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Used car has no title, what can you do?

Woman frustrated that she cannot register her new car
Posted at 12:17 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 12:20:47-04

There is nothing like the thrill of driving home, in a nice quality used car. Unless, that is, the dealer can't get you the title.

One Cincinnati woman has been waiting 6 months to register her new car, and her experience should be a warning for everyone.

Savannah King of Westwood says she now has her 6th temporary tag, for the Mercury Montego she bought 6 months ago at a Vine Street used car lot.

"Four months passed, but I still didn't have a title. So I had to keep getting temporary tags on the car," King said.

At one point, she says, the dealer couldn't give her another paper temp, so they gave her a dealer plate for a month, which worked until a police officer spotted it one night and pulled her over.

"They asked me why are you driving with a dealer tag on your car?" She explained what happened, and luckily the officer let her go (in most cases you will be ticketed for driving with dealer tags if you are not a licensed dealer).

Now she's back to a paper temp tag, but says this latest one expires in a few weeks.

The dealer told her there was a delay in getting the proper title.

So we went to the dealership, where the owner explained the auto auction house never sent them a title for the car, even though the auctioneer had been promising to come up with it week after week.

But the owner promised us they would trade King into a different, legal car immediately.

How to protect yourself

So what if you are past the 30 day point, or even the 60 day point, and the dealer still can't produce a car title?

  • Contact your local BMV, which in some cases can provide a temporary solution.
  • File a complaint with the State Attorney General, which investigates dealers with car title issues.
  • File a Better Business Bureau complaint as well, if only to have it show up in the dealer's public file.

Laws vary from state to state, but the Better Business Bureau says:

  • A dealer typically has 30 days to get you a clear title (in Ohio it can be extended up to 45 days).
  • Temporary tags are not renewable in most states, and certainly not for a 3rd or 4th time.
  • You cannot register a car until you or your lender has the title.

If a dealer is struggling to get a title, it can can mean the car was never paid off (so that the prior owner's bank still owns it), or that is is a salvage or stolen vehicle.

In any of those cases, you cannot register and get plates for the car, in any state.

Savannah King is well aware of that. "I can't register it, so basically it is not my car," she said.

So don't let this happen to you: Ask to see the title when buying a car. A legitimate dealership may need 2 to 3 weeks to process it and send it to you, which is normal.

A private seller should have the title in hand, and sign it over to you at the same time you pay.

Because this agrees to be an isolated case (there are no other complaints posted online about title issues), from a dealer with an "A" rating from the Better Business Bureau, we agreed not to name the dealer, as long as King gets traded into a new car in the next few days.

So ask questions and don't be afraid to file a complaint, so you don't waste your money.


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Don't Waste Your Money

8:47 PM, Oct 17, 2018

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