Car purchase gone wrong, need advice

tomnj

Old fogie stogie
***UPDATE*** After a few strong texts the seller finally started the refund process of my deposit in paypal. Thanks your advice guys. Hopefully this won't happen to you. It was a big hassle, but at least it looks like I will get my deposit back.

Long time Fiat enthusiast here that just experienced a car purchase deal that went wrong and really cost me. About 2 months ago I saw a rare Fiat OSCA popup on CL in Los Angeles that needed restoration. I responded to the ad and the owner called be back. He sounded like a Fiat enthusiast himself, having other similar cars. I asked a lot of key questions, including if the car had a title and he said yes (the ad also said the title status was clean). I sent him a $2000 deposit through paypal. Since I didn't feel comfortable sending the full amount for an out of state purchase (I'm in NJ), I decided to book a flight to see the car and make the deal in cash in person. So I booked the flight to LA and the seller who was very good about staying in touch said he would hold it, no problem. Then about 3 days before my trip the seller informs me their was actually no title for the car, it was lost, and that he and his business partner were working on it. So I flew out to look at the car anyway, but couldn't make the deal without a title. Not only that, it was his "business partner" that showed me the car, not him. So I kept in touch about the title process and then I get this phone call from him saying it will cost $2000 to get the title and asked me to pay half. He said "if you don't want to pay, I guess we need to part ways on this deal". After a couple of days I said I wasn't willing to pay another $1000 because the original deal was that the car would come with a title. So the seller agreed to "part ways" (in his words), but he never said he would refund my deposit and of course hasn't at this point. Tried calling and he doesn't pick up.

So I didn't get the car and feel like this guy scammed me out of $2000. What can I do? I have his full name, emails, texts and the paypal transaction. Never mind all the money I lost flying out there only to be lied to about the title. It just sucks that there are people like this out there. I have been into Fiat's for many years a never had an experience like this before.

Tom
 
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NM850

True Classic
$2000 for a title? Ridiculous.At most a couple of hundred in fees, I’ve been there.
I agree work through PayPal.lucky you went that way.
 

Dr.Jeff

True Classic
$2000 for a title? Ridiculous.At most a couple of hundred in fees
Actually in Calif (where this car was being sold from) you could easily have to pay much more than $2000 for a title. The state requires payment of all back fees (unpaid registrations, etc) that are on file before they will release the title. So if the car has been sitting unregistered for several years (e.g. in storage), but it wasn't officially placed on a hold ("non-operation") status, then all of those years of reg fees, plus penalties, are due regardless of who is buying the car or where they live. It can easily come to several thousand dollars. This often happens with old cars and makes them not worth buying, which is the state's intent - they want all older vehicles off the road permanently.
 

autox19

True Classic
Actually in Calif (where this car was being sold from) you could easily have to pay much more than $2000 for a title. The state requires payment of all back fees (unpaid registrations, etc) that are on file before they will release the title. So if the car has been sitting unregistered for several years (e.g. in storage), but it wasn't officially placed on a hold ("non-operation") status, then all of those years of reg fees, plus penalties, are due regardless of who is buying the car or where they live. It can easily come to several thousand dollars. This often happens with old cars and makes them not worth buying, which is the state's intent - they want all older vehicles off the road permanently.
interesting indeed! I wonder, which state/states would be involved if you bought it (sans title) and went through a lost title process in a different state.

Odie
 

Fiataccompli

Chris Granju
Guess it comes down to the terms of your arrangement...and a couple thousand miles between you and the would-be seller. Most deposits I have experience with (and I’m talking 30 years or so of hobby & long-distance deals, not legalese) are non-refundable unless the circumstances have changed appreciably. That said, I can imagine & have heard of deposits refunded when they probably didn’t need to be & of them not refunded when they should. I’ve even heard of people who simply honor their word & don’t need a deposit .

if you sent as “friends” with PayPal you are SOL.

what it doesn’t sound like is an intentional scam...more like serious disorganization and the lack of basic decency to make sure your s$@t is lined up before someone flies across the country to check out your car.

I would also suspect, as alluded to above, the car could resurface somewhere else and ultimately get a title with CADMV getting to write off their BS fees (I completely believe it could cost thousands of dollars in back registration and penalties and such, but I doubt the single database entry cost the state of California much to exist).

Hope it works out reasonably for you.
 

RJ80

True Classic
Actually in Calif (where this car was being sold from) you could easily have to pay much more than $2000 for a title. The state requires payment of all back fees (unpaid registrations, etc) that are on file before they will release the title. So if the car has been sitting unregistered for several years (e.g. in storage), but it wasn't officially placed on a hold ("non-operation") status, then all of those years of reg fees, plus penalties, are due regardless of who is buying the car or where they live. It can easily come to several thousand dollars. This often happens with old cars and makes them not worth buying, which is the state's intent - they want all older vehicles off the road permanently.
Slightly off-topic (but hopefully informative), while you're totally correct about CA's back registration fees sometimes costing thousands, there's a great loophole to avoid this for older cars. The CA DMV permits that if a classic car (25+ years old is the cut-off, I think) has back reg fees due but you sign an affidavit that says the car hasn't been operated during the time it wasn't registered, they'll drop the back fees. I did this successfully on two cars from two separate sellers who claimed that there were no back fees due on the cars I bought. Later, I found out that anyone can find out if a car has back fees on the CA DMV site. Simply fill out the online form to calculate how much your new used car will cost to register (a VIN is required) and the system will give you a list of all the fees that are due. Here's a link that talks about the back fees... https://forums.aaca.org/topic/179412-no-back-penalties-for-old-cars-in-california/
 

Fiataccompli

Chris Granju
I think I did that affidavit in TN once on renewing the tag on a car that had been sitting dormant long enough to be >1yr expired (#1 indication you may have too many cars!)
 

Andy

True Classic
I thought the back fees applied to registration, not title.
A title doesn't expire.

A quick Google search says a duplicate title in California is $20.00
 

RJ80

True Classic
My prior experience is that CA DMV wants to process everything at once and it can be difficult to do it any other way. When I wanted a title in my name to my Scorpion that I purchased while living in CA, the DMV started the process in their computer but because I didn't have a smog test (engine was dead) they gave me back all my paperwork and told me to come back when the car was smogged. They refused to process just the title change. It took another trip and some arguing to just get the title without registration.
 

Dr.Jeff

True Classic
A summary of typical Ca DMV experiences:

Visit #1 - you go with all of the correct paperwork in hand, wait 6 hours, then when your turn finally comes up a rude employee tells you everything you have is wrong and to come back with "X, Y, Z".

Visit #2 with "X, Y, Z" in hand - you wait 7 hours, then your turn finally comes up and a different rude employee tells you everything you have is wrong and to come back with "A, B, C".

Visit # 3 with your original paperwork, X, Y, Z, and A, B, C in hand - you wait 5 hours, then your turn finally comes up and yet a different rude employee tells you everything you have is wrong and to come back with exactly what you first came in with. You show them what they asked for but they already stopped listening to you and yell "next in line".

Visit # 4 with every possible document the DMV has, filled out correctly - you wait 8 hours, then your turn finally comes up and the first rude employee you dealt with tells you something completely different from what that same person said the first time. You explain everything you have done, show them everything you have, and ask for more information to help understand the problem. At which point they tell you to come back with...well who knows what, because they are not competent with the English language and make absolutely no sense.

Visit # 5 with all of the same paperwork you have been carrying around all this time - you wait 7 hours, your turn finally comes up and another rude employee that you have never seen before takes all of the papers you have, pushes them to the side, has you fill out the very same papers again, and tells you you owe $3658.72. After paying it you are handed a temporary permit and in 6 months the title and registration show up in the mail.

Funny thing is, not only did every DMV employee tell you something different, but all of them were completely wrong according to the website and official regulations.
It all comes down to who you happen to deal with and how persistent you are.
 
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I have found that you can get turned away much more quickly by a DMV employee if you make an appointment ahead of time and avoid the wait. Unfortunately, they seem to have about a 3 month lead time. I just got notified about renewing my driver's license which expires the end of February. I need to go into the DMV to get a Real ID driver's license if I ever want to go on a plane again (I don't really). The earliest available appointment was about two weeks before my license expired. If I waited a couple of weeks before attending to it, I would have to look forward to being stuck waiting in line.
 

NM850

True Classic
New Mexico was so bad in the late 80s that they had hotdog vendors because the lines were so long.
Then private companies sprung up. In the beging all they did was stand in line for you and you had to wait several days to get your documents. Now they are tied into MVD computers and everything can literally be done in minutes by friendly employees. Of course there is a cost for this, usually about $25 above the normal MVD fees. Well worth it in my opinion.
 

Dr.Jeff

True Classic
Now they are tied into MVD computers and everything can literally be done in minutes by friendly employees. Of course there is a cost for this, usually about $25 above the normal MVD fees. Well worth it in my opinion.
In Calif you can do a similar thing by joining the AAA auto club. They are the only authorized agents outside of the DMV. But as you say, well worth the cost of membership. Plus you get towing coverage.
 

Rod Midkiff

True Classic
another way around the tittle issue. at least here in Oregon,

Make sure the car is not stolen,
have them call you to transport the car for them.
they never pay you for the transport.
you file lean on the car (it's called a possessory lean) (pay a lean service to do this) under $100.
wait the time
take the paperwork to DMV and no vin inspection. and you are the owner,
 

kmead

Old enough to know better
another way around the tittle issue. at least here in Oregon,

Make sure the car is not stolen,
have them call you to transport the car for them.
they never pay you for the transport.
you file lean on the car (it's called a possessory lean) (pay a lean service to do this) under $100.
wait the time
take the paperwork to DMV and no vin inspection. and you are the owner,
This general approach also works in California. I did effectively this (parking charges in my case as I managed an apartment complex) to gain title to my 850.
 
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