car sale trouble

ksreedeviNovember 30, 2005

We sold our old car to our electricians son and we didn't give them the title at that time because we had just moved and he was going to come back finish the work and get the title.

Then we couldn't find the title and the DMV said that we could transfer the title to their name. In the meantime, he didn't finish some of the electrical work and my husband got into a phone argument with him and now he is not even taking our calls to come and even sign for the title.

The car is still registered in our name and the registration has expired. We have a bill of sale signed by him. I am just worried that they are driving the car and we could get in trouble.

what should we do? Should we go to the police and explain the situation so that we have some record that we are not in possession of the car.


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I would go to the DMV before going to the police. Maybe there is a form you can fill out which explains that you gave possession of the car to someone else on a certain date, and you are no longer the owner.

It seems to me that you are actually in the stronger position here. You have the money, and the car is no longer registered in your name because the registration is expired. Normally the seller signs the title over to the buyer and fills in the purchase price and buyer's name. Why can't you just do that and send the title to him via Certified Mail?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 4:26PM
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What is saving you in this case is the bill of sale. You do have a signed statement that the other party did in fact buy the car, don't you? Hopefully, you recorded the make, model, color, and VIN number on the bill of sale. You'll need this to clear out any parking tickets that might get logged against this vehicle after it left your posession. At present it seems that this car is still registered in your name making you responsible party (even though registeration has expired). Have a talk with your DMV and get your name disassociated from that vehicle right away. The other party needs a new registration in order to license the car, but you need to get disassociated from that vehicle.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 6:20PM
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I think it's somewhat strong to say that Ksreedevi is "responsible party" in the event of an accident. It would be a relatively simple matter to prove that he or she no longer owns it: Money has changed hands, and the vehicle is no longer in their possession. The driver is going to be the main responsible party in any accident. This situation is not that much different from a person who might buy a car from a private seller and then never transfer the title officially. You don't have control over what the buyer does once he or she drives off with the car. Courts aren't stupid; people do not pay money for a car they are not buying.

But after posting my other message I thought that the best person to call in this situation is your insurance agent. He or she will know exactly what to do in this situation, and will be familiar with the laws in your state.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 7:11PM
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**I think it's somewhat strong to say that Ksreedevi is "responsible party" in the event of an accident. It would be a relatively simple matter to prove that he or she no longer owns it: Money has changed hands, and the vehicle is no longer in their possession**

Not so simple. If the person has no insurance, no money, and is involved in an accident, or a hit and run accident where witnesses provided a description of the car and a license number, the injured party is (1) going after the person they can find, which would be the person on the title, and (2) they'll follow the money. If you have money, and your name is on the car, you're it if someone chooses to pursue it. You may be able to prove that you sold the car, and that you weren't in posession of the car at the time of the accident. That still doesn't mean you won't have to prove it in court. That means hiring a lawyer. Notifying DMV that you sold the car does not get your name off of it. Been there. Done that. Either get the car back or get the title transfered or you're still on the hook. jmo

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 8:04PM
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In this state, and I assume most others, the seller can't "get the title transferred." That's the buyer's responsibility. The seller signs the title over to the buyer, takes the buyer's money, and that's the end of the line as far as the seller is concerned. The seller also notifies his or her insurance company that the vehicle's been sold.

In this state, your vehicle's registration is canceled automatically as of the moment you sell it. For this reason it is unlawful for a buyer to drive the car home using the prior owner's license plate. This would seem to make it incorrect to claim that the seller is still the "registered owner." The seller's status would instead be "last registered owner." Obviously there is a major difference between those two things.

Anyone can sue you for any reason they want, but that does not mean they will win. Obviously there are some absurd jury findings that have taken place, but by and large if you can prove that you acted responsibly and in a prudent manner, you're not going to have any problem.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:37PM
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As they have no proof of ownership, couldn't they be charged with motor vehicle theft ?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 11:48PM
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**Anyone can sue you for any reason they want, but that does not mean they will win.**

True. I speak from my own experience. Years ago I sold a car. Nothing suspicious about the buyers...a clean cut and dressed middle aged white guy and his 20-some year old daughter.

Probably 3 years later I get a call from police asking if I knew anything about that had been involved in a hit and run accident. I had notified DMV years before that I had sold it, the police were aware of that. They were wondering if I had any idea who might have been driving it, which I didn't. That was the end of it as far as the police were concerned.

A year or more after that I got sued buy a person in that accident. Why me? I was the only titled owner of the vehicle and I was the one they could find. I spoke to the other persons lawyer who indicated they thought my insurance would cover it. Since I didn't own the car, wasn't driving the car, or even a passenger in the car, my insurance company wouldn't pay for anything. I'm sure the plainiff was just expecting my insurance company to pay her a few thousand bucks to make it go away. When they didn't, and I sure wasn't going to, they eventually dropped it. I still had to hire a lawyer of my own and pay to respond to the charge.

Sure, I won. The original poster would too. It still costs $$ to jump through the hoops.

Notifying DMV that you sold something doesn't get your name off of it. When the license expires, the names don't vanish off the register, I don't care what state it's in. That still leaves you as the last one the trail leads too.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 8:18AM
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thanks for all the answers.

I first called the insurance co and thay said that you are supposed to return the plates within 10 days after the cancellation of insurance. So I guess we will cancel the insurance only after we get it straight with the DMV.

So then I called the DMV and explained the situation and they said that you file a form for cancelling the registration and in it you say that you are returning zero plates and mention that the plates are stolen.

I guess that could get us off the hook legally but probably might have to still pay the lawyer fees if we do get sued by someone as happened to gary

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:08AM
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gary - I know exactly how you felt, I had a similar experience when I was young and foolish (now I'm just plain old and stupid... :-)
I sold my old Honda Civic to a young couple... you know - 'clean cut' , fresh out of college, start out fresh in life as a married couple (or yet to be married soon) ,
what I meant was they looked like such a trust worthy couple of kids who need a helping hand to start a family....
So - I did.... all I had in my hand was few hundred dollars cash and a hand written 'bill of sale' with ALL the info.... and they drove away with my car and my plate...... and a year later, letters from DMV came and I found out that the registration / plate was never done and there are large number of parking fines were not paid and the car is still under my NAME..... well - like gary said...... I spent a lot of 'unnecessary hours' of my time and some money to 'WIN' my case...
but to me - I did not win..... I LOST a lot of valuable time and effort to prove myself as a dumb fool and gullible as such !

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 10:12AM
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fwiw ...
My elderly dad sold a car to a young college aged nice guy. Elderly neighbor sent him by to ask dad if he wanted to sell a car. Friend of the elderly neighbor somehow. Dad had an extra car that he sold him for a few hundred dollars.

Maybe 3 Yrs later I changed his car insurance and the insurance guy asks about some lady named something that lives in same house. She'll have access to car too & do I want to include her as a listed driver. I say, No - no other lady is there, ..are you sure, 'not unless she lives in the bushes after dark.
He says 'Well lets hope she's not sleeping in the bushes but there is a lady, a driver, with the same address listed as my dads, must be in address only, Somehow. Seemed kind of puzzling to him.

Fast forward... about 5 yrs since the car was sold...
Phone call from nearby small beach community - Chief of Police. He knows me from my youth on motorcycles going too fast, noisy cars and kidnapping tourist's daughters with them. We have this young lady we've arrested for some troubles she's gotten into, has your dads car tag on her car but the plate and car descriptions don't match. Tell me about your dads car.

She was getting annual stickers for the tag every year. Easy to do - I can walk in the tag office here with proof of insurance and renew his registration, no questions asked if this is my car.
So gutsy girl, she was using the tag address on auto insurance, which you need proof of insurance to register the car tag annually ,..and get this little sticker that says Expires Sept,05. So her drivers license is probably the same address.

Cop said it happens all the time, should always take that tag off any car you sell before letting someone drive off with it. But it was no problem with him other than to set his records straight. Now he needed to figure out where she really lived.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 11:41AM
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