Dealer will not provide vehicle title for used car I bought

July 29, 2016

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I bought a used car 3 and a half months ago from a major car dealership, and I still don’t have a tag. I got an extension from the tag office in May, but when I went back to the office in June when the tag expired, they told me the dealership still didn’t have the title work finished. The tag office couldn’t issue me another extension, nor can the dealership give me one. So the dealership typed me a letter stating that the title got lost in the mail just in case I get stopped. That was six weeks ago and I still don’t have a tag. The dealership keeps giving me the run-around. What should I do? 

Consumer Ed says: 

First of all, a typed letter from the dealership is not an acceptable, legal substitute for a tag in Georgia. Once a tag expires, your car is legally considered unregistered and this can lead to financial and driving-record consequences if you are pulled over by law enforcement while driving the vehicle. So, even if the title truly was lost in the mail, the letter from the dealership does not legally permit you to drive your car in Georgia.

When you purchase a vehicle from a car dealer in Georgia, the dealer is required by law to handle the title transfer process and submit the application for a new title in your name. If you financed the car, the title goes to the lien holder (the bank or financing company), who retains it until you pay off the loan.

The dealer has 30 calendar days from the date of the sale to apply for a title and to furnish you with the proper documents to obtain a tag for the vehicle. In the meantime, the dealership must supply you with a dealer-issued temporary tag to allow you time to apply for your own tag. 

The dealer cannot issue an extension or another tag, nor can you operate the vehicle legally with an expired dealer-issued temporary tag. So, if the dealer fails to obtain a title for transfer to you within five days of the expiration date of the dealer-issued tag (25 days from the purchase date), you may apply for one 30-day temporary tag at your county Tax Commissioner's Tag Office. 

Since your temporary tag extension has expired and you still don’t have a title – and since you have not been able to get things resolved by contacting the dealer directly – you may want to consult an attorney about your legal rights to pursue the possession of your title in court.  Also, if you financed the purchase of your car with a bank or financing company, you may want to notify them of your situation. 

You can also file a complaint against the dealer.  If you purchased your vehicle from a franchise (new car) dealer that also sells used cars, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 404-651-8600 or visiting www.consumer.ga.gov.  If, instead, you purchased your car from an independent used car dealer, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Board of Registration of Used Motor Vehicle Dealers at http://sos.ga.gov/plb/submitcomplaint.php. Keep in mind that the Board’s authority is limited to sanctions against a dealer’s license. The Board does not have the authority to get your title for you.