Fishy van?
November 1, 2006 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Last spring I purchased a van through craigslist to use in a set for an independent movie. Now I want to sell it again. However, I suspect that the circumstances of the original sale make this impossible or illegal.

I never transferred the title, registered or insured the vehicle. The man who sold me the van also neglected to do these things and when he wrote up the bill of sale he signed using the name of the titleholder, who had apparently given him the van as part of some bulk auction sale but was neither present nor aware of the sale to me under his name.

The thing runs fine, so I was going to try to sell it to someone else for a few hundred dollars, but its dubious ownership status makes me feel like this is a risk. Is there some way I can legally sell it or does it look like I'm sitting on a stolen vehicle? If so, can I junk or donate it without getting into any trouble?
posted by davidriley to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Technically, whoever has the title right now could claim that you have a stolen van. It will be hard to make a legitimate sale without getting the title. If you just want to junk or donate it, leave it somewhere anonymously and you are done.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 6:50 PM on November 1, 2006

Please don't abandon it. If you just want to offload it take it to the police with the bill of sale you were given and explain the situation.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:22 PM on November 1, 2006

I bought a van with similar lack of title, only a signed receipt from the penultimate owner. The California DMV were fine with me registering it, so long as the receipt was signed within the last (i think) 12 months -- I had to go get another receipt (which the DMV didn't check), as the one I was first given was too old to be usable. This could have been difficult if I hadn't been able to find the previously-registered owner (or his simulacrum).

Past tax is due on re-registering though, which cost several hundred in my case for the three years that it hadn't been paid, plus penalties etc. When relevant, depending on the vehicle's age and what state you're in, a smog test could also be needed before you could register it in your name.

On the other hand, if you've got stolen property on your hands, there are other issues ...
posted by anadem at 7:57 PM on November 1, 2006

If it's not actually stolen -- as in you could comfortably deal with it without fear of getting yourself, or a buyer, in trouble -- there are a few options.

You could apply for an abandoned/salvage vehicle title, or a mechanic's lien title, in some states.

You could sell it for parts, especially if it's a particularly popular vehicle, such as VW.

You could sell it to someone on craigslist, as many people do every day, with it stated clear that the vehicle has no title. The sheer volume of title-less car adverts on my city's craigslist would seem to indicate there's always some buyer out there who has, uh, ways of handling that...

But yeah, like others said, if its sale to you was dubious, I would probably just park it outside the nearby scrapyard at night once the filming was done.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:54 PM on November 1, 2006

Go to the automobile title office in your county and explain to them your situation. There is almost certainly a procedure for remedying this situation, because it happens all the time.
posted by jayder at 9:53 PM on November 1, 2006

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