Sold car...sort of

I gave my mechanic my car in exchange for services. But, knowing that it cannot be that simple, we did go to DMV to fill out the correct paperwork to transfer ownership. He acted surprised when they said he would need to get it smogged. He said he would. He never did. He now says his brother is driving it and he’s not talking to his brother. What will happen when the registration expires and he gets stopped? Will I get billed for something? I am thinking of registering it as non-operational. Will that solve this?

“Smogged” – is that having the emissions tested?

Where are your plates? If they are still on the car, and your name is still on the registration you cold be liable.

Yes, in California, when a car is sold, you have to smog it, and yes relates to emissions.

So your mechanic’s brother is driving a car still in your name? Not to be obvious, but it sounds like a bad idea. Who is insuring it?

I know it’s a bad idea! Trying to figure out how to get my name out of the picture. No one is insuring it.

I think your ass is hanging out in the breeze waiting for some blackberry bushes to whip by.

Call the DMV and ask them to help you sort it out. CA-DMV is in pretty bad shape these days (Appointments run a month out so you only have to wait an hour) but I believe there is an info line on which you can get escalated from answer-readers to real clerk/officials. Worst case, get on the horn to a lawyer so you can get some kind of filing that terminates your liability.

It is not at all out of the question that you might find yourself suddenly dragged away in handcuffs if the “brother” is in a serious accident or hit-and-run. You may be released or bailed out only to find out you’re on the hook for an insane amount of personal liability.

You surely must have signed the little tear-off sheet on the title that certifies your release of ownership. He has the title and you gave that piece of paper to DMV, right? Then you are clear of any claims against the car as of that date. It’s his responsibility from that point to do what is necessary to register and insure the car. Can’t register without insurance. I’ve done this several times. Once you release ownership, you are out of it.

why not without insurance?

Are you sure that’s right, in California? The rule here seems to be, the SELLER is responsible to get the car smogged before selling it. But does this imply that if the SELLER doesn’t do that, the car can’t be sold (or otherwise transferred), and does it mean that mean that regardless of the paperwork at the DMV, the car still belongs to the original owner?

How about when an owner sells his car to a used car dealer? I’ve done that once or twice, and never got it smogged. I gathered that in this case, the buyer (the used car dealer) deals with it.

You do not remove the plates in California. They stay with the car, not a specific owner. Other states do it differently.

Are we 100% sure that it is not properly registered?
From here. You were supposed to smog first and give them the certificate. This can be filled out. You (were) supposed to do it within 5 days. It ensures your liability is cleared.

Pretty sure post #7 is correct in California. You did send that little bottom part of the title to CA DMV didn’t you? Return receipt, maybe?

By the way, I love your threads. Always a good train-wreck! :smiley:

Question: Why bother fixing the car if it meant having to give it away? Seems counter-intuitive to me.

In Texas, you can file a transfer of title notification with the DMV.

Here, the buyer must file a title transfer within 30 days. If the buyer does not do this, there are late penalties added to the transfer when they do actually get around to it- I think it’s about $30.00 a month.

The seller can file to state they sold the car. One might do this if they suspect the buyer will be lazy about transferring title and/or to protect themselves against fines or tickets attached to the car that the buyer might accrue while the car is between owners (since the buyer hasn’t filed yet).

I would contact your DMV to see if you can get on file as no longer owning the car. You do not need the buyer’s signature (at least here) to do this.

Looked it up here in Texas- it’s called a “Vehicle Transfer Notification.”

It reads

" Vehicle Transfer Notification

When a Texas-titled vehicle is sold or traded in, the seller needs to notify TxDMV. By completing a Vehicle Transfer Notification you are notifying TxDMV that you have sold a vehicle. When you submit the form a remark will be added to the vehicle record which shows the date you sold the vehicle. This can protect you if the buyer fails to promptly transfer the title.


If you submit a transfer notification within 30 days of sale, the buyer shown becomes the vehicle’s presumed owner and may be subject to criminal or civil liability for parking tickets, toll violations, fines or other penalties that occur after the date of sale.

You have three notification options:

Submit Transfer Notification Online
Print & Mail Form
Complete Form Online & Print"

I think something like this will protect you in the future.

“CA Notice of transfer and release of liability”


Yeah, that’s how it works in Virginia.

We had a little Dodge Shadow that went kaput one day and would cost more to repair than it was worth, so we donated it. A few weeks later, we got a notice that it had been impounded. The recipients never put the car in their name!

A couple phone calls got it straightened out but I wonder if we could have got it back. After all, the impound had our names and we still had a copy of the keys.

He fixed another car.

There was no title. I lost it. We were filling out paperwork to both transfer ownership and get him the title. But because it wasn’t smogged, we could not finish the transaction. He has the paperwork. Unless he lost it. You made my heart skip a beat when I first read about the title, I was like oh crap did I?!!

I’ve had SO many car issues.

  1. Had Honda 94 Accord, got stolen twice, attempted stolen once, broken into at least once.
  2. Ex never properly registered the Accord so I was driving around for a while with expired tags, and then he put a phony tag and I finally got caught and the officer said can you tell me why you have this tag and I said, not without lying…he towed it but didnt charge anything extra for the phony tag.
  3. Ex brought over Mazda 626 when he came to live with me.
  4. I bought a Toyota Camry.
  5. I still had this Ford Escort that is subject of this thread that my parents gave me.
  6. I then bought a Lexus RX 300, which I never thought I’d ever be able to own. (Thank you parents!!! (inheritance))
  7. Let insurance lapse on Camry, so DMV sent me something saying they will suspend my registration.
  8. Waited a while to get insurance on Lexus, now getting notice on that.
  9. Took insurance off Escort, they sent me notice on that.
  10. Escort registration now coming up.
    DMV has what? 1,000,000 people to watch, and they gotta hound me???

At the very least, get the mechanic to sign a “Bill of Sale”. Write it up yourself, or find one online. It might be enough to help sway a judge, should the situation come to that.

And they’re all DMV’s fault for hounding you. :rolleyes:

In California? You’re off by a factor of 10, maybe 20! (pop. approx. 38M ) And they still hound you!

Kinda makes you feel special, don’t it? :smiley: