Protect Yourself By Verifying Title When Buying A Vehicle

  • 3 min read

Purchasing a motor vehicle is a significant consumer transaction, unlike smaller purchases, and unlike real estate, it’s an experience most people undergo multiple times in their lives. The process typically involves licensed dealerships regulated by state authorities, which offer some consumer protection.

The Crucial Role of Licensing and Titles
The most critical aspect of purchasing a vehicle is obtaining its title and ensuring rightful ownership. However, issues often arise, such as misleading advertising or mechanical defects, especially in used cars, where oversight might be limited. Licensing authorities play a pivotal role in offering recourse for such problems.

Title Issues: A Growing Problem
Obtaining a title for a purchased vehicle seems straightforward, but many dealers face challenges in securing titles for buyers. Companies like Carvana, operating at scale and across states, encounter widespread issues in acquiring titles due to the rapid pace of sales and a lack of attention to the complexities of title paperwork.

Recourse for Title Problems
When facing title issues, consumers can file complaints with the licensing board in their state. These forms inquire about the non-receipt of titles or inadequate documentation provided by the dealer, focusing primarily on title-related concerns.

Challenges in the Title Transfer Process
The online retail model, while convenient for buyers, sometimes overlooks the intricacies of title documentation. Unlike traditional dealerships with established procedures, these new entrants might struggle with the logistics of handling titles, impacting consumers’ ability to acquire proper documentation.

Origins and Complexity of Title Problems
Online retailers like Carvana primarily source used cars from auctions, where title transfers may not occur simultaneously with the sale. Up to 20% of titles passing through auctions might get lost, damaged, or delayed, causing inconvenience for buyers awaiting proper documentation.

Tips and Actions for Buyers
Buyers must inquire about the title’s location before finalizing a purchase and stay vigilant post-purchase. Checking with the titling division directly if no title or plates arrive within 30 days is advisable to avoid being stranded without proper documentation.

Challenges in Resolving Title Issues
If a car’s title gets lost or damaged at an auction, resolving the problem becomes complicated. The original titleholder, often disinterested in assisting, is the sole entity capable of obtaining a duplicate title, leading to bureaucratic challenges for dealers.

Navigating title problems
Addressing title-related issues may require engagement with state authorities or, in severe cases, legal action, which can be costly. Buyers need to stay proactive, recognizing that title issues may not resolve quickly and could affect their ability to use the purchased vehicle.

The purchase of a vehicle, while common, isn’t without its complications, especially regarding title acquisition. Remaining informed, proactive, and diligent post-purchase is crucial to avoid being caught in a situation where a vehicle remains undriveable due to title-related hurdles.

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