12 ON YOUR SIDE: Consumer responsibility for buying vehicles - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

12 ON YOUR SIDE: Consumer responsibility for buying vehicles


Safety laws keep illegal tall trucks, that can flip, injure and kill people, off the roads. But, a Glen Allen woman said a dealership sold her one.

Basic Auto Sales, through its attorney, said the truck was inspected, and questions why the customer is just now complaining after having the truck for a year.

Wanda Branson bought the truck last March for her son, Christopher, who's learning to drive.

"He's a typical redneck boy. I was looking for a lifted truck for my son," said Wanda Branson.

The 2001 Ford F-350 pick up was parked on the Washington Highway lot of Basic Auto Sales with features they both desire.

"I drove by one day and saw it," said Christopher Branson. "I was like, 'Man, that's a nice truck.' I did a double take on it. Mom just kind of smiled. She had already bought it."

Christopher was the happiest boy in the world, he says... until mom's dream buy turned bad.

"The springs are rubbing. It really weakens the sidewalls and could cause a blow out or anything else. That was a sad day for me."

Virginia code is specific about bumper height and suspension system changes. You can't drive one if the body is raised more than three inches above the frame rail.

Wanda claims she repeatedly asked the salesman at if the truck was street legal.

"I said, 'One more time, before I sign the contract — is this truck legal?' and he said 'Yes.'"

Months later, police pulled her over in two counties, she said, warning her the truck is too high and tires too wide.

Wanda said, rather than pay a $4,000 estimate to fix it, the dealership offered to buy back the truck, then refused.

"I cried, not just for myself but I cried for him. Christopher. It's our yard ornament now. It's not legal. It's not safe."

Virginia code is specific about inspections too. A vehicle must be inspected before it's sold, even if it comes into the dealership with a current sticker.

In letters exchanged between lawyers, the company's owner said he never offered to take back the truck. Basic Auto Sales enclosed an invoice to show the truck passed a safety inspection seven days before it was sold to Wanda.

But, it doesn't add up. When Wanda drove off the lot in march, a January 2011 sticker was in the windshield.

I went to the company named on the inspection invoice, 'All Pro Auto Service'. Inspector Walker got his boss, the owner on the phone for me.

Diane: "She's having a conflict with a dealership she claims sold her a truck that's not street legal. Did "you inspect the truck March 21 of 2011? .... You did not? Basic Auto is saying you did."

All Pro Owner Jeff Burke said:

— An inspection was not done on the truck
— He did not put the truck on the road
— They do not have a sticker from me

Burke said the bill should have read pre-inspection. It was typo.

Diane: "When you did the pre inspection, did it have the huge tires on it?"

He couldn't remember. 

The January 2011 sticker is the only inspection record we could find. So, I visited that shop too.

"'Stanley's,' yea that's us. (Auto Broker is here?) Yea. That's who brought it to us for inspection. It came from Auto Brokers."

Jason Anthony inspected the truck and said it had regular tires.

He said when he saw it again, it had big wheels just as it's pictured in a Basic Auto Sales ad.

"They're wide. It came in with a lift on it but it didn't come in with those wheels and tires on it."

So, who switched out the tires and what happened with the allege March state inspection?

Virginia State Police investigated...

"The tires were rubbing the spring. The vehicle also had the front tires were protruding from the fender," said trooper S.C. Molden.

... and determined no disciplinary actions against anyone.

"Having waited over a year, there's not much that can be done because that evidence has been tampered, it could have been tampered with. It's not to say that has but if you have a vehicle that was inspected over a year ago, there's questions that come into play."

The dealership declined comment and referred me to their attorney who questions the customer's motive.

"I don't want to have any problem with the law. I'm trying to go to college and be successful. I don't need to start getting in trouble with the law," said Christopher Branson.

Wanda stopped returning my calls and later sent emails stating she's dropping everything. Someone came by who wanted the truck just the way it was.

"I have had to accept my losses... I am not at liberty to disclose the purchaser," wrote Wanda Branson.

I left a message asking if Basic Auto Sales bought the truck. The attorney hasn't returned my call.

State Police say consumers need to be responsible and pay the extra bucks to have your own mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying.

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