Though it sounds like the plot of a movie, some brazen car thieves have gone straight to the source in recent times, stealing vehicles right off the factory holding lots. There have been stories of Hellcat-powered Dodges and Ford Raptors slipping off factory grounds, and there’s now a shocking tale of a stolen Bronco Raptor that somehow made it through a private sale, registration, and insurance before its new “owner” learned its backstory.
A buyer in Arizona found a Ford Bronco on Craigslist and began doing research before the sale. The SUV had Alaskan tags and low mileage, along with a $75,000 price tag. “Nick,” as they asked to be called, ran a Carfax report and checked the title through a third-party verification company before he bought the vehicle. Everything came back clean – or so he thought – so the sale proceeded.
Nick told a local publication that he assumed the VIN would have been flagged if there was an issue, but the Bronco’s history became apparent a few weeks later when he tried to trade it at a dealer. Someone had switched the Bronco’s VIN, and turns out Nick’s SUV had been nabbed from a Ford holding lot in Detroit.
Unfortunately for Nick, there’s no happy ending to this story. Police seized the Bronco, leaving him out $75,000 and leading the Arizona attorney general to criticize the state’s DMV and its oversight of vehicle registrations. As The Drive pointed out, the agency has seen multiple recent problems relating to improperly issued registrations, licenses, and other documents. Police in Michigan, meanwhile, have made some arrests in the factory thefts, in which some of the vehicles wound up with titles created in Alaska, like Nick’s.
Though heartbreaking, costly and likely embarrassing for Nick, he’s not the only one to fall victim to the scam. Buyers in several other states, including New Mexico and Tennessee, have been through similar situations. Nick’s pre-purchase research efforts were noble, but an inspection at an independent shop could have alerted him to the issues before they began, and the pre-purchase inspection is a step we’d recommend before all used vehicle transactions to prevent headaches for the buyer and seller.