I bought a car at a small dealership (paid in full). They will not send in my paperwork, because they lost my cashier's check

I live in California and a couple weeks ago I bough a toyota 2020 corolla from a small dealership. Me and mom paid them some in cash and a cashier check. I have paperwork saying the car is paid in full. The dealership lost the cashiers check they said. They have changed their story 3 times. I keep talking to different people, they won’t let me talk to the person who does the dmv paperwork (the secretary). First they said they lost the paperwork, second they said the bank won’t let them cash the cashier’s check, third they said they will meet me at the bank and will bring the cashier check I gave them a couple weeks ago. The most recent person I spoke to said the lost the cashier’s check. I talked to the bank manger and she said it would take 91 days to put a stop on the cashier check. After 91 days I could get another cashier check. The guy I spoke to is not smart. I told him the money is no longer in my account. The cashier’s check is in the actual’s bank’s bank account (not my account). I told him I could get him a cashier’s check after 91 days. Note: The cashier check must be lost for 91 days first. he said he will have someone call me back. I was never given a straight answer with a common sense solution. I can’t even leave voicemails on their business phone. It won’t let me.

I did ask the man if they sent the paperwork to the California DMV, he said he did not send the paperwork to the dmv. The way the man was talking was like he will never send the paperwork to the dmv because he lost the cashier’s check. I have a bill of sale saying I paid in full. California law says the dealership has 30 days to turn in paperwork to dmv.


  1. What would you do in my situation?

  2. What should I do?

  3. How do I get them to send the paperwork to the dmv?

You need legal talk, not car talk.

  1. Go see a lawyer

  2. Go see a lawyer

  3. Go see a lawyer


I second (or third) the advice, time to see an attorney who specializes in consumer protection law. This sounds like you are being scammed, and not an honest “paperwork issue” or lost/misplaced check. Don’t wait until it’s too late–go see an attorney ASAP.


First off, I am not a lawyer, I have no legal standing, and everything I am about to write is only thinking (actually writing…) aloud…

First off, I assume you have the car and all the associated paperwork that proves it is yours and that you paid for it in full. With that being said…

You wrote that the dealership has 30 days to send the paperwork to the DMV. With that being said, you do not have any “valid” complaints until the dealership fails to provide that paperwork to the DMV, no rules, regulations, or laws have been broken until then…

With that being said… (I hope you do not get tired me writing this…), if the dealership fails to provide the paperwork to the DMV, they (not you…) are in violation of whatever measure is mandating the 30-day timeframe…

With that being said… the car is yours, free and clear, in the last couple of years, I have bought two new cars and in both cases, the plates did not arrive for about 2-months because the dealership is not real responsive about this, they have already collected the cost of this under whatever fee name they use like administrative, office, paper chase, etc… and being responsive to getting the registration done quickly offers them no financial benefits. And when you ask, they would say the holdup is at the DMV (Yeah Right…).

When my temporary plates were getting short on time, I asked my cop friends and they said don’t worry about it until it approaches 60-days… Just keep a copy of the paperwork in your car in case you are stopped… I am in Virginia and I’m guessing that the California police are like-minded, unless you do something to draw attention to yourself, like becoming the subject of one of those YouTube Videos of the Cops chasing a speeding motorist who will not stop… L o L . . .

With that being said… If your anxiety level is getting too high, you might want to talk to the DMV and I do not mean just the person operating the info desk, ask to speak to a person in authority… Also, before spending any money on a lawyer, you might want to see if there is an agency in your county that offers free legal advice…

With that being said… But here is what I would do, (remember, I am you in my mind…)… I would go to the dealer, but do not drive there in your new car (they might do something stupid like try to block it in, or tow it…), then it’s a whole new can of worms with you calling the cops and they will not get involved, it’s a civil matter and they will tell you that you need to sue them to get it back…

If you do not have any other means of transportation, park nearby and walk over to the dealership, do not put your new car onto their property… If you have a second car, then you can drive that, they have now claim on any other vehicle…

I would go into the dealership and ask to speak to the General Manager, forget the sales person… I would talk only to the General Manager, and if the sales persons goes in the General Manager’s office, ignore that person, you are only there to deal with the General Manager.

Remind the General Manager that you paid for the car in full and you fulfilled all of your legal obligations in buying that car. Remind them that it was his staff’s negligence or their nefarious actions that the check is missing and that he needs to start an investigation into its whereabouts before it is cashed through fraud… Did you see that, I put the problem right in the General Manager lap to discover the check’s whereabouts. If an employee swiped the check in the hopes of making some quick cash, it would not be the first time it has happened.

Now at this point, you remind him that the dealership has a legal obligation to transfer the registration to you within the 30-days and if they fail to do this, they will have to explain that to the DMV, and the California Attorney General, and you will also call every local TV station and you will find at least one Investigative Reporter who will take this story on and the old axiom that “there is no bad press, only applies to movie stars; and not Car Dealerships…”

After a suitable time for this to sink in and I am sure they will start changing their tune, you tell them that you are willing to work with them, but only after you are assured that there was not fraud or theft involved the this missing check for (what $20,000…)…

When you are convinced that nothing illegal was involved with the missing check and after the bank has invalidated the original check so there is no chance of the original and the replacement check being cashed, you will work with them to get the bank to reissue the check.

But, they need to first fulfill their legal obligation to transfer the registration and title of the car to you. You did no wrong here and only they have acted in bad faith by threatening to not transfer the registration and failing to even discuss the situation with you…

The ball is in their court, you own the car, and they MUST Transfer the registration and Title to you.

Remember That!!!

Good Luck, Be strong, and do nto take any guff from them…

One final piece of advice, do not park the new car where they can get a tow truck on it… I’ve known of cases where a bad dealership does illegal stuff and then it costs you money to set things straight, I hope you have a garage to park it in. And if you are driving around and you notice a tow truck following you, you are not being paranoid… If that happens, make a Right Hand Turn, then make another Right Hand Turn, and another RIGHT HAND TURN, and a final Right Hand Turn, putting you back on your original course and if the Tow truck is still behind you, they are following you and they will tow your car as soon as you park… A good repo agent can extract a vehicle within a minute or less, even from tight spots.


Yeah either talk to dmv or the ag to light a fire under them. Maybe something smells with the title.

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New car dealership or used car dealer?

He would be fired if he transfers title without the funds. If this is a dealership, you are speaking to someone in the finance office, not a salesperson.

Car dealers are regulated by the DMV, you can file a complaint with a DMV officer but you will still need to sort this out. You won’t be allowed to keep the refund from the check and keep the car.

They are going to have to come up with a plan. Personally, I wouldn’t hire a lawyer, they have a lawyer, let them figure this out.

You have car. They “don’t” have money. Do they want car back?
As Johnny Tran said, none owns car.

Has the check been cashed?

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When you say “small dealership”, that sounds like a used car lot with a trailer for a sales office. There was one of these in my town a couple of years ago that would buy cars from a wholesale auction.

To get into a wholesale auction, you have to have a dealers license, they do not sell to the public. A dealer can buy a car and not pay for it, sort of like a contingency sale. The wholesaler keeps the title until the dealer sells the vehicle and pays for it.

This particular dealer was selling the vehicles but not paying the wholesaler, so the buyers were not getting the titles. Eventually he got prosecuted and sent to prison.

That could be happening to you. But first, do a trace on the cashiers check to see if it has been cashed, There is usually a charge for that but it could be money well spent. If it has been cashed, go straight to your county or city prosecutors office or the police department. This is now a criminal case and not a civil case.

BTW, IIRC this also happened about 15 years ago in the same town so it is not an uncommon occurrence. I recall that this dealer was a little larger and was able to liquidate his inventory and eventually made good on the sales. He went out of business but avoided prison.


From the original post, the funds for the check are in the account of the bank and not been paid out yet. A stop payment requires waiting 91 days before a replacement can be issued. Some question whether they lost the check or can’t cash it for some reason.

Sounds like this is the case. They bought it at auction and can’t get the title until paying for it but can’t pay for it without cashing the check.

Lots of businesses are having trouble getting operating funds right now.

I also live in Calif. Sorry you are having this difficulty. Hopefully you, dealership, and bank can work it out eventually. I understand you are suffering some inconvenience b/c of not having the car, but have no idea if you’d be successful by complaining with a legal action. It seems highly unlikely you’d be successful against the bank,; you might be successful against the dealership. But any legal action is a roll of the dice, no way to tell in advance. In any event I’d guess the most you’d get in a judgement against the dealership is the cost of a rental car until this is resolved. Suggest to ask them (in writing) to immediately provide you a loaner car.

I expect you already know you shouldn’t pay for any part the car payment in currency. And to always make a copy of cashiers check for your records, before giving the original to the vendor.

When issuing a cashier’s check, the bank transfers the funds from your private account into their cashier’s check account. That is why there’s usually no issue when cashing a cashier check, b/c it is drawn on the bank’s account, so very unlikely the bank won’t have sufficient funds to cover it. There’s been some recent problems w/forged cashier’s checks, so sometimes the dealership will phone issuing bank to confirm they actually issued it.

My understanding is that that the OP has the car, the check has not (yet) been cashed, and the 30-days of temporary plates are still valid. So, there is no real issue yet…

Now, if as has been proposed, that the dealer is playing “fast and loose” with the OP and they not actually owning the car (bought it at auction…) and must pay it off before they get title to it would imply nefarious acts by the dealer that might constitute fraud as they have sold a vehicle that they did not have title to… And if this is true, then it plays into the Ops favor and weakens the dealership’s position

I am a bit confused concerning the status of the check. Has the bank voided the check so it cannot be cashed? Some banks will, some banks will not without the original check in hand… I believe that the OP implied that if the check is not cashed, the bank would reissue the check after 91-days. But that leaves the status of the check today unanswered.

Now, it’s up to the OP, did he have a trade-in that the dealership might have already sold, Is there an open loan on the car? The OP wrote that he and his mother paid in cash and a cashiers check, but we do not know it that check was saving or the loan check.

What does he have invested in this car. I say it is his, for better or worse. The Dealership has to make good on the registration and title. It is not incumbent upon the OP to prove or do anything.

If I was the judge, I would order the dealership to make good on the title, no matter what they have to do to clear the title (if it was bought at auction and not yet paid for…) and if they do not find the check that the OP provided in good faith, then that is another and separate civil matter where the dealership must sue the OP to get the check reissued and of course the dealership must pay all of the OPs legal fees and any fees the bank charges to cancel and reissue the check…

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Does your ins care if you don’t have title?

An important thing to remember here is that the problem is the Dealer’s, not the OP’s and the OP physically has possession of the vehicle.

For the OP:

  1. Gather together all your Sales and Payment documentation, including a Bank copy of the Cashier’s Check and a Statement of the current status.
  2. Prepare a letter to the Dealer making a formal demand for the Title and send it Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.
  3. Contact the local DMV to discuss the problem, get their suggestions and get on record with the problem.

Possible solutions might be, the Dealer sending the Title or the OP returning the vehicle for a full refund or the Dealer can continually renewing the Temporary Tags (at their expense) until the Lost Check can be found or reissued.

As far as the insurance goes I’m fuzzy because although insurance goes with the car and the OP technically doesn’t own the vehicle until the transaction is completed, my insurance will cover vehicles I don’t own (rental cars) so the prudent thing to do is to be sure the OP has adequate coverage.

This something special to where you live? Not a problem here in NH or MA. Economy is growing…low unemployment (2.5%ma, 2% nh).


An interview with Kevin O’Leary warning of lending restrictions based on the trouble his 30 companies are having. There have been lots of other indications that the small banks are having some issues though. He mentioned they are having to sell their receivables to raise the cash.

Ditto down here in Maryland. Jobs are plentiful, generally wages are keeping up with inflation and with the high CD rates attracting depositors, most banks have funds to lend to quality borrowers.

The exception are the banks that stocked up low interest fixed rate loans on what are now declining value assets. Think Commercial Property and Used Car loans Tough to make a profit on 3% loan income when depositors are getting 5% on their CD’s.

Turning to some of the Small Used Car Dealers who were “raking it in hand over fist on overpriced anything that can move junk” during during Covid, I suspect that more than a few are now getting squeezed by declining sales prices, declining lot value and higher Floor Planning interest charges on their inventory loans.

I expect the bigger problem is the state’s DMV may not allow the registration to be renewed.

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Not true. The vehicle can be repossessed. As long as the wholesaler holds the title, they are the owner. If they don’t get paid per their contract with the dealer, the vehicle is considered stolen and the OP has bought stolen properity. In the first case I cited above, three people lost the vehicles they had paid for.