It certainly sounds like you were ripped off. The problem is it was 3-4 years ago and some of your strongest legal rights may have expired. If a train hit it in transit, which would be extremely odd but is possible, then depending on the severity of the damage the vehicle could have been returned to the factory while in transit or sent on to the retailing dealership. When a new vehicle arrives at a dealership, the dealership is required to inspect it and sign off on a "no damage" report that lists anything wrong with it that is obvious. The dealer keeps a copy and the original goes back to the manufacturer. If the vehicle arrives damaged, the dealer normally has the option of doing repairs, if feasible and reasonable, and then billing the factory for it, or rejecting the vehicle and sending it back to the factory. If the dealer repaired it, then they will have records of that in their body shop and also in your "deal file" at the dealership where all your sales documents and the vehicle's presale documents are kept. Dealers are normally required to keep those documents at least 3 years, but the time limit may change from state to state. Also, many dealers are "CarFax certified" which means they pay a lump sum to CarFax so that they can get a report on any car they want. You can tell if your dealer was a CarFax dealer by just looking on their web site because in their used car ads they will talk about customers being able to get a CarFax report on their used cars. Here though, since the sale was so long ago, you may not be able to tell, although the Internet Archive might tell you, http://www.archive.org. That's a web site where they do nothing but keep copies of other web site pages, which you can then scroll through and see the history and images of old web pages that may no longer be on the internet elsewhere. Car dealers generally have a higher disclosure obligation than an ordinary consumer would have selling the car. If the dealer knows something and realizes that the buyer would want to know about it, but doesn't disclose it, the dealer may be committing fraud by concealment. Every state has its own definition of fraud, but generally it's a lie or something kept hidden that costs you money. There is a big difference in value between a car that has never been wrecked and one that has, even when the repairs are done right. It's called "diminished value" and it means your car is worth much less than one that was not wrecked and repaired. If you had found out in time, you might have been able to cancel the deal, but that's long gone. Still, you likely have the right to recover your damages for the lost value or the amount you were overcharged for the value of the vehicle you ended up with. If you want to know what your car is really worth, take it to a car dealer and see how much they will give you for it after you tell them that the CarFax for it says it was wrecked and it may have frame damage. Many car dealers won't want to buy it at all. Once you have already spent your money, it's not too late to have an independent repair shop inspect it and tell you what they think, but the best time is before you put down your hard earned money. Still, there is more than one way to get rid of a wrecked car (or a bad car) or to get even when you’ve been ripped off. First look at your paperwork and see if anything was written down about any kind of guarantee or warranty. Also, if the lie to you, that can be fraud. To know what all this means in your particular case though you should talk to a local Consumer Law lawyer about your state laws and what your rights are, right away. Call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Consumer Law attorney near you or you can click on the link below for a national list of lawyers who handle that kind of case. Act fast though, before your legal rights expire. If this answer was helpful, please give it a “vote up” rating below. Ron Burdge, Attorney, www.SalvageTitle.info
This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Click the link to find a Consumer Law attorney near you.
That's quite a carfax. You will probably need to have the vehicle inspected and need to get a vehicle history to back up this story. The dealer may well have known about this and hid it, which is bad behavior and punishable in the courts. If the dealer did not know about it, you still may have a claim for an unfair or deceptive act or practice or a UDAP. See a local consumer protection attorney for a low cost or no cost document review.
In my opinion, it definitely sounds like you have a case where your rights have been violated. Please seek local representation as soon as possible. Best of luck.
Please do not take my answer to be legal advice that would establish any attorney-client relationship. Please take it as a general response from my own experience in response to your question. I hope you find it helpful.