Can a dealership keep my tags and registration?

I purchased a used car and paid the dealer $2500 for a down payment. The dealer put down $3000 as a down payment on the contract he submitted to the bank because he said that this bank required a $3000 down payment. He told me that I could pay the $500 over time, however the car notes started to roll in and my budget wont allow me to come up with $500. Now the dealership is holding my license plate and registration. What can I do? I’m already on my third temporary tag from the dealer and its about to expire .

Asked on October 24, 2011 under General Practice, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The first issue here is what does the contract of sale *you* signed say? If you and the dealership agreed to a $2,500 down payment, that is all you needed to provide, no matter the dealer may have told the bank; you would be entitled to the car in theory (see below) because  you have complied with the agreement between you and the dealership. On the other hand, if the contract of sale required $3,000 down, that's what you would need to provide.

Complicating matters is that if you signed off on the contract or paperwork the dealer submitted to the bank, then even if the original contract between you and the dealer specified $2,500, the second contract may have superceded it; and/or you have committed fraud, by submitting false documentation to the bank. This could be a very complicated situation, if there are two contracts or sets of paper with different dollar amounts on them; or if there is only one contract with $3,000 on it, that would be the terms you agreed to--though in that case, it is possible you have a fraud case against the dealer, if the dealer represented to you that you'd only have to pay $2,500 down while preparing paperwork for $3,000.

In short, this again could be very complicated, since your rights depend on what was said, when; on what is one the contract; on how many contracts or forms there are, and whether they contradict each other; and on which forms you have signed. You should speak with an attorney, bringing copies of all documentation, to try and sort this out.


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