX and the fact that the vehicle has been in prior accident.

Many times, people expect a vehicle which was purchased as a certified preowned vehicle to have an increased level of quality. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it is not true. Just because a car is a certified does not mean that you should not have your mechanic look it up before the vehicle is purchase. The purchase of a vehicle is too important to completely rely upon a dealership.

Buying a car is not easy. You must deal with the salesman, you must deal with the finance manager, you must deal with the used car manager and potentially many other people at the dealership when you’re buying a car. It is difficult at best.

In addition to all the statements from these people at the dealership you have statements were affirmative representations from the manufacturer that are passed on to through the dealer. When you do with these? We must address the statement very carefully. The used car literature including the certified preowned used car literature is extensive and confusing. It is hard to differentiate from a regular third-party warranty as opposed to a manufacturer’s warranty. This is not that easy to determine. You already have to read all of the purchase documents. Now you have to read all of the warranty documents. This is a daunting/impossible call. How does one digest all of the verbal statements, the written materials and the pressure in the financial commitment of getting a new vehicle.

The answer is being prepared before you go to the dealership. Each manufacturer has their own list of requirements and qualifications for the certified used vehicles. It is too much to expect the consumer to digest all the information at the dealership with all the pressure. The dealership maintains all the leverage under this circumstance. If you go to the dealership and you are reading the documentation for the first time at the dealership make sure you take your time. Do not be rushed.

Finally, you must make the decision whether or not want to invest additional money, additional time and additional resources buying a certified used vehicle. They are more expensive than regular used vehicles since there is a premium for the certification process in the market place.

  • Do you buy certified used vehicles?
  • Is it better to have a vehicle only examined by your mechanic and buy third-party warranty?
  • Is it better to buy new vehicle?
  • Is it better to buy a non-certified vehicle from a non-franchise dealership?
  • Do you feel safe so as not to be ripped off?
  • What risk do you want to undertake in buying the vehicle without having it examined by a professional?
  • Do you trust the dealership?
  • Do you trust the manufacturer?
  • Have you had bad experiences with other used car dealerships?
  • Do you have any mechanical experienced with the car yourself?

I submit these role questions that you need to address and answer before you decide whether or not the purchase a certified used vehicle. It is a matter of a risk factor and risk tolerance how much risk can you take? The more risk you can take the lower the price? The less risk the higher the price?

Certified used vehicles have certain advantages over non certified used vehicles. You have to determine whether or not the price associated with a certified used vehicle is worth the cost?

Also remember that there is a cost. The authorized, selling, franchise dealer is required to pay the manufacture a certification fee. You do not get anything for free. The dealership then rolls the certification fee into the price of the vehicle. There are certain issues with this as well.

Certified used vehicles cost more money because they cost the dealer more money. The dealer must pay the manufacturer a fee to have the warranty issue. New Jersey law has a separate set of terms and conditions and requirements for the issuance of warranty and the disclosure of the terms and conditions.


Call the offices of The Law Office of Jonathan Rudnick LLC to discuss your rights.