Dealer will not provide vehicle title for used car I bought

July 29, 2016 15:03 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I bought a used car 3 and a half months ago from a major car dealership, and I still don’t have a tag. I got an extension from the tag office in May, but when I went back to the office in June when the tag expired, they told me the dealership still didn’t have the title work finished. The tag office couldn’t issue me another extension, nor can the dealership give me one. So the dealership typed me a letter stating that the title got lost in the mail just in case I get stopped. That was six weeks ago and I still don’t have a tag. The dealership keeps giving me the run-around. What should I do? 

Consumer Ed says:

First of all, a typed letter from the dealership is not an acceptable, legal substitute for a tag in Georgia. Once a tag expires, your car is legally considered unregistered and this can lead to financial and driving-record consequences if you are pulled over by law enforcement while driving the vehicle. So, even if the title truly was lost in the mail, the letter from the dealership does not legally permit you to drive your car in Georgia.

When you purchase a vehicle from a car dealer in Georgia, the dealer is required by law to handle the title transfer process and submit the application for a new title in your name. If you financed the car, the title goes to the lien holder (the bank or financing company), who retains it until you pay off the loan.

The dealer has 30 calendar days from the date of the sale to apply for a title and to furnish you with the proper documents to obtain a tag for the vehicle. In the meantime, the dealership must supply you with a dealer-issued temporary tag to allow you time to apply for your own tag. 

The dealer cannot issue an extension or another tag, nor can you operate the vehicle legally with an expired dealer-issued temporary tag. So, if the dealer fails to obtain a title for transfer to you within five days of the expiration date of the dealer-issued tag (25 days from the purchase date), you may apply for one 30-day temporary tag at your county Tax Commissioner's Tag Office. 

Since your temporary tag extension has expired and you still don’t have a title – and since you have not been able to get things resolved by contacting the dealer directly – you may want to consult an attorney about your legal rights to pursue the possession of your title in court.  Also, if you financed the purchase of your car with a bank or financing company, you may want to notify them of your situation. 

You can also file a complaint against the dealer.  If you purchased your vehicle from a franchise (new car) dealer that also sells used cars, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 404-651-8600 or visiting www.consumer.ga.gov.  If, instead, you purchased your car from an independent used car dealer, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Board of Registration of Used Motor Vehicle Dealers at http://sos.ga.gov/plb/submitcomplaint.php. Keep in mind that the Board’s authority is limited to sanctions against a dealer’s license. The Board does not have the authority to get your title for you. 


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Dealer won't refund my deposit

March 15, 2016 15:21 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I paid a car dealer $300 as a deposit to confirm that I was interested in buying a particular car. He assured me that the car had a clean title and had not been in any accidents. He also assured me that he would return my deposit if I found any problems with the car. I got the VIN number from him and found out from CARFAX that the car had been in an accident.  I showed the CARFAX report to the dealer and asked him for my deposit back, but he refused to return it. What can I do?

Consumer Ed says:  

While many consumers are under the impression that there is a law which entitles them to a refund for a car deposit if they choose not to buy the car, this is not the case.  Usually, whether a deposit is refundable or non-refundable depends on what's written in a contract, on a receipt, or posted at the dealership.  But if there’s nothing that states otherwise, or if you agreed with the dealer that the funds would be returned in the event that the car had previously been in an accident, then the dealer should be required to refund the money.

In this case, if you believe that the dealer has no right to keep your deposit, you have several options.  The first thing you should do is write a letter to the dealer requesting that your money be returned. Send the letter via “Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested,” and pay the small additional fee to obtain proof of delivery. You should also submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), and ask their mediation department to contact the dealer to attempt to get your deposit back.  You can also submit a complaint to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at www.consumer.ga.gov, or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (outside metro Atlanta).  If you used a credit card to pay the deposit, you should also consider disputing the charge with your credit card company.  Even if you take this route, the assistance of the Better Business Bureau and the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit described above may still be helpful.  

If none of the above options result in the return of your deposit, you may want to consult with an attorney who can help you explore other legal options you may have. 

To avoid such issues in the future, and to help you avoid doing business with companies that use deceptive tactics, make sure you select a reputable auto dealer before you begin shopping for a car. You can research dealerships through the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).  In addition, make sure that before you give a deposit to a dealer, you require that he or she create a written document stating the purpose of the payment, and under what circumstances, if any, you are entitled to a partial or full refund.  Finally, make certain that you read that document carefully and in its entirety before you sign it or hand over any money for a deposit. 


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Can car dealer back out of deal once contract has been signed?

January 21, 2016 13:11 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Yesterday afternoon I purchased a new car and was able to get a great deal.  However, today I received a voicemail from the dealer, asking me to come back in to discuss the deal.  From his tone, I assumed they didn't make any money on the deal.  Regardless, the contract was signed and accepted.  I took delivery of the vehicle and paid them on the spot, with a check from my bank. Can the dealership back out of this deal or demand more money?

Consumer Ed says:  

This sounds like a case of “seller’s remorse.” Generally speaking, there is no “cooling off period” – i.e., a legal right to cancel a vehicle purchase contract for either the buyer or the seller. Once all of the requirements for completion of the transaction are satisfied and you have signed the necessary paperwork, you have bought the vehicle. However, it is important that you read all of your vehicle purchase documents carefully. Although unlikely, if the dealership retained the right to back out of the contract, if the contract provides a basis for modifying certain terms later on, or if some event or act must occur in order to finalize the deal, the wording of the contract should include those provisions.  If such provisions are not contained in your contract, it would appear that your transaction is complete, and therefore the seller should not be able to change the terms of the agreement once it has been signed.  If the seller tries to change the terms, you need to consult with an attorney before agreeing or taking any action.


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