The Law Library receives inquiries from citizens who have purchased a used car and while at the DMV they learn that the title has a lien. That lien must be paid off prior to transferring ownership; this article addresses how to avoid this predicament.
Reposted from column in East Valley Tribune:
Ducey: Lien back — be careful when buying that new used car – East Valley Tribune: Money
Posted: Monday, April 29, 2013 8:36 am
I just bought a new car. I didn’t want to. I hate the process. But after months of my old van giving me signals it was time, I finally decided I had to cut its financial life support and move on. I spent hours comparing, emailing, researching, traveling, negotiating and complaining about how much I didn’t like doing any of it.
Yet my experience is nothing compared to what Irvin Mayfield went through. And I’m hearing from others who faced the same thing.
Irvin is a Phoenix man in his 20’s who bought a car for the first time. He took it home. For $2,500, it seemed like a steal.
He waited for the title to come so he could take full ownership. And he waited. And waited. There were promises, but no title. He’d had enough and let me know about it.
It turns out Irvin’s car had a lien on it. The previous owner owed $4,400 that had to be paid before Irvin could get his title. Somehow, the dealer says he didn’t know. And for Irvin to pay it off, it just wouldn’t make sense.
While some liens are written right on the title so you can see them, others are allowed to be recorded electronically and not printed on the title itself.
So how would you know?
It’s become such a big issue, that the state is now doing something about it… sort of.
Beginning this week, all titles with unpaid recorded liens will have an advisory line at the top labeled “NONTRANSFERABLE” and a line at the bottom of the title that states: “WARNING: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR TRANSFER.”
So, in that case, you probably wouldn’t buy the car.
But there are a couple of big problems that still remain.
If the title was printed earlier than April 29, there could still be liens you wouldn’t see written on the title.
And even if you see a lien, you can’t get information about what it is or how much it costs, unless you’re the owner of the vehicle.
As a buyer, that doesn’t help you.
So, here’s my advice.
Before you buy ANY car, ask the owner to run a current Motor Vehicle Report. It can be done for about $3 at any MVD office or online at servicearizona.org. But again, only owners of the car can run it.
It’s information you need to know before spending any money.
As for Irvin, well, the dealer was a bit surprised when we arrived with him. And about an hour later, Irvin had all of his money back.