Hidden damages: Be wary of any vehicles sold at auction

Picture from InvestigateTV's Hidden Dangers piece. (InvestigateTV photo)
By  | 

(InvestigateTV) -- A warning tonight for anyone looking to buy a used car. Just because a title is clean and the history report shows nothing, doesn't mean you aren't spending thousands on a vehicle with a dangerous past.

Mickey Lavoie needed to fix a busted light on the cab of his Chevy Silverado.

"That's when I saw that number up there. K75825 that's on the roof, and I'm going what's that number too?," he said.

That number was its Border Patrol ID. The truck belonged to the Department of Homeland Security. It was not only wrecked, it was flooded.

"Wrecked in down into a cooley, I guess. Ran off the road, went down in it and smashed the whole front-end underneath," Lavoie said.

When Mickey bought the Chevy from a dealer, he had no idea what it had been through. And it's not just a faded number on the roof. The truck had a host of issues, but the most serious issue was never resolved. Mickey found a cracked frame. "This is the weld that's cracked. There's another weld that's over here."

After Border Patrol wrecked it. The truck was sold in an online auto auction in Shreveport, Louisiana as a red light vehicle -- meaning as-is. An inspection report lists at least $9,000 dollars in damage. The truck's title was never marked salvage and none of the vehicle history reports even mention the crash.

"My wife said, 'You know we're going to drive this. Would you let your family drive this?'" He said, "Absolutely, don't see anything wrong with it."

It was sold at four different auctions and has been through two different owners.

Consumer Attorney John Gayle figured out this used truck's real history and helped two different clients, including Mickey, sue and settle.

"Car dealers are buying trucks over the internet. They're not going to the auction and inspecting it necessarily." said Gayle.

Gayle said if you see a lot of auto auctions listed on a vehicle's history report, steer clear.

So how does a vehicle like this end up with not only a clean title, but a clean history? Well, because the government sold it as-is. Wrecked. There was no insurance claim filed so Carfax and Autocheck don't pick up on it and the word salvage never ends up on the title.

Whenever you're buying a used car, always have a mechanic and a body shop look over the vehicle. Their trained eyes may see the signs that a vehicle was in a crash.