Avoid the problems, never buy a vehicle without a title

A fantastic deal on a car or truck advertised online, in a classified ad or parked on a street may not be so great if the seller doesn't have a motor vehicle title in his name to assign to you.

In fact, purchasing or selling a vehicle without a proper title can get you in trouble, advises Barry Takeuchi, title program specialist with Idaho Transportation Department's Division of Motor Vehicles.

"Without receiving a proper title from the seller, you may not be able to register a vehicle or secure a regular title in your name," Takeuchi said. He added that not getting a title when buying a vehicle is one of the most common title and registration mistakes made that cost people time and money.

Other headaches may include a vehicle being towed away by a "repo" agent if there was an unpaid lien, or law enforcement officers taking a vehicle if it was reported stolen by the titled owner.

"Just don't buy a vehicle without a title," Takeuchi cautioned. "Check to see that the seller is the owner shown on the title or a legally appointed agent, such as by power of attorney." No one else can legally sell that vehicle without a dealer's license. This applies to all vehicles including "parts only" vehicles.

Consumers may want to get a vehicle history report before buying a vehicle. Several record providers sell these reports, which provide important information about any vehicle considered for purchase including odometer information, service records and vehicle damage. Purchasing a vehicle that is later discovered to be "rebuilt salvage" may reduce its value by thousands of dollars.

"Don't plan on getting a 'lost title' if a seller doesn't provide you with one," Takeuchi said. "Only the titled owner or lienholder can obtain a duplicate title."

To protect yourself, be sure the vehicle seller has signed off the title and has listed all sale information including the actual selling price. Idaho code makes it a felony to enter a false selling price on a motor vehicle title or bill of sale.

"Falsifying a sale price for a vehicle is not only illegal but costs all Idahoans money because the state loses out on tax revenue the sale might have provided," he said.

Buyers should file for a title within 30 days to protect their interest and avoid a late-filing penalty.

He reminds owners to remove license plates on vehicles they sell because they own the plates unless they are black and white plates for off-highway vehicles. The owner of the plates may transfer them to another vehicle and receive credit for any time remaining on the registration.

Sellers should also remember to file a release of liability statement within five days as is required by law. That way, if the buyer parks the vehicle illegally or is involved in a hit-and-run accident before transferring title into his name, the seller may not be held responsible.

People who move should report their new address within 30 days because law requires it. By doing so, they won't miss out on receiving important notices such as registration renewal reminders.

More information about titling and registering a vehicle in Idaho is available on ITD's website at dmv.idaho.gov or by contacting local DMV offices. The department also has posted a video about selling a vehicle in Idaho on its YouTube channel, which also can be accessed from the department's website.

Top 10 title and registration mistakes to avoid

1. Not getting a title when buying a vehicle
2. Failing to report a change of address
3. Selling without titling first
4. Failing to file a Release of Liability (ROL)
5. Leaving license plates on a vehicle after selling it
6. Falsifying the selling price on a bill of sale or title
7. Failing to bring proper identification to the county DMV office
8. Not providing an authorizing document when someone has signed for someone else
9. Using an original title for a transaction after a duplicate was issued
10. Submitting unsigned documents or documents signed incorrectly

Published 3-07-14