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Tesla - private seller with a lien

Beachybumm

Member
Jun 27, 2020
185
105
Los Angeles
I'm in CA and found a Tesla from a private seller that is immaculate. Today, the seller told me the car has a lien on it, so he doesn't have the pink slip. He's going to use the money from the sale to pay off the lien. I understand that he may not have $40k on hand to pay off a loan, but from a buyer perspective, how do I protect myself and take possession of a car that has a lien on the title? I can't even register it without the title in my name.

On top of that, I've gone to the CA dmv website and see no way to check on the existence and amount of the lien. Is there any way to do that?
 

glide

Active Member
Jun 6, 2018
3,660
3,825
USA
Get a bill of sale. The title transfer should take far less time than if you were going through the process with Tesla.

When I bought my used Model S it took several months for them to get the title to me.

Edit: if buyer and seller live within a reasonable distance I would suggest you accompany them to their bank with the check to pay off the loan.
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,595
3,632
Colorado, USA
I'm in CA and found a Tesla from a private seller that is immaculate. Today, the seller told me the car has a lien on it, so he doesn't have the pink slip. He's going to use the money from the sale to pay off the lien. I understand that he may not have $40k on hand to pay off a loan, but from a buyer perspective, how do I protect myself and take possession of a car that has a lien on the title? I can't even register it without the title in my name.

On top of that, I've gone to the CA dmv website and see no way to check on the existence and amount of the lien. Is there any way to do that?
Are you financing? If so, contact your lending institution because they will have a process they want followed for a "closing" that will include documents to protect both you and them from the seller pulling any title shenanigans. It's important that you realize that ultimately YOU are the one responsible for vetting out the deal, car and owner though. They're not assuming liability for the process but helping to protect their interest (and in doing so, you) in said process.

If you're not financing you need a contract separate from the bill of sale that the seller signs under threat of perjury that he will deliver a clean title clear of any and all liens within a specified period of time. The bill of sale you will use to apply for a new title and registration with your DMV. The contract you'll use if the seller is a criminal and you need to pursue them in a court of law. Think about the implication of that process because you want to go into these sorts of transactions VERY carefully to avoid being the victim of a scam. Doing your due diligence is imperative to making sure this is on the up and up because ultimately it's YOU who will be on the hook for the $40k.
 

Beachybumm

Member
Jun 27, 2020
185
105
Los Angeles
Are you financing? If so, contact your lending institution because they will have a process they want followed for a "closing" that will include documents to protect both you and them from the seller pulling any title shenanigans. It's important that you realize that ultimately YOU are the one responsible for vetting out the deal, car and owner though. They're not assuming liability for the process but helping to protect their interest (and in doing so, you) in said process.

If you're not financing you need a contract separate from the bill of sale that the seller signs under threat of perjury that he will deliver a clean title clear of any and all liens within a specified period of time. The bill of sale you will use to apply for a new title and registration with your DMV. The contract you'll use if the seller is a criminal and you need to pursue them in a court of law. Think about the implication of that process because you want to go into these sorts of transactions VERY carefully to avoid being the victim of a scam. Doing your due diligence is imperative to making sure this is on the up and up because ultimately it's YOU who will be on the hook for the $40k.

I've been through a lawsuit before and what I've found is that you'll get killed with legal fees chasing money. And if the guy doesn't have enough to pay off his lien without my money, then he isn't going to have it when he's getting sued.

That being said, I called his financing company, and they recommended the same thing as you - if I am financing, the banks will work on the title transfers to protect both parties. I'm curious how this works:

1) Does this mean I can't register the car until the bank gets around to clearing the lien and sending the title?
2) If I were to apply for a car loan just to provide this protection, can I pay it off the next day with no repercussions, or are there usually closing costs and fees that go along with a loan? At some point, it just makes sense to buy from someone who doesn't have a lien.

Thanks.
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,595
3,632
Colorado, USA
I've been through a lawsuit before and what I've found is that you'll get killed with legal fees chasing money. And if the guy doesn't have enough to pay off his lien without my money, then he isn't going to have it when he's getting sued.

That being said, I called his financing company, and they recommended the same thing as you - if I am financing, the banks will work on the title transfers to protect both parties. I'm curious how this works:

1) Does this mean I can't register the car until the bank gets around to clearing the lien and sending the title?
2) If I were to apply for a car loan just to provide this protection, can I pay it off the next day with no repercussions, or are there usually closing costs and fees that go along with a loan? At some point, it just makes sense to buy from someone who doesn't have a lien.

Thanks.
1) You use the bill of sale to get temp registration & temp tags for your car at your local DMV until all of the paperwork is processed.
2) Most loans have no pre-payment penalty but make sure on the front end. You can do your due diligence on the front end to determine who charges what for this "service". I personally don't have a problem buying a vehicle with a lien but there are a couple of extra steps that some don't want to deal with. In the end, if the deal is worth it... it's worth it.
 

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