You have just bought a new car and you are heading to the dealership to pick it up. This is definitely going to be a good day! You are likely very excited, as well as probably nervous. You are worried about what may go wrong. Will the sales rep honor everything he or she promised? How much will it cost to put plates on your new car? Will you know how to use every feature on your new car, truck or SUV? There is one thing, however, that I am fairly certain you are not thinking about: in what condition will my new vehicle be in when I take delivery?
Wait a minute; this is a new car we’re talking about here, not a used one or a demonstrator. It has never been driven before, it was in the showroom! If you believe this, you are not alone. The sad reality is that even within the secured gates of a dealership, mishaps can occur. In fact, if you truly knew the journey your new vehicle has taken from the factory line to the dealer’s lot, the condition of your new car would be the first worry on your mind. Before I get into important things to inspect prior to signing the sales contract, I want to share with you some stories that have either occurred at the dealership where I work, or that were relayed to me by contributors of this website.
• A customer’s kid was playing with a wireless video game remote that came from the play area within the dealership. As the parents were talking with the sales representative, the child threw the remote in the air with a lot more force than either the kid or the parents knew he had. The remote landed on the hood of a vehicle in the showroom, causing a 2 inch dent.
• A dealership once opened its gates on a Monday to find that someone had spent part of the weekend writing his first name on the hoods of almost every vehicle in the lot using a pocket knife. Hoods had to be repainted.
• A distracted mechanic hit the accelerator pedal a tesla side mirror little too hard in the garage causing a 65000$ SUV to hurtle rear-end first into a cement wall. Total damage: 3000$ and a job offer posting.
• A vehicle being shipped cross-country for a client was placed on front of the delivery truck with no protective wrapping to cover the front-end. As the vehicle made its 96 hour journey atop the truck, it was hit with enough rocks and small debris to completely strip the bumper of any trace of paint it ever had. When a mechanic started the vehicle, the air-conditioning system blew sand in his face.
• A part-time worker was helping clear snow off a vehicle on a dealership’s lot when he slipped, causing his shovel to fly backwards into the windshield of another vehicle parked beside it. Of course, the windshield had to be replaced. Big deal. Only when the vehicle was sold did the dealership notice while prepping the car that shards of glass had fallen not only inside the vehicle, but had penetrated inside the air vents, causing a veritable lethal spray of broken glass when the A/C was activated.
• A sales representative was trying to get a new vehicle on top of a metal podium on a dealership’s lot in the middle of January. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the new vehicle was on summer tires and the metal podium was covered with a very thin sheet of ice. The vehicle slipped and ended up with two wheels on either side of one of the ramps, a little bit like how you would sit on a teeter-totter.
• A janitor coming down the steps of a dealership into the showroom caught one of his steel-toed boots on the last step causing him to hurtle head first into a vehicle in the showroom. His head actually dented the side passenger door but amazingly, the janitor was alright.
• And finally, a sales manager inspecting a new vehicle the dealership sold to a client opened the hood of the car to find that, to his absolute amazement, the entire insulation covering the hood had been eaten…by squirrels. It cost the dealership 900$ for the insulation, and 1500$ to install humane cages around the lot.
I have been lucky enough to work in a very ethical dealership that prides itself on complete transparency. Some of the situations described above occurred where I work and every time, we paid to have the damage repaired while notifying the client of what had happened. The main issue here is that it is unlikely a dealer will notice any damage to a vehicle until it is sold and being washed. At that point, the dealership must be trusted to advise their clients on very short notice (new cars are usually washed the same day as the delivery and sometimes only a few hours before) that there is a problem. Based on experience, I would bet that not all dealerships take the moral high road in these situations. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a client to inspect your vehicle before taking delivery. Here is a list of problem areas to examine carefully:
1. THE HOOD. Do a walk-around of the hood, starting at one side-mirror and ending at the other; look for scratches. Then, lower your eyes to the level of the hood and from both sides examine the front of the vehicle to check for small dents.
2. THE FRONT BUMPER. Crouch down and examine the bumper closely. If the dealership has already installed the plates or their dealership name, look underneath to see if anything is being hidden. Check for cracks in the grill.
3. SIDE DOORS. The best way to see any dents in a door is to position your eyes slightly higher than the door, standing at a slight crouch, and examine the doors from an angle, allowing the light to play off the door. Then move slightly towards the vehicle’s taillight keeping your eyes on the door. Do this on each side.
4. THE REAR. If your new car has a trunk, closely examine the lip, or in other words, the area people grab to close the trunk. If it is a station wagon or SUV, look at the bottom portion of the trunk, near the bumper. Check for scratches on the top part of the bumper where objects are deposited before being put (slid?) into the trunk.
5. THE ROOF. I do not know why, but the roof is the area that is most often damaged. Again, lower yourself (or raise yourself depending the vehicle and/or your height) to get eye-level with the roof. Move around a bit to check for dents, using the available light to highlight any defects. Also, carefully examine for scratches, especially near the doors. Walk around the vehicle while keeping your eyes fixed on the roof.
6. THE VANITY MIRRORS. Open them up to make sure they are not cracked.
7. AIR VENTS. Start the A/C (Carefully! See bullet 5 above) and make sure nothing comes out of the vents except air.
8. ENGINE SMOKE. Start the engine and make sure that odd-colored smoke is not coming out of the exhaust.
9. WIDTH BETWEEN PANELS. Carefully inspect the width of the area separating each metal panel. Pay close attention to the width of the area between the front bumper and the front quarter panels, as well as between the rear bumper and rear quarter panels. Make sure the width is the same size on each side.
10.LIGHTS. Have a look at the headlights, taillights and fog lights. Small cracks can be hard to pick up if you do not inspect closely.
Remember that if you find any defects after you have left the dealership, it will extremely hard to prove that the damage was not your fault. The last thing you want is to turn into your driveway and notice a small dent on the hood when you get out of your brand new car. You will suddenly begin to loath both your new vehicle and the dealership that sold it to you. Avoid this by carefully inspecting your new car before signing anything and you will save yourself a lot of trouble!