What to do about buying a car without the title?

UPDATED: May 23, 2012

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What to do about buying a car without the title?

My son bought a car from a friend who owed him money. The agreement was that the friend would keep the car tagged and insured while my son finished paying for the car, a total of about $4000 at this point. However, the friend never did and after being asked to produce the title several times has failed. The car has been stored at my house for 4 years. Now he wants the car back which is not registered to him. What are our legal options?

Asked on May 23, 2012 under Business Law, Florida


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This begs the question on who the car belongs to. Start the answer to this problem by contacting the DMV and finding out who the VIN is registered to and whether the tags are expired. Then, check with your state's department of motor vehicles investigation or safety officer division to see if what the friend did (selling a car to which he had no ownership rights) illegal in your state. If so, file a consumer complaint. As to the issue of payment, your son needs to understand that in some states, the act of collecting money for a purchase (loan agreement is what this was) is not legal if the lender/seller had no right or title to the good in the first place. Four years may be an expiration of a statute of limitations so the friend's right to collect additional monies or repossess the vehicle (assuming the underlying transaction is legal) may be extinguished.

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