What Happens When a Buyer Never Registers a Car You Sold?

car title transfer

It’s a good rule in life to expect the best but prepare for the worst.

Most humans on Earth are good people who want to live the best life possible, but a few are set on breaking the rules for their own benefit.

Selling a car can be a profitable venture, but it can also provide opportunity for unscrupulous humans to use the seller’s good name in a crime. It’s rare, but it can happen.

When you buy a vehicle from a private seller, you take the transferred title to your local DMV and register the car in your name. All the paperwork is taken care of for you if you buy from a dealer.

Sometimes a private seller will sell his or her car, but the buyer won’t ever register it. Any parking tickets or driving infractions caught on camera will be under the seller’s name. If any crime is committed in the car, it’ll be the seller in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

Here’s how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

In many states, a seller is required to sign the back of the existing title along with the date, sale price, and exact odometer reading before handing it over to the buyer. The buyer would then take the title and register it. Short of conducting the sale at a DMV office, a buyer can’t be forced to register the car.

Be sure to make a copy of both sides of the signed title for your records. Also make sure that the odometer reading is exact so it documents the moment ownership transferred from your name. If you round the odometer reading up, and the buyer gets into an accident 5 miles later, he or she could claim you are responsible.

It’s also a good idea to complete a bill of sale. Have both parties sign it, then send the bill of sale to the DMV. If anything happens and the buyer fails to register the car, you’ll have the proof needed to say the car is no longer in your name.

Some states require that the license plates be turned in upon sale, which is an extra step of protection and cancels the registration in the seller’s name.

So what happens if you don’t do any of those things, the buyer never registers the car, and you start getting tickets in the mail? If you simply signed over the title and sent the buyer on his way without letting the DMV know about the sale, you could be on the hook. Contact your DMV right away to avoid future charges and try to work out a solution.

Have you ever had any problems after selling a car?

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

111 Comments

  1. I did buy a car and I plan to get ready of it i never put the car my name i drove onces got pull over over a tail light being out now they want me to put my name but I have a van it has insurances what can they do if I tell them I plan get ready of it will they make me still put my name

  2. My dad had sold his van that was paid off to my big sisters friend who’s a mechanic he says he would do take care of the paperwork. But instead he turned around and sold it to a lady and the lady had gotten a parking ticket and now their trying to send my dad to jail for something he did not do. :'( How can I stop this from happening my dad served his country and their framing him for a crime my whole family knows he did not commit and the sad part is we asked my sister to talk to the guy and to see if he can get a hold of the lady that he sold the car to and get her information but she just ignores us and I think she’s involved since she’s mad at my dad it’s her way of getting back at him.

  3. I sold my Car to a corrupt guy who owns a towing in California. This was 2 years ago when i was in financial hardship. He was in a rush at DMV and said he would handle release of liabiliy. He has racked up close to 3k in parking tickets and toll violations all in my name. All information he gave less his telephone were not correct. His yelp online is littered with comments from people who have been did dirty by his business.

  4. Hi my name is tashar i recently sold my car without the tittle to a friend ok i was asking 2500 which of 1500 she have given me on oct 26 2018 ok she suppose to give me 200 dol toward the balance she text and say she cant pay me so i tried to go get my car along with the police and she is hiding it from me stating she wants her money back its still in my name tags she has no paperwork nothing but a key she call herself typing up a agreement which is alk she has so wat steps can i take to recover my car i have no adress on her just her job. please email me tasharaburns3515tb.tb@gmail.com

  5. Can I sell a car that is signed over to me but I never registered it? Can I just complete a new transfer of deed or something?

    • No, you would need a title correction form stating that you are the “incorrect buyer” (because you didn’t put it into your name) and the person you bought it from AND the person you want to sell it to, need to sign it. Buying a vehicle from someone, signing off on the title as the purchaser and not putting it in your name, then trying to sell it to someone else without the correct forms is called title jumping, and it’s illegal.

  6. I sold a car to my brother. Trusting that he would cover any tickets I left the car in my name until the registration expired. Unfortunately for me he has already let tickets double. What are my options?
    If I can’t get him to willingly pay to switch the title over how can I repo the vehicle?

  7. Can you sell a vehicle if the title isn’t registered in your name on the front, but it’s on the backside of the title?

  8. In my case..SC..he drove it for months…wrecked into four parked cars,ran…I turned in the bill of sale as well as the piece of the title called notice of vehicle sold..I’m now in a big mess!!! My suggestion,make out two original bills..keep one..in this state you no longer have to use a notary public..wish I had anyway. I’ve gotten my license reinstated but am being harassed in the amount of over$25,000 and climbing.

  9. can you sell a car if the title is in your name but you never registered the car and there’s no plates on the car

      • What if you purchased the vehicle but never registered it, no tag either but your name is on the back of the title that shows the purchase but your name isn’t on the front of it? Can I still sell a vehicle?

  10. We were buy a truck from a guy at my husband work and didn’t get a bill of sell or sign the title but pay him a 100 a week i got insurance and got a paper licence plate in my name can he take it from us.

    • If you don’t keep paying he can report it stolen. The title is in his name.

  11. I bought a used motorcycle in 2009 it needed extensive repairs I never registered it how do I register it now that I have finally fixed it up?

  12. My mom was buying a car from a mechanic. He gave her the title to go have it transferred so when he got the work done she could start driving it. At the DMV the made her sign the title. The cost on the repair was 3 times as much as she was told. He said he would give her money back, that has taken a month. but she has to give him the title. What can she tell him when he asked about the title being filed out?

  13. I sold my car. lost the paper work saying to who I sold it to. They never Transfer the title to their name . I got a ticket I don’t know what to do next I went to the dmv they said they can’t do anything. And I can’t reported stolen . Because if they have the paper work still it would be false report Of stolen .

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