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Title Skipping

Discussion in 'Roadster' started by coolVariable, Feb 3, 2018.

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  1. coolVariable

    coolVariable Member

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    Looked at another Roadster today that I would like to buy BUT: the title was not transferred to the new (current) owner.
    It's filled out by the previous owner with blanks for the new owner which I supposedly can just put my name in.
    I am in CA and I am a bit weary that this will be a huge mess - given the price of these cars, I don't want to be left with nothing (or a car that I technically don't own/can't drive).
    Supposedly he only got the car two months ago, bought it online, and found out that he has difficulty getting in and out, but still ...

    Any advice?

    I was thinking of offering to complete the transaction at the DMV with a cashiers check (he gets the check, if I can transfer the title and register the car).
    Would that protect me? I have never bought a used car from a private party before, so I greatly appreciate the input.
     
  2. rudholm

    rudholm Member

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    Generally, when you buy a car from a private party, you immediately put your name on the title and mail it to the DMV, but still, it might be legitimate.

    For starters, you could call your local police department, tell them someone is offering to sell you an exotic car but the seller purchased it so recently that the title is not yet in their name. Give them the VIN, license plate, and the name of the seller and the person he bought it from and they can tell you if the owner name, VIN, and plate all match, and if the vehicle has been reported stolen. My local PD has done similar lookups for me in the past. Of course, your PD might be less helpful, especially if they're the LAPD.

    Going to the DMV with the seller will protect you, as the DMV will be able to authenticate the title. Just make sure the VIN on the title is the same as the VIN on the car.

    In fact, there are so few of these cars, and almost all of them are known to people in this forum that if you post the VIN here, someone will probably know the history of the car and might even be able to verify your seller's story.
     
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  3. supersnoop

    supersnoop Tesla Roadster #334

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    I’ve always heard it termed “floating the title,” and it’s used to avoid paying sales tax on the transfer of the vehicle. I’m under the impression that it’s illegal and could get the seller in lots of trouble.

    Basically, the seller needs you to keep quiet about it so that he can save some money. That doesn’t seem worthwhile to me.
     
  4. coolVariable

    coolVariable Member

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    I assume he doesn't want to register the car because he would be hit with almost 10% sales tax ...
    Once the DMV accepts the title for transfer there is no way the title transfer can be interrupted?
     
  5. coolVariable

    coolVariable Member

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    I really don't care what he does or doesn't do, as long as it does not impact me negatively. Therefore my question whether I would be protected if the DMV accepts the title transfer at which time I would hand him a cashier's check.
     
  6. coolVariable

    coolVariable Member

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    BTW this is for #344 (I have reached out two previous owners on here).
     
  7. hsull8915

    hsull8915 Member

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    In TX, this would not fly because the DMV requires either a title application or bill of sale along with the title. The title and the second doc must have matching names, signatures, dates, miles, etc. for them to accept the transfer. I would be shocked if CA doesn't have a similar requirement, and if you could truly complete a transfer of ownership with nothing but a title.

    Regardless of whether it could be pulled off or not, it is undoubtedly avoiding sales tax and therefore in violation of some law. I would not mess with buying anything under illegal circumstances, let alone a vehicle and a rather expensive one at that. The obvious exception here is if he has a dealer's license, but I'm certain that would have come up if so.

    @coolVariable, I know you are just trying to buy a car and I commend you for coming to the forum to run it by others, so please know this is not meant to be a scolding. I'm afraid it looks that way in text :( I am hoping to help you avoid what I honestly think would become an absolute nightmare.

    I hope you find your dream Roadster at a great price and under favorable circumstances soon!
     
    • Like x 1
  8. hcsharp

    hcsharp Active Member

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    It depends on what state you live in. Here in VT it's considered a use tax not a sales tax so you don't have to pay it unless you register the car.
     
    • Helpful x 1
  9. doubleohwhat

    doubleohwhat Member

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    #9 doubleohwhat, Feb 4, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
    That's what I would do (it's not uncommon). If the seller doesn't agree to that then I'd walk away.

    I have no clue of the legality (in California) of what the seller is trying to do but completing the sell at the DMV would have you protected. Note that (as mentioned above) not all states impose a sales tax like California but rather a "use tax". So it's not like the seller is trying to get away with massive fraud. It's just something that is handled differently in depending on the state. Where I'm at you can get away with this a half dozen times a year before they'll force you to get a dealers license.
     
    • Helpful x 1
  10. rudholm

    rudholm Member

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    In California, it's not a sales tax, it's a use tax.
     
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  11. ion_1

    ion_1 Member

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    They are very careful about this at my particular DMV here in NJ also. If they don't match, you cannot register. It's a good rule.
     
  12. rudholm

    rudholm Member

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    The back of a CA vehicle title is basically a Bill of Sale. It's a form you fill out with the mileage, sale price, and name of the buyer as well as places for signatures. From what the OP said, it sounds like this form is already filled out and signed by person the seller bought it from, so in theory, he could put his name in the Buyer area and hand that to the CA DMV. Since it's a Use Tax and not a Sales Tax, the CA DMV should be OK with this transaction.
     

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