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Many consumers turn to private party sales to buy a less expensive car or sell a used vehicle without a lot of hassle. However, consumers should be aware of potential pitfalls associated with private party sale transactions. When selling a used vehicle, there are important steps and provisions to keep in mind to ensure that your transaction is both legal and has a satisfactory outcome.

 If you are a car owner and are thinking about selling your vehicle, it’s important to fill out the car’s title properly. Scammers often contact a seller and offer to pay cash and to take possession of the vehicle at the owner’s home or other convenient location. They’ll tell the seller to leave the title “open,” meaning leave the buyer’s info blank, and insist instead that they take care of the paperwork to make the process easier for the seller. These individuals re-sell the car at a higher price without putting their own name or information on the title.

This is referred to as “title jumping” or “title skipping,” and it is illegal. Individuals who do this avoid paying sales tax, registration fees, and title fees. They never put their name or information on the car’s documents, leaving the seller fully liable for the car under Massachusetts law. The seller is also at risk for penalties and fines since it’s illegal to leave the title open.

As a seller, how can you protect yourself? The best way is to properly fill out the “Assignment of Title,” which is found on the back of the vehicle’s “Certificate of Title.” This must include:

  • The date of sale
  • Purchase price
  • Buyer’s name, address, and signature
  • Seller’s name, address, and signature
  • Odometer reading

 

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757 Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

 

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