Are you looking to purchase a used vehicle from a car dealership? One of the most common complaints we get about used car sales is, “The dealer won’t give me my title, so I can’t register the car.” While many car sales are processed honestly without a title being present at the time of purchase, title problems arise more often than you think.
The car’s title is one of the most important documents in a vehicle purchase. The title proves that you are the car’s legal owner, and in most cases, you will need it to register your car. In Georgia, car dealerships are allowed to sell vehicles without immediately giving the title to you. So, in most vehicle purchases, a title is never seen by the buyer. This practice, although legal, can lead to costly and time-consuming problems for you, the buyer.
How can a dealership refuse to give you the title? Many times they don’t have the title on hand.
The Dealership Owes Money on the Vehicle. Typically, dealers do not own all the vehicles on their lot; many of those vehicles are financed through a company called a “floor planner.” The floor planner lends money to the car dealership to allow it to buy vehicles to keep on the lot. The floor planner then holds the title until a vehicle is sold. The floor planner will give the title to the dealership once the balance owed is paid off.
The risk here is that some dealers do not pay the floor planner for the vehicle. When the floor planner does not receive payment from the dealership, the dealer cannot get the title. This situation hinders you from obtaining your title, which means that you cannot register your vehicle.
The Prior Loan Has Not Been Paid Off. In other cases, the dealership may accept a car as a trade-in that has an outstanding loan on it. The dealership will not be able to get the title until the outstanding loan is paid off. Some dishonest dealers neglect to pay off the remaining loan balance. That means when you purchase the vehicle, a finance company or bank has a claim to it. You won’t be able to register the car, because the finance company or bank has the title and will not release it until the loan is paid.
Why Would a Dealership Do This?
Some dealers have not paid the balance owed because they do not have the finances to do so. They sold you a vehicle and took your money to pay for something else. Their hope is that they’ll sell another vehicle and use that money to pay off the balance on your vehicle. It’s possible that the dealership closes down before paying off the title. In any of these cases, you’re the one who cannot drive a car for which you are responsible for paying insurance and car payments.
The dealer is always responsible for delivering clear title to you. While that may be the case, handling this situation after the fact takes a lot of your time and effort. The best thing to do is to avoid the problem by requesting to see the title before purchasing, if possible, or by being prepared to take immediate action if title is not provided to you in accordance with the law.
Actions You Can Take
Research the dealership before you buy. The best way to address trouble is to avoid it in the first place. This cannot be overstated: know who you are buying from. If you see numerous complaints online about the dealership, then you know you should avoid shopping there, even if they are offering a great deal.
Consider purchasing a title bond. A title bond, also known as a “Certificate of Title Surety,” is a document that proves that you own the vehicle. It will allow you to register the vehicle and secure insurance. The drawbacks are that title bonds cost money, only last for a limited time (3 or 4 years), and can decrease the amount that you will be able to sell the car for in the future. Some dealerships will not accept a vehicle with bonded titles as a trade in. Therefore, the title bond is a good option for inexpensive vehicles that you do not intend to sell or trade in in the near future.
Contact the Georgia Used Motor Vehicle Dealers Board. If you purchased the vehicle from a used car dealership (not a franchise, or new, car dealership), then the dealership should be licensed with the Used Motor Vehicle Dealers Board. Contact the Board to determine if they can assist you with the title issue.
File a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law. If you purchased the vehicle from a used car dealership or a franchise, or new, car dealership, then complain to the Department of Law. This agency has the authority to enforce consumer protection statutes against offending businesses.
Contact an automobile fraud attorney. Locate an attorney who is experienced in handling automobile fraud issues. The attorney may take specific steps to assist you depending on the amount of time that has passed since purchase, whether there are other issues with the vehicle, and whether the dealership remains in business.
Don’t Let Frustration Overtake You
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we end up in bad situations with disreputable businesses. If that is the case, know that you can access resources to assist you with resolving the problem. Has a dealership failed to provide your car’s title? If so, contact The Zeigler Firm at 770-580-9013 to discuss your options.