Car sold with wrong VIN number

March 12, 2018

Dear Consumer Ed:

A car dealer sold me a used car that was an automatic.  After purchasing it, my insurance company did a VIN number check, which indicated that the car had a manual transmission. I don’t know what to make of this, but it seems like the dealer may have misrepresented the car he sold me.  I purchased this car “as is,” but am wondering if I can return the car and get my money back, given this turn of events?

Consumer Ed says:

The VIN, a unique 17 digit sequence, is used to identify each vehicle and as your insurance company noted, must match your auto records, including insurance and titling paper work.  These identification numbers are generally a series of numbers and letters that could have been mistyped by a rushed salesperson.  In that case, you should be able to notify the dealer and execute new paperwork containing the identical terms (price, financing terms, etc.) as contained in the first set of paperwork.  The corrected paperwork can then be resubmitted to the appropriate parties.  The dealer will also likely need to reapply for your registration and titling.  

However, if the dealer provides you corrected paperwork with increased prices or other new terms, this may constitute a violation of Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act. If this occurs, you should complain to the dealership’s owner, not just the finance manager. You can also submit a complaint to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 404-651-8600 or visiting www.consumer.ga.gov.  

When buying or leasing a vehicle, it is wise to verify – while you are still at the dealership – that the VIN on your paperwork matches the VIN on your vehicle. (The VIN is located on the driver’s side of the dashboard at the bottom of the windshield. If it cannot be found there, open the driver’s side door and look at the door post, which is where the door latches when it’s closed.) 

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.