Monday, May 19, 2008


There are some things in life that, after we are finished with them rarely cross our minds again. But what if those things could be ticking time bombs waiting to get you in a world of trouble you never signed up for?

So on Saturday my mother gets a certified letter in the mail from the Hennepin County (as in the twin cities, in Minnesota) vehicle impound stating that her car is currently impounded there and if she will kindly bring $95.00 she may have her car back. If she fails to do so within 30 days the matter will be turned over to a collection agency and form a big black mark on her credit report.

The problem? All of my mothers cars are in her driveway.

After a few phone calls my mother learned that the car impounded is my sisters 1995 Dodge Neon that was totalled by my brother in 2004 and bought back by the insurance company. We watched the insurance companies paid flatbed wrecker come and collect it and whisk it away and never gave it much thought again.

We don't yet know the details but somehow this totalled car (keep in mind that totalled simply means damaged beyond the value of the vehicle, totalled cars can be repaired and made to run again) went from whomever's care it was in with the insurance company into the hands of an unknown person who never registered it (likely because he was not given a title, since it was totalled) and drove it around for 4 years on my mothers name.

I'll keep you updated on all of that.

But it makes me think. How many cars does the average person sell in their adult life? For some of us, a few. When you sign that title and collect your cash from the buyer and wave them off as they drive away in what use to be your pride and joy you generally don't give a second thought as to what that person's intentions are. You never have any idea if that person in fact ever goes to the DOT and registers that car in their own name, or if they slip an old pair of lisence plates on it and pray they never get pulled over. And what happens if that person then commits a crime in that car? The copy of the title at the DMV will never show that you signed it off, so as far as anyone knows........ that car still belongs to you.



Blair said...

That is why you are supposed to have the buyer sign a Bill of Sale. It protects you should they never register it and commit a crime in it. I don't know about your mom's particular situation though.

maryellenlewis said...

Good point. We have sold 2 cars in our lifetime (and they are the only 2 cars I've ever owned). We do have a both bills of sale, but maybe next time I will take a photo of the title with the new registrant's name on signifying the transfer. I never thought of that before. Good thing I file everything away...