When you buy a vehicle, chances are you take a look at all the features, accessories, bells and whistles. But along with a leather interior, a moon roof and that rear view backup camera you’ve always wanted, make sure a valid title is also on your checklist.
Buying a car involves many steps and can be exciting — and overwhelming. But one step you simply can’t skip is securing the car’s title from the dealer. When you buy a car, you have the right to receive the title in a timely manner.
State law requires the dealer to deliver the title to you within 31 days of purchase. You need to receive the title within the legal window to guarantee you have time to get your car registered and plates at the BMV within the time allowed by law.
Haven't received the title? We can help.
If you purchase a used vehicle from an Indiana dealer and do not receive the title within 31 days of purchase, there are steps you can take.
- You can file a complaint with our office (paper)(online). You have the option of filing a complaint even if you send the dealer a demand letter (see below) or the dealer takes other steps to try to resolve the issue. We recommend that you also contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General at 1.800.382.5516 and file a complaint with their office.
- Write a letter to the dealer and demand delivery of the title. After receipt of your written demand, the dealer has 10 days to provide the title. If the dealer still does not provide you with the title in those 10 days, you can return the vehicle in the same or similar condition as it was when purchased. The dealer is then required to provide you with a refund of the purchase price plus tax, finance expenses, insurance expenses and any other fees you paid to the dealer.
If you don’t receive the title to which you’re entitled, the worst thing you can do is nothing. If you cease making payments, you may forfeit your legal right to return the vehicle or secure a new title. Obtain legal advice before stopping payments or continuing to drive a vehicle without a title.
Title Assistance Plate Program
If a dealer has not delivered your title within 31 days and the interim license plate (paper license plate) the dealer issued to you at the time of sale will expire before the title is delivered, our office may be able to issue you another interim license plate. A dealer is not permitted to issue you a second interim plate or provide you with a metal dealer license plate.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about our Title Assistance program. You will be required to file a complaint with our office and show proof of insurance before you can be issued an interim license plate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a vehicle title?
A vehicle title is a legal document, establishing a person as the legal owner of a vehicle. Vehicle titles are issued by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
When should I be provided the title for my vehicle?
Indiana law generally requires a dealer to issue a title to the purchaser at the time of the sale. Under certain circumstances, the dealer may have up to 31 days to deliver a title; however, the burden is on the dealer to show the underlying transaction qualified for this limited exception.
I purchased a car with a lien on the title. What does this mean?
If there is a lien present on the previous owner’s certificate of title, it is the responsibility of the seller to satisfy the lien and obtain a release from a third-party lienholder in a timely manner. A third-party lienholder should deliver the certificate of title to the dealer within 10 business days of satisfaction of the title claim. The dealer is required to deliver the title to you within 31 days of purchase.
I didn’t buy my car from a dealer — I purchased from an individual owner. It’s been more than 31 days and I still don’t have my title. Can you help?
Unfortunately, the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State only has jurisdiction over dealerships (this includes buy-here-pay-here establishments). We are unable to take actions against consumer vehicle sellers unless they are operating as unlicensed dealers (someone who sells, offers to sell, or advertises for sale at least 12 vehicles in a 12 month period. Both the BMV and the Office of the Indiana Attorney General have resources to help in these situations. These resources can be found at www.in.gov/bmv or www.in.gov/attorneygeneral.
If I still haven’t received my title, can I stop making payments?
No. If you cease making payments, you may forfeit your legal right to return the vehicle or secure a new title. Obtain legal advice before stopping payments or continuing to drive a vehicle without a title.
Do title delivery regulations only apply to passenger cars?
No. Although passenger cars and trucks are most commonly involved in non-delivery of title incidents, watercraft and RVs are also covered.
What if I traded in my car for a new one and the dealer closes its doors without providing my title?
While most dealers provide vehicle titles quickly in a turn-key process, title transfers may be delayed if a dealership goes out of business. Call the Dealer Services Division for help at 317.234.7190.
Sources: BBB.com, Carfax.com, IndianaConsumer.com