Our very first claim- our office had been open for 19 days. Our customer walks out of a movie theater on Father’s Day with her husband and children and finds her car, along with two other cars, damaged. While they had been legally parked on the side of the road, someone had driven by and side swiped all of them in one swoop.
Luckily, as far as accidents go, our customer was not injured and did not have to suffer being in the car itself as the accident happen. Unfortunately, the accident was a hit-and-run and her car was damaged enough that it was not even able to be driven.
The police came and did their job and they were able to identify the car. Here is where it gets interesting: they tracked down the owner of the car and guess what? He had just sold his car to some other guy.
It wasn’t him.
I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be that guy getting that phone call!
My stepdaughter had something similar happen to her a few years ago. One day, I saw this letter that looked pretty official from the City of West Bend show up in her name at our house. My stepdaughter had not lived with us for over a year so I had my husband open it up. It was a list of unpaid parking tickets.
In her name. In West Bend.
We live in Hartland and she had no reason to be in West Bend; so we believed her when we she said it wasn’t her!
Come to find out that when her grandmother helped her sell her car, they signed the title over, but they forgot to take the plates off. That Rav4 was still registered in my stepdaughter’s name!
It has occurred to me that this kind of thing happens more than I thought. We’ve had two other customers come into our office with similar issues. Therefore, I find it very important to share this piece of knowledge with you.
Selling a car yourself can be pretty easy these days with all of the online boards like Craigslist and Facebook sales groups, etc. You barely even need to put your car on the side of the road these days! But… that being said- you shouldn’t just exchange some cash and keys and go on your merry way.
Selling your car privately
First, if you are going to let someone test drive your car- make sure you ask to see a driver’s license and proof of insurance first- and make sure the driver is over 18! If the person is under 18 and they wreck your car; they are a minor and can’t be held responsible. If they are over 18 and uninsured, it will be your insurance that pays for any accident they cause.
Second, once you’ve both negotiated the price and everything is all good- write up a simple bill of sale stating the make/model/year of the used car, the mileage, the sellers and buyer’s names, the sale price, and that the vehicle is sold “as is”. This will protect you if the buyer comes back later and says the car is a lemon. I mean- you ARE getting rid of it, right? You can also just use the Bill of Sale form that is provided by the DMV.
More important- there is a state law (as of January 1, 2016) that you must complete the seller notification. The law says that any person who sells a motor vehicle to another person, including transferring a junk vehicle by bill of sale, must submit notification to the department of motor vehicles that the sale has occurred within 30 days. The seller must report the: VIN of the vehicle, the identity of the individual buyer, the sale price, and the date of sale.
In addition to the seller notification, both you and the buyer must sign and date the title. Note: as the seller, your name must be on the title. If another person’s name is on the title- their signature must be on it in order to sell it. If there is a lienholder on the title; you cannot sell your car until you have fulfilled the requirements of your loan and your loan provider has sent you a clear title.
There will be a section on your title for the odometer mileage and selling price as well as the name and address of the buyer. Make sure that is all filled out.
The completely filled out title will go with the new owner. They will need to take this to the DMV to get a new title. Click here to find your local DMV location.
Lastly- remove the license plates from the vehicle. These license plates are connected to YOU- not your vehicle. If your buyer is smart, he or she will bring their own plates to put on your car at the time or purchase. If they did not do this, it will be a great incentive to take the title to the DMV ASAP and get that car titled in their name and get new plates!
Once all of this has been done and your car sale is complete- call your insurance agent and take your car off your auto policy. It is not a good idea to take the car off your policy while it is for sale- even if you are not driving it. Some agents/carriers will refuse to take the car off the policy until they see that your auto has been retitled. This is for your own good. Can you imagine if your car was NOT retitled to the new person’s name and they hit someone and didn’t have insurance? YOU would be responsible. If that car had been taken off your insurance policy, then you would have to pay 100% out of pocket for all of the damages some dude who bought your car caused. And yes, you could TRY to sue him for damages, but we all know how that goes….
To sum up…
Suppose you and your buyer shake hands and exchange cash and keys. You sign the title over to him. He drives off and you’re happy. Suppose the buyer leaves and buys some alcohol and drinks it while speeding through town. He plows through a soccer field, hitting a bunch of kids as if they were bowling pins before wrapping the car around a tree. Yep- they will arrest the driver; but someone is going to look up whose car that is. Why? Because you are still liable for the actions of YOUR car- and until that title is switched over, that car is still legally yours. Your best bet is to meet at the DMV and take care of your business right there.
It may be an inconvenience, but at least you won’t be getting a call at 5pm on Father’s Day asking why you sideswiped a bunch of cars near the movie theater.