I just discovered my Jeep XJ has 100k more miles than the odometer reads.
Upon listing my built XJ for sale, I had an interested party ask about the odometer discrepency on the vehicle report; I didn't know what he was referring to. I looked into this and unknowingly opened a can of worms. Now I need some advice from my fellow Jeepers and offroaders.
I'd like to start off by saying thank you for coming to this page and reading my story; I am deeply thankful for and appreciative of any insight that the off-road community and the experts that reside within can bring about. Additionally, I want to briefly apologize for using Where2Wheel for a personal matter; I'm sorry for talking about my problems on W2W, but I am at a loss of where else to turn. Long story short (I'll go into the full dive below): I found out that my 1998 Jeep Cherokee, which was sold to me in "great condition" with 98,534 miles on the odometer, had prior service records going up to 193,204 miles. From the moment I recieved the XJ it was constantly breaking down, and within my first 7,000 miles of XJ ownership I had replaced the entire cooling system, rebuilt the top end of the 4.0L replacing the cracked head, and completed a full transmissiom rebuild of the AW4. Within those initial 7K miles I had spent more on repairs than I had spent on the purchase of the XJ even though I was led to believe I was buying a relatively low-milage XJ in "great condition".
Obviously now that I know the Jeep's true mileage I understand why I was met with unexpected breakdowns and unanticipated repair costs. I want to use this blog post to explain my situation and gather responses from the off-road community on how to move forward. I do believe I was illegally deceived by Salem Select Auto Center in Salem, VA during the purchase process; however, I can't afford to spend $5k-$10k in attorney costs if I was to file a suit and lose. That would mean selling the XJ merely to cover the attorney costs. I'm hoping maybe this post will find its way to someone that has gone through a similar situation or anyone with a professional legal opinion. Whether it finds that person or not, I'd still like to hear from anyone willing to read about my experience - how would you handle this??? Please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any helpful information. Don't hesitate to tell me if I'm the sucker in this and there is nothing I can do; I promise I won't get butthurt.
Quick Warning: This post is going to be long in order to fit in all the relevent information, but I will keep it to only the details for the sake of brevity and in consideration of your time. Thanks again for your help.
Here is the VA law code that we are addressing: § 46.2-112. Tampering with odometer; penalty; civil liability. It's only a few paragraphs if you want to check it out, but I'll make sure to reference/quote it where necessary. FWIW The link is set to open in a seperate window/tab so that you can toggle in between this post and the law in question.
First off is the Autotrader Ad that I found my XJ from in 2013 (link not clickable):
On 11/15/13 I inquired via Autotrader about the XJ with the following message "I am in the market for a Jeep Cherokee, and this one might be what I am looking for. Do you have any pictures of the Jeep? I look forward to hearing from you.". To which dealer replied back with "yes. i will send you 97 model pics as well.", and he then followed up with approx 20 pictures of the XJ plus some more pictures of the 1997 XJ that he had in inventory as well. No mention of anything fishy or anything that I should know about the XJ.
On 11/18/13 I spoke with dealer to inquire about a quote on shipping the XJ from Salem, VA to my home in Virginia Beach, VA. Nothing specific to the XJ in this conversation, just $345 for shipping.
Then two days later on 11/20/13 I called the dealer and said I would like to buy the Jeep. The dealer then emails me with the final price and the following conversation took place:
The next day on 11/21/13 dealer emails and writes: "David,sent off your paperwork this morning,came back to office and your check was on my desk. thanks.sign and send back all documents fast and i will process for u monday at dmv and send your new title and reg. along with your warranty and all copies of documents you are signing once i get it back and finish them off.left date blank till i receive back to make your warranty period longer.thanks for the biz and enjoy your jeep.p.s., fresh service don't change oil for 3k miles.we use 10w40 synthetic if u wanted to know."
I highlighted the line above to show that my payment was received by the dealer and yet there still had been no mention of any issues or anything specific that I should know about the Jeep. Mind you Carfax shows that Salem Select Auto Center owned this XJ from 171,965 miles on the odometer to 193,477 miles on the odometer. Under Salem Select's ownership and six weeks before I found this Jeep the odometer was replaced from an odometer with 193,477 miles to an odometer with 98,534 miles. Unfortunately I did not view the Carfax at the time of purchase; I only asked about the vehicle history over the phone and was told it was a single owner old lady that brought the Jeep in on a trade, and that the Jeep was accident free - none of this was true, but since it was over the phone I cannot prove that I was told a lie.
At this point I need to site a sentence from VA law code § 46.2-112. Tampering with odometer; penalty; civil liability. Section B. that states "It shall be unlawful for any person to sell a motor vehicle if he knows or should reasonably know that the odometer or similar device of the motor vehicle has been changed, tampered with, or disconnected to reflect a lesser mileage or use, unless he gives clear and unequivocal notice of such tampering, etc., or of his reasonable belief thereof, to the purchaser in writing prior to the sale.". I have all the documents and communications from the purchase of the XJ saved and the evidence shows that the dealership never delivered to me any notice of an odometer discrepancy prior to my purchase of the Jeep. This failure to provide "clear and unequivocal notice... in writing prior to the sale" is where I believe the law was broken. I was unaware that the Jeep had more miles on it than the odometer stated; no one pointed this out to me before I sent Salem Select Auto Center the cashier's check for the XJ.
The only argument to be made that I was informed about the odometer issue is that the Autotrader ad's vehicle description did say "miles are not actual due to inop digital dash replacement.call mark with any more ????'s". I'm not sure if that meets the legal requirement, but either way I did not see this statement nor did I understand the meaning/importance of the statement. If you reference the Autotrader ad image above it's clear that the statement was buried at the bottom of the description. The statement was placed well beyond the talk about the Jeep, and it was mixed in with the dealer's promotional chatter about their "AAA rated with the BBB". I had stopped thoroughly reading the description by this point as it appeared that the XJ specific mentionings were complete. Furthermore, the Autotrader ad did clearly state the mileage as 98,534 at the very top of the ad, so WTF? Lastly, on this point, this is my own ignorance speaking, but until a few days ago when I uncovered all of this, I did not know what "not actual" referred to. For example, the title says: "Odometer Brand - Not Actual", and I was under the impression that the odometer was simply not the OEM odometer in the vehicle and that it was an aftermarket parts manufacuerer's odometer with the correct and proper mileage displayed.
The image below shows the places on the Bill of Sale and the Title where I have recently figured out that the paperwork does state that the Jeep did have an odometer discrepency, but again I wasn't show any of this before paying for the Jeep. Additionally, I was 25 years old at the time of buying this Jeep and didn't know that I should be looking for these things nor did I know that terminology of the red flags to look for.
I appreciate you hanging in here this far, and I am almost done presenting information. I reached out to the dealer on 1/9/2020 after I learned about my XJ's odometer discrepency from the interested potential buyer. In my communication to the dealer I requested a settlement of $10,800 in order to be compensated for the sum of the cost of the major repairs (coolant system, engine rebuild & head replacement, and transmission rebuild) plus $3,000 in damages (minimum amount stated in VA law); however, the dealer states there was no wrongdoing, and even if there was wrongdoing that the civil statute of limitations has passed its expiration. This is where the help of an expert would come in handy. I believe the statute has not expired as the law reads "An action under this subsection shall be brought within two years from the date on which liability arises. For the purpose of this subsection, liability arises when the injured party discovers, or with due diligence should have discovered, the violation.". If you have any knowledge on this statute of limitations issue, please comment below.
That is the whole deal from beginning to current date. I don't know whether to hire an attorney and persue legal action or not. I really don't want to have to sell my XJ merely to cover the attorney costs in the event of a loss. Again, I do feel that I was intentionally duped and that the dealership had the legal obligation to make sure that I understood what I was buying, but feelings probably don't go far in court. I have nearly $20k in off-road mods on this XJ, and that is seperate from the $$$ that I had to spend on repairs. I'm not thrilled that I have so much invested in a Jeep that I thought was half as worn as it really is. I have put less than 10,000 miles on the XJ in the six years that I have owned the Jeep. I thought I had a rare and nearly perfect build of an XJ, but as it turns out she's just as tired as every other XJ running around with 200k+ miles on the clock.
My main questions: (1) Was I given "clear and unequivocal notice" of the mileage discrepancy prior to the sale of the Jeep because of that snippet in the Autotrader ad? And (2) Am I still within the statute and able to take legal action, or has the statute expired because I "should have" discovered this with due diligence?
Below are a few pictures of my XJ for reference. Thanks very very much for reading. Please comment and advise. Let me know if I should get an attorney involved or suck it up and move on. If anyone with a professional opinion comes across this please email me at email@example.com. I'm extremely thankful for our Jeep and off-road community and I could not think of a better group of people to reach out to for support and advise. Thank you very much and keep on wheelin!
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