Can I legally claim my de facto ownership of a car?
January 2, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

My parents bought me a car, but registered it under my mother's name with the understanding that it would be, for all intents and purposes, mine once I could pay back the purchase price. This happened, but we can't transfer the title to my name without voiding the warranty. Is there any way to make this de facto ownership any more de jure without re-registering it?

To elaborate, the car was used, and came with a very nice 10-year warranty which could only be transferred once. This one transfer was used up going from the person who sold us the car to my mother. Because of this situation, the only thing stating that I, not my mother, am the owner of the car is her word, which is not legally binding.

Not that I don't trust her or anything (hi mom if you Googled this), but just for posterity, this is the kind of thing I like to have in writing. So, I ask, is there any kind of document/thing we could write up/obtain/whatever which would give me a legal claim to the car, but without actually transferring the title to me?

I'm in New York State, if that's relevant. Yes, I realize you are not my lawyer.
posted by XerxesQados to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Transferring title is how you transfer legal ownership. Honestly, I doubt it.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am no help but I never heard of a 10 year warranty on any car, let alone a used car.

The only way to put the car title in your name is to transfer it with DMV.

She could give you a bill of sale but that would be useless for legal issues unless you transfer that title.
posted by JayRwv at 5:46 PM on January 2, 2011

Can she add you to the title (i.e. so that both of your names are listed as owners) without voiding the warranty?

Can you just wait it out until the 10-year warranty period is over, then transfer the title?

Is there a specific reason why you need to claim legal ownership that might help us give you a better answer?
posted by amyms at 5:49 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am no help but I never heard of a 10 year warranty on any car, let alone a used car.

All Kias and Hyundais come with a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:49 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's possible you could pay a nominal fee to again transfer the warranty. Some third party purchased car warranties permit this; they just won't do the paperwork for subsequent owners past the second one, at no additional charge. If it is a purchased third party warranty (service contract), I'd check with the issuing company about additional paid transfer options, before giving up on the idea of transferring title, as it sounds like you might entertain a charge of $50 to $100 to have the car (with warranty) in your name.
posted by paulsc at 5:53 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's most likely an extended warranty that the original owner purchased under back-room pressure at the dealer.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:47 PM on January 2, 2011

THe way I see it, you loaned your mother the amount of the payments you made with the car as collateral. Draw up a loan document that says she either repays you the amount of your payments or she gives you the car at the end of the warranty period. Maybe even put a lien on it.

If the car is in your mother's name, is she insured? Or are you on her policy? I am not a lawyer or anything professional for that matter, but I would be concerned about who and how is insured.
posted by AugustWest at 8:57 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could have her sign the title over to you, undated. You hold on to it, don't transfer it. Put it away until you sell the car or your warranty expires.
You'll have to continue whatever insurance arrangement you have now. She should be the named insured since she owns the car and you would be listed in the policy as a driver. You cannot buy insurance in your name for a car you don't own.
posted by lee at 9:17 PM on January 2, 2011

Is there some way for her to sign a statement to the effect of what you have written about the situation? I don't know how much legal weight that has, but it certainly would get things down in writing. If your concern is other parties who might claim ownership, say, in the event that something happened to your mom, you could maybe have her add this to a will?

I'm Totally Not a Lawyer and I actually think that you need to consult with a lawyer to figure out a way to put this in writing that stands up to legal scrutiny, if that is your concern.
posted by bardophile at 9:19 PM on January 2, 2011

You cannot buy insurance in your name for a car you don't own.

Certainly not true. I've purchased insurance for cars that I leased as well as cars that were owned by family members with no problems.
posted by arnicae at 11:11 PM on January 2, 2011

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