If I tried to sell my vehicle to a friend but they failed to make the payments as promised, do I have legal right to take the vehicle back?

They have paid $500 of the $1500 sale price. We do have a bill of sale (if that is what you call it). It is written on a notebook paper that states that if vehicle is not paid in full I will take possession of van. They have not paid anymore and have now taken the van out of my possession. They continue to say that they have spoken to police about this matter, yet I have not gotten any confirmation of that. I was going to go take the vehicle back today. What are my rights? The van is also plated in my name and I have title. They are driving with my plates.

Asked on July 16, 2015 under Business Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Do NOT simply take the van back: if you do, and your "friend" tells the police you stole it from him, the police might arrest you and you may be charged with theft on the grounds that you sold it to him, then tried illegal to take it back. The police will not engage in a detailed legal analysis to see who is right and who is wrong, but will react based on their initial impression of the situation, which may or may not favor you. Go to court and sue him for the money he owes you; if he can't or won't pay, let the court order that the van be returned to you. At that point, if he still won't return it, you can get law enforcement (e.g. sheriff's officers) helping you take it back.

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