Addressing Normal Wear and Tear on Pre-Owned Vehicles

In last month’s blog post, we provided tips for receiving vehicle shipments and stressed the importance of doing a thorough inspection at both the origin pickup location and destination (receiving) location. In the article, we pointed out the distinction between normal wear and tear versus major damage.

It’s difficult to define what “normal wear and tear” is because it’s very subjective. So much so that two people looking at the same car can have very different opinions over what is or isn’t normal wear and tear.

For example, on a recent visit to a pre-owned car dealership, a buyer noted a broken taillight as damage, while a service writer noted it as normal wear and tear because of the age of the vehicle.  Experience also plays a role in the subjectivity of vehicle inspection.  At another dealership, a porter inspecting a vehicle claimed a ding on the car was transportation damage. Upon getting a second opinion from a service writer, it was decided that it was not transportation damage.

For new cars, there are defined standards, damage codes and inspection procedures to follow before the car is even removed from a bay location. Each party along the supply chain has defined procedures.

For pre-owned cars, however, there are no universal standards at this time.  Leasing companies, dealerships and auctions will all have their own guidelines for normal wear and tear.

From a dealership perspective, vehicles bought online will almost always have pictures to show the condition of the vehicle. The dealer will expect to receive the vehicle just as it was shown in the pictures and expect not to see damages that were not noted in the vehicle condition report.

From a carrier’s perspective, so much can happen before a vehicle is even issued to a driver. That’s why it’s equally important for drivers to conduct a thorough inspection prior to moving the vehicle, and if there are any doubts, take pictures. Most importantly, they should write it down on the Bill of Lading and have the origin point of contact acknowledge the damages noted.

Perhaps one day industry associations will get together and develop comprehensive and mutually-agreed-upon standards for what constitutes normal wear and tear on pre-owned vehicles. In the meantime, the intent of this post is to educate all involved on the importance of vehicle inspections and proper documentation on the Bill of Lading. Don’t let a subjective inspection cost you money.

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