Kenton Basinger thought he’d found a good deal on a 2012 Chevy Silverado. But a few days after he bought the used truck for $14,000, he realized that something was wrong.
“The seat rails were rusted – I couldn’t even move my seat forward or backward,” Basinger says in a video produced by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). “And then there was dirt under the floorboards, and that’s what I noticed right away. It was sand; it wasn’t just dirt off the ground. And then the ‘Check Engine’ light came on a little bit later.”
Basinger’s story is a cautionary tale for anyone shopping for a used car or truck.
Basinger “did the one thing that NICB has been warning people not to do after hundreds of thousands of vehicles were flooded after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year,” NICB’s Roger Morris says. “He plopped down $14,000 for this 2012 Chevy Silverado and didn’t bother to have it checked out by a mechanic first.”
Basinger contacted an investigative reporter at KPRC-TV in Houston, and the reporter reached out to NICB. The not-for-profit organization went to Houston and immediately found the telltale signs of flood damage: sand and debris under the bedliner; water under the front carpeting; sand under the trim; and rust on the metal parts of the seats.
As an independent mechanic looked at the vehicle, he noticed that someone had spraypainted the truck’s undercarriage in an attempt to hide the rust.
When the mechanic plugged a diagnostic device into the truck’s OBD II port, he made another alarming discovery: The airbag modules were displaying an error code, meaning that they might not deploy in a crash.
Truck Sold with Clean Title at Auto Auction
NICB determined that the pickup originally was in Florida and appears to have been up for sale at a dealer there when Hurricane Irma hit the state. NICB determined that the pickup wasn’t insured at the time, and no claim for flood damage was ever made. So the vehicle didn’t have a salvage title and didn’t appear in the VINCheck database that consumers can look at to see if an insured vehicle was given a salvage title.
Instead, the truck eventually ended up in Texas, where it was sold with a clean title at an auction. Basinger purchased the truck from the dealership that had bought it from the auction, according to NICB.
Because of the thousands of uninsured vehicles that were flooded during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year, NICB advises potential buyers to have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying it, to ensure that there’s no concealed or hidden damage.
Basinger has hired a lawyer and is negotiating with the dealership to get his money back. He advises consumers to follow NICB’s advice and leave it to a professional to examine the vehicle before you buy.
NICB offers these tips for spotting flooded vehicles before you buy:
- Check vehicle carpeting for water damage.
- Check for rust on screws or other metallic items.
- Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains.
- Remove the spare tire and inspect area for water damage.
- Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence.
- Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture.
- Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water.
- Check the operation of electrical components.
- Check for mold or a musty odor.
- Have it checked by a trusted mechanic to spot concealed or hidden damage and to run a diagnostic test.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on the NICB website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.