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Real trouble or just paranoid?

We recently moved from Oklahoma to Georgia. I still have one car in OK. It is insured and has a valid license plate on it.
My wife would like me to give the car to one of her relatives who, shall we say, can’t seem to stay out of the court system.
Even if I sign over the title to this person, I just “know” that if they do something illegal with the car (get into an accident, drive without a valid license, injure someone, etc.) this will, somehow, bite me on the butt.
If I decide to give this car away, what precautions do I have to take (cancel insurance, remove the license plate(?), etc.) to esnsure that I am not, somehow, held responsible for what the “car” does after I give it away. Any sage advice would be most appreciated.
Thanks so much for this forum - I have used it previously for actual car maladies and you folks were incredibly helpful.

The car only does what the driver demands of it. You should transfer the car legally to whoever becomes the new owner. That means cancel your insurance, remove the plates and turn them into the police and/or DMV and get a receipt, and sign over the title. Do these things and you are fine with the law.

Don’t let the relative take possession of the car and drive it while it is plated and registered in your name. Resist any pressure to do so. You should have removed the plates when you left the state, but have someone pull them and mail them to you ASAP. You can cancel the insurance by phone today.

I don’t see you as paranoid over this. The real trouble for you is dealing with your insurance if the car is in an accident and other cars and people are involved. Regardless of the driver your insurance is responsible and it can be a real mess. Especially if this “relative” isn’t listed as a “driver” on your insurance policy. Your insurance company might have grounds to refuse to pay claims based on the unapproved driver and your change of residence. That puts you on the hook for all the damages. If your insurance did pay claims they would certainly raise your rates or drop you completely. You have left yourself very vulnerable and you should feel uncomfortable with the current status of this car. Either get the car back with you in Georgia, or pull the plates and cancel the insurance immediately.

Very good advice from Uncle Turbo! We sold my wife’s Nissan to a person who wanted it for his 17 year old son, a not-too-stable kid. We took the plates off, parked it in the driveway, and cancelled the insurance a day before the new owner took posession. To drive the car away, the new owner took the plates off one of his other cars to get the Nissan home. But that would be HIS problem if he was stopped and and the plates did not match the car.

Some years ago I was rear-ended by an out of state driver, who fled the scene of the accident. I got the plate number and the police tried to sort it out. It turned out the previous owner had somehow not transferred the car to the current owner, and he was dragged into the police station.
Later I had to go and make a visual I.D. of the hit and run driver, since I had seen him full face. A lot of trouble for everyone.

So, you see that you have to take the plates off, transfer the ownership, have everything singned off, no matter who you sell the car to. Especially the folks you deescribe as legally handicapped.

You need not take any action (remove plates, cancel insurance, etc.) as long as the car is yours and you intend to keep it and drive it. If you intend to give it as a gift, the procedure is essentially the same as selling it to a private party.

Laws vary with the state. In many states the new owner cannot register the car unless he first obtains insurance and provides proof to the DVM office. That is his problem, not yours. You might help out by delivering the car to his home, then taking your plates when you leave.

What you have to do, upon transfer, is to turn in your plates to the DVM. Then you are totally off the hook. Cancel your insurance of course.

It is best to check with Georgia’s DMV before even considering a transfer. There may be an extra layer of paperwork, who knows. Find out their procedures, know them in advance to be prepared.

Not Paranoid !
Disclaimer: This May Not Be Good Legal Advice.
My State Has Recommendations For Transferring Ownership Of A Vehicle. They Have Brochures And These Are Available Online.

They recommend going to the DMV (Secretarty Of State) Office with the other party involved (wife’s relative) to get it done properly and immediately.

However, they know this isn’t always convenient, so they have a form in the brochure and online to make a legal and hassle-free transfer possible, without the other party present at the DMV.

In my state you will need a photo copy of the other person’s driver’s license and a cpy of the completed title, showing transfer and with signatures. This information has to legally be kept by the seller for a certain period of time.

I wouldn’t cancel insurance, yet. This is one of the last things I’d do. You are still the owner of the car until a legal transfer is complete. I think I would get all documentation (specified by state) complete by mail and have the other part send your plate, all prior to you sending back the title and keys.

Don’t just take this advice or other advice you’re receiving as fact.

Bottom line is to check with your state. If You’re comfortable talking to your insurance agent, that person can be very helpful, too. Do it the right way and you won’t have to worry.

I was happy that I did this very thing the right way, once, because the person I sold a vehicle to was arrested for stealing items from cars (photo and article on front page of local paper) shortly after I sold a vehicle to them. Should the police have used the vehicle ID to track me down, I had all documentaion proving that I was no longer involved in this vehicle. Because the transfer was done properly the trail ended with the criminal.


Get Your License Plate Before The Other Party Gets The Title. My State Allows The Seller To Keep The Plate And Even Transfer It To A Different Vehicle.

They Also Allow The Buyer To Drive The Car Home WITH NO PLATE as long as they have with them a completed title showing transfer of ownership. They have several days to get home as long as they travel a direct route.


Once you transfer ownership you are no longer legally or financially responsible for any accidents that may occur. But you MUST transfer title over and remove the insurance BEFORE this person takes possession. And even though you are GIVING him the vehicle…it’s best to do a transaction where you and this person both sign the document. Removing the plates is a good idea too.

The particulars of transferring ownership vary from state-state. I used to live in a state where the plates went with the vehicle for example. One thing I always do is to include the date and time of transfer on the bill of sale. “ownership being transferred on 1/11/2011 at 6:05 pm”. Both parties sign 2 forms so each has an original. If they leave and rob some joint using the car, I have proof it wasn’t my car at the time.

The big issue here is it doesn’t matter if the owner signs the title over to someone else if the new owner doesn’t go to the DMV to get a new title and registration. Some states have a form that you can send to the DMV to notify them that you have sold/given the vehicle away and that helps if something happens.

California is one of these states and this little feature saved my butt once. I was stationed out there and I sold a rather high performance vehicle to a young airman that I suspected did not have the skills to handle it. Since the plates stay with the vehicle after a title transfer, and it still had several months left before the registration expired, the young airman decided to save a few bucks by delaying the title transfer.

Fortunately, I had notified the DMV because the young airman backed out of a parking space too fast and hit a brand new Porsche parked opposite of it.

The only thing I will add to the good advice already given here is that your relative is aware that you or they will have to pay taxes on this car just the same as if they bought it from a dealer?

In OK, you can give a car to a relative or sell it to them for a single dollar but the full excise tax will be billed based on the car’s value.

Granted, I don’t know the details behind the legal problems this person has but the question arises of why would one want to give a car to someone who is habitual offender? Isn’t that like giving a drunk a bottle?
What happens if you sign off on this car and a week later the person you gave it to runs someone down while high on meth, drunk, or while being pursued by the police? That could lead to some serious soul searching as in, “If I had only not signed that car over then…” :frowning:

Complete a release of liablility form and send it in to the DMV when you sell/transfer the car. You can even do this online.

I had trouble twice in the manner that you suggest. I signed off the titles and sold a car and a bike at different times. The cops from another community were after me for an unpaid parking ticket for the car. The trouble went away when I showed them the signed, dated bill of sale. In another instance I sold a bike. A cop came knocking on my door to follow up on a reckless driving complaint from a person about a mile from my house but again, the signed and dated bill of sale made the trouble go away. In both instances, the title transfer was not yet completed.

I suggest that trouble coming your way may be impossible to avoid but have your paperwork in hand when needed. You might want to have a completed and even notarized bill of sale in hand before you sign off the title if you can get the buyer to agree to this.

The trouble is, everyone is giving you advice based on where they live and there is absolutely no uniformity between the states. Here in NY you have to turn in the plates and get a receipt for them to take to your insurance company to cancel your insurance. If you don’t, the state will charge you daily for very expensive insurance until you do.
If you sell a car in NY you have no guarantee that the buyer will ever register it. I won’t sell a car without getting the drivers license number and name of the buyer.

Here in NY you have to turn in the plates and get a receipt for them to take to your insurance company to cancel your insurance.

This must be something very new…like in the past 2 months…One of my brothers who still lives in NY…has a car he only drives during the summer (64 Mustang). And he removes the insurance every year from October thru May. He keeps it garaged and his home owners insurance has a rider that covers the car if anything happens to it while it’s garaged. He then has to re-register it every May and get a new insurance policy. NEVER has to turn in his plates.

IF you decide to give the car away pay for the title transfer and take the person down to the DMV and do it… Don’t give them the keys until the car is in their name. Otherwise you might find yourself in court explaining that you really don’t own the car. I ALWAYS pay for transfers it saves a lot of trouble and worry.

sign the release of interest form that is usually attached to the title and send it into your licensing office and give your buyer a bill of sale for the vehicle also write that you are releasing all interest on this vehicle on whatever date and time that you sold it and you keep a copy of the bill of sale that the buyer signed.