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I recently bought a 2014 Toyota Prius c in Ogden, Utah, USA. It was listed on the dealership's site and sold to me as a Prius c Four, which is the high-end trim with features like a reverse camera, one-button start, heated seats, etc.

While looking at it, I noticed the reverse camera I was expecting were missing, and mentioned to the salesman that I thought the c Four trim had one. He went to verify that it was indeed a Prius c Four, and returned and verbally affirmed that it was a Prius c Four rather than a One or Two. I figured I must have misunderstood something during my research and didn't think much of it.

To buy this car, I took out a loan for about $14,000 from my credit union. I've been with this credit union for several years. I was told my credit union has some sort of partnership with the dealership for financing.

When I got it home I spent some time familiarizing myself with the various controls, and it became clear that more than just the camera were missing. I finally ended up entering the car's VIN into Toyota's site, and discovered that the automobile is in fact a Prius c Two.

I contacted the dealership about this, and they did whatever they do when there's a problem like this. I was told a day or two later that they had bought it from another dealership incorrectly-coded as a Prius c Four, and they were working with the other dealership to come to a solution.

I did some more research, and found that when new a 2014 Prius c Two sold for about $4,000 less than a 2014 Prius c Four. Scaling the price to what I bought the car for, I should reasonably expect a price difference close to $2,000 between the two trims with identical mileage and wear & tear.

Today I got in contact with the salesman again, and he told me that they had sent me a check for $500.

TL;DR: I was sold a car as a higher-end trim than it actually was, and after contacting the dealership they have mailed a check for much less than the price difference between the two trims.

In my mind a fair resolution would be either refunding the actual difference in value between the two trims, or replacing the car I drove home in with another Prius c which is actually a Four trim with similar mileage and wear & tear. I am certainly not willing to accept the small amount they're sending.

How do I go about contesting this "solution"? What are my options?

  • As you may know, we generally can't give people legal advice on specific situations, like the one you're in; one has to hire a lawyer for that. Also, you didn't mention the jurisdiction. – Nate Eldredge Apr 17 '18 at 22:39
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    One possible resolution you didn't mention: you return the car for a full refund and start again. This seems more attainable than forcing the dealership to accept your estimate of the difference in value ("scaling" isn't necessarily reflective of actual market prices), or making them magically acquire the kind of car you really wanted. – Nate Eldredge Apr 17 '18 at 22:42
  • Why is this tagged arbitration? Did the sale contract include an arbitration clause, or is there some other reason why you expect to have to settle the issue through arbitration? – Nate Eldredge Apr 17 '18 at 22:51
  • @NateEldredge Added jurisdiction. I tagged it arbitration mainly because I was spitballing what categories this question applies to, since I don't really know. – Martin Carney Apr 17 '18 at 22:53
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At contract law you have a common mistake as to character or value - you both (mistakenly) believed the car was a Prius C four. This is not ground for voiding the contract or damages.

However, because your belief was a direct result of a (mis)representation of the dealer, it is possible that the make of the car became a term of the contract: this would entitle you to sue for damages (i.e. the difference in value between a four and a two) but probably not to void the contract - since you were willing to buy the car you saw, the difference between a four and a two could not have been such that it would have prevented you from entering the contract.

Even if it is not a term of the contract, it is probably actionable as deceptive conduct under relevant consumer protection law (innocent misrepresentation is generally captured). Or under negligence as a negligent misstatement.

Thank them for the cheque and tell them that you do not accept it as full and final settlement of the dispute and tell them what you will expect.

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