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Couple waits months to get car title: How long is too long to wait?

KNXV Car dealership generic
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 25, 2021

A lot of people bought used cars and trucks during the pandemic. And in some cases, COVID is being blamed for delays in buyers getting titles to those vehicles.

It happened to Arizonans Debra and Greg McKenna.

They bought a used truck at Henry Brown GMC in Gilbert. But two months later, they were concerned that they still didn't have the title.

"Where is our license plate? Where are our tags? Our paper plates are running out," Debra says.

A title is important. It can show if the vehicle is damaged or defective. It shows any unpaid liens that could prevent registration.

And, of course, it shows ownership. Without a title, there could be insurance issues if there's an accident. And the McKennas say they couldn't register their car or get permanent license plates.

They say it became a huge hassle.

"We had to call them every time, 'today it runs out, can you please email me the tags?'" Debra says.

The McKennas say they never got a clear reason for the months of delays. Could it have been a loan on the car that wasn't paid off?

It seems like the dealer was blaming COVID issues.

In an email to the Arizona Attorney General's office, Henry Brown GMC said, "these are unprecedented times... Every service we use is currently several months behind in processing paperwork."

But the McKennas bought the truck in December of 2019. That was months before COVID took hold.

State law says, "The dealer has just 30 days to transfer the vehicle to the customer's name before they are assessed penalties."

In emails to the McKennas, the dealer talks of giving them a new 2020 or 2021 model truck because of the inconvenience.

But that didn't happen.

The McKennnas say the dealer promised three payments since the couple had financed part of the deal and was paying on that loan.

They say they only got one payment.

"Really, all they were doing was stalling until they got us a title because they sold us a truck they didn't have a title for," Debra says.

By the time they let me know, the McKennas finally did get their title.

It was 10 months after they bought the truck.

Why sell a car without a title? We don't know. After emails and calls, a spokesperson for Henry Brown GMC said simply, "no comment."

So, what can you do in a similar situation?

First, if you're paying cash, don't leave without a title.

If a bank is involved or you decide to continue despite the delay, you can file a complaint with the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) Motor Vehicles Division.

An ADOT spokesperson explained the process in an email:

"The Dealer has 30 days to transfer the vehicle to the customer name before they are assessed penalties. The customer should be issued a 45-day Temporary Registration Permit (TRP) that allows the customer to legally drive the vehicle until the plates and registration are received. If the customer hasn't received it in that time frame, they can go back to the dealership to obtain a 30 general use permit. If it's still not received after that timeframe, the customer may go to the MVD to file a dealer complaint in which they would purchase a 90-day permit while the case goes through the investigation process."

Debra says she just wanted real answers from the dealer.

"Had they been honest up front and said 'look, we screwed up, we're working on it, we will get your title,' we would have been fine. I wouldn't have complained," she says.

Learn more about your rights when buying a used car.