Test drives: the perfect opportunity for thieves?

We’ve all seen people going out for test drives in new cars with the requisite salesperson in tow… most of us have even been that person, taking a drive to see if we like the way a particular car drives. And most of us have politely returned to the dealership without wreaking havoc of any kind.

But do you ever wonder how often bad things happen on test drives? Like people terrorizing their salesperson passenger, or actually stealing the car? Or both?

The answer to that is, it does happen. And it’s more common than you might think.

Here are some tales of test drives gone wrong.

Have you seen me?

In Indiana, a man and a woman took a Chevy Traverse out for a test drive, without a salesman. When they hadn’t returned after four hours, the dealership staff started trying to call the man’s cell phone. After getting no answer for several hours, they eventually called again to find the number had been disconnected. 

Oh, but the man, Darrell Walters Jr, had allowed them to make a photocopy of his driver’s license. Which seemed very hopeful until they checked the address and found… that it was the address for the Plainfield Correctional Facility. Which apparently hadn’t been very successful at the ‘correctional’ part, because Walters’ had earned his stay with them for… wait for it… auto theft. 

This Ferrari was recovered, but the thief was not.

The rarest, most expensive test drive casualty we’re aware of is a 1985 Ferrari GTO, stolen in Germany. It was super rare, and worth $2.2 million.

The potential ‘buyer’ went out with the owner on a two hour test drive (which seems like a lot of driving for a car that has a remarkably low 27,000 miles on it at the time.) 

At some point, the buyer and the owner were switching places, and as the owner got out of the car to walk around to the driver’s seat, the thief just took off. 

Police later recovered the car in a parking garage, but the suspect was never caught.

It wasn’t a white Bronco, but…

In one of the more harrowing incidents, a woman test-driving a Kia Optima stole the car and kidnapped the accompanying salesman in the process.

It all started off normally enough. Kasandra Ayala dropped off an 8-year-old girl. And then dropped off a male passenger. Okay, so maybe starting off with a car full of people and then dropping them off at different places isn’t altogether normal for a test drive. (Maybe she was checking out how the Optima would work for her Lyft driving?) It was probably a bit of foreshadowing when the male passenger said “Babe, I don’t want any part of this.”

Things went downhill quickly after that.  

When the salesman in the car tried to get Ayala to go back to the dealership, she pulled onto the highway, and told him “I hope you’re ready to die today.” And also, at some point, that they were “going to Walla Walla.” (which is a town in Washington.) So it was shaping up to be a busy day.

The salesman called 911, and stayed on the phone with them, advising them of the car’s location. Ayala told him she knew he was talking to the police, but didn’t pull over. Instead, she took a page from O.J.’s playbook and led police on a slow-motion chase. Somehow she ended up cornered in a parking lot (she was no Al Cowlings, apparently), and rammed past 3 police cars, until finally a police vehicle crashed into the Kia, ending the chase.

It wasn’t the world’s cleverest car thief who stole this Maserati Granturismo…

When a Maserati was stolen in Fort Lauderdale, there was basically a series of not-so-clever moves. First, Michael McGilvary told the salesman he wanted to show the Granturismo to his girlfriend, over at the yacht club. 

When they got there, McGilvary insisted on showing the salesman his dad’s yacht. (Yep. The sales guy fell for the come see my dad’s boat trick!) And then, while they were on some random person’s boat, McGilvary went to find his girlfriend. Except, he never came back. And after 30 minutes (yeah, it took him 30 minutes) it occurred to the salesman that something might be wrong.

So he called the police. They caught him the next day at a Starbucks, two miles from the yacht club. There was dealership footage of McGilvary, but he denied it was him. Which ultimately didn’t matter, considering that when he went on the test drive he gave them his actual ID.

Most of the above were stolen from dealerships (with the exception of the Ferrari.) But used cars get stolen even more often, when people are selling their cars and let strangers from Craigslist, OfferUp, or similar take a test drive.

Watch for our follow-up article on how to handle this if you’re selling a car privately!

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