General Question

Irenema's avatar

If you sign your title of the car over to the buyer, are you in anyway responsible for the car even if the buyer doesn't file the transfer of ownership?

Asked by Irenema (22points) December 17th, 2011
9 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

I just sold a car. Buyer paid cash. Information he gave re: his address and name is sketchy.

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john65pennington's avatar

Actually, nothing is official, until you and the new owner receive the formal title transfer from your state. Are you liable if this person never transfers the title over? Off-hand, I would not think so, BUT, some Philadelphia lawyer made trace this back to you, IF the vehicle is involved in an auto accident or a serious accident involving death.

I would contact the buyer and ask him what the holdup is on the title transfer, just to be safe.

lillycoyote's avatar

You need to send your portion of the paperwork to your state DMV as soon as possible in order to protect yourself. The best way to protect yourself is to go to motor vehicle with the buyer and transfer the title there, but you should be protected on and by whatever date the DMV receives your paper work, with the title signed over, signed by both you and the buyer. If you want to be absolutely certain, you should contact your state DMV and find out what they need, what they say.

Irenema's avatar

It’s not possible to go to the motor vehicle office with the buyer because he has driven away in the car with title I signed over to him and dated. He didn’t sign the title in my presence.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m guessing that you didn’t take the plates, then, and he drove off with your plates on the vehicle? That could be a problem.

In most of the states that I’ve lived in, when you sell the car you take back your plates and take them to the DMV, where they will cancel your registration. (If the new owner goes with you, then the title transfer and re-registration can be smooth and quick, too, but that’s not necessary.)

If you think he’s dodgy, then how certain are you that he paid you with non-counterfeit cash?

Next time you sell a car privately, read over the back of the title (at the very least) and the pretty clear instructions in the driver license manual, which you can obtain free from your DMV.

I would put in a call to your insurance company and explain what has happened. They’ll have good advice for what to do now. And you need to cancel your insurance on that vehicle in any case.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I would go to the DMV Monday, explain the situation to them and ask for advice on how to handle it.

Tuesdays_Child's avatar

You should always protect yourself with a bill of sale signed by both parties and dated, also make sure that you date the title when you sign it over.

jerv's avatar

I am with @Tuesdays_Child here. Any smart car seller will have plenty of documentation showing that the car is no longer theirs. I sold a few cars to sketchy people, but the fact that there were two copies of the bill of sale each signed and dated by both of us made it a cinch to prove that they were no longer my responsibility.

WA does things a little differently; the seller has five days to notify the state of the sale. However, like NH, a Bill of Sale is required for the buyer to register the vehicle anyways, which leads us back to having your own signed and dated copy.

If you fail to exercise your own due diligence then you may well be responsible, if for no reason other than being negligent about filing the right paperwork.

@CWOTUS In NH, the plates follow your registration, which is instantly invalidated when you sell the car, but they can be transferred to another car when you register it. In WA, it blew my mind that the plates follow the car, not the owner.

zenvelo's avatar

In California, there’s a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability for the seller to submit to the DMV. When my ex gave a car to her brother, I had him meet me at the DMV so it was all done at once.

Kraigmo's avatar

Look at @zenvelo‘s answer. Under California (and other states) law…. you are liable for parking tickets, and other issues until you send in a Release of Liability form, which is separate from the transfer/title papers.

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