What happens when you buy a car and never get the title?

You never become the owner, that's what. But you may not be totally stuck because there are laws to protect innocent buyers against crooked and ripoff car dealers. 

Not only will you have lots of legal rights, but selling a car in Ohio and not delivering title can be a criminal act too.

First, let's talk a little about the law and your rights. Then, we'll talk about how to get your money back.

The Law on Car Title Fraud

In Ohio, like most states, the only way a person can have a legal interest in a motor vehicle is if their name is on the vehicle title. Nothing else counts. That means you have to have a title issued in your name to be the vehicle's owner. It also means that you can’t own a car and you can’t legally sell a car without having the title in your name either.
If you buy a car and never get title to it, then in Ohio, again like most states, you have the right to cancel the sale and get your money back.

If you bought a vehicle from a car dealer and have not gotten the title yet, then the first thing to do is contact them and ask where it is and when you will get it. If you don’t want to wait any longer then you may already have the right to cancel the sale since failing to deliver the title to the buyer would be a breach of the sale contract.

Car dealers who don’t deliver title to their buyer often do that for several reasons. One is that they haven’t paid off the finance company that loaned them the money to buy it in the first place. Another may be that the person or dealer they bought it from has not gotten title yet either. Whatever the reason, it does not matter.

The obligation to put the title into the buyer’s name is on the car dealer to live up to. If the don’t do it within the time allowed by the law in your state (Ohio says 40 days and most states say between 30 and 45 days), then they lose. It can be that simple.

Okay, so you are right and the dealer is wrong, but you still don't have a title. Now what? There are two legal things you can do and lost of non-court things you can do.

Your Legal Rights

Legally, your options are limited. You can file a claim with the state or you can sue the dealer.

Ohio's Rescission Fund

Like many other states, Ohio has a Rescission Fund administered by the Ohio Attorney General. If you buy a car and never get the title then you can file a claim your money back from the state. If you succeed in the process, then they will refund your out of pocket money and take the vehicle and then the Ohio Attorney General has the right to go after the dealer to recover the money they pay to you.

Sue The Dealer

Or, you can sue the dealer to make them take it back and refund your money. Failing to deliver title is not just a breach of the sale contract but also a violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, the Ohio Commercial Code, the Advertisement and Sale of Motor Vehicles law, the Motor Vehicle Dealer Licensing Law, and probably Fraud in the first place.

Bottom line? If you don't get your title within 45 days, then start complaining to the dealer and make your complaint short and sweet. If you want to cancel the sale, tell them. If you just want the title so you can keep the car, give them a deadline. Put it all in writing, a short one page letter, and tell them if they don't answer you within, say, 7 or 10 days, then you will contact the state, etc.

And when the deadline passes, it's time to act.

Other Things You Can Do

Other consumers need to know what car dealers can not be trusted too and there are ways you can help spread the word.

And don't forget Yelp and other local search engine reviewing that you can do too.

The Squeaky Wheel still gets the grease. So don't give up, don't quit, and remember - if you don't protect yourself, no one else will. And when you get ripped off, fight back. If you can't get it done on your own, then contact a Consumer Lawyer to help fight for your rights.

Burdge Law Office
Did you get ripped off? Get Burdge Law on your side.

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Known nationwide as a leading Lemon Law attorney, Ronald L. Burdge has represented literally thousands of consumers in "lemon" lawsuits and actively co-counsels and coaches other Consumer Law attorneys. From 2005 through 2018, attorney Ronald L. Burdge has been named as the only Lemon Law Ohio Super Lawyer by Law and Politics magazine and Thomson Reuters Corp., Professional Division. Burdge restricts his practice to Lemon Law and Consumer Law cases. The Ohio Super Lawyer results are published annually in the January issue of Cincinnati Magazine. Ronald L. Burdge was named Consumer Law Trial Lawyer of the Year 2004 by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the nation's largest organization of consumer law private and government attorneys. "Your impact on the auto industry has been magnified many times over because of the trail you blazed for others," stated NACA's Executive Director, Will Ogburn. Burdge has represented thousands of consumers in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere since 1978 and is a frequent lecturer to national, state and local Bar Associations and Judicial organizations. Burdge is admitted to Ohio's state and federal courts, Kentucky's state courts, and Indiana's federal courts. Other court admissions are on a "pro hac" temporary, case by cases basis.