Buyer wrecks SUV, leaves seller battling bills for years

Denver7 Investigates ended collections efforts

DENVER — We all know the risks of buying a used car "as is," but Denver metro woman is learning that selling one can cause problems for years.

Consider this a case of seller beware.

Cindy Armstrong drove a beat-up, 1996 Chevy Blazer.  She decided to list it on Craiglist and later sold it for $600 in cash.

"I got several calls about it within like a matter of hours," she said.  "Met [the buyers] over in Aurora where I had left it, and they had looked at it.  They took it for a test drive."

After the test drive, Armstrong said they both signed a simple bill of sale and parted ways. But the expression "all's well that ends well" did not hold true when Armstrong received a voicemail from a woman at an insurance company months later.

"Saying she was calling about the accident. And I'm thinking, 'What accident? I haven't been in an accident,'" Armstrong said.

Records prove that even though Armstrong sold the Blazer to the buyer and signed over the title to him as required, he never registered it under his name with the state. Then, roughly three weeks after taking possession of the vehicle, he wrecked it into another car and abandoned it.

"I started getting letters from attorneys, a law firm, wanting almost $12,000," Armstrong said.

In the same weekend she sold the Blazer, she said she removed the license plates and canceled the insurance on it. She had a letter from her insurance company, State Farm, to prove that.

Still, the insurance company seeking compensation for losses caused by the buyer's wreck pursued her.

"I mean, it's hard when you haven't done anything, and somebody wants $12,000 from you. And you didn't do anything wrong!" Armstrong said.

Denver7 was unable to reach the Blazer's buyer — his number was no longer in service, and there's no evidence that he still resides in the Denver metro.

However, USAA insurance, which was seeking the roughly $12,000, opted to drop its collections efforts once Denver7 explained the circumstances. The company thanked Denver7 for bringing the matter to its attention.

Armstrong is indeed grateful for the turn of events but remains frustrated that it took such efforts to resolve the matter for good.

"I had sold other cars before here, I never had a problem," she said.  "If I had ever, ever thought that trying to sell a car on Craigslist, or doing a private sale to an individual, that this would happen — I probably wouldn't do it."

In addition to canceling insurance, the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles recommends that vehicle sellers also cancel their vehicle registration after a sale. Had Armstrong done that, it's possible that she might not have endured as many headaches as she did.

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