Buying a car is usually a fun experience, but a situation such as a car reported stolen after purchase can quickly discontinue that excitement. Instead of experiencing the convenience of your new car, you are left worrying about what could happen to you. So, what should you do if you discover the used car you bought was stolen? Here’s a guide you need to help you take the right steps in this situation.
Car Reported Stolen After Purchase
Cars bought from dealerships are generally not stolen, as dealers take steps like transferring the title to your name. However, buying a car privately is riskier. Most people find out their privately bought car is stolen at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The DMV will notice if the name on the vehicle identification number (VIN) doesn’t match yours and will contact the police. You could even be arrested for auto theft if stopped by the police without the proper title or matching VINs.
Can You Sue Someone for Selling You a Stolen Car?
If you unknowingly buy a stolen car, it’s a complex situation. Legally, the car still belongs to its original owner. You, as the buyer, might face a loss since the car can be reclaimed by the rightful owner. However, you can sue the seller for fraud based on the premise that they misrepresented the car’s legal status. In such a lawsuit, your aim should be to recover the money you paid.
This isn’t just about recovering your money, but also about making sure that you are not mistakenly implicated in the theft.
So, what you should do now is consult a lawyer to guide you through the legal intricacies of your specific case, including any consumer protection laws that might apply.
What Happens if You Buy a Stolen Car from Auction?
If you end up buying a stolen car at an auction, you wouldn’t legally own the car. Even if you bought it unknowingly, the vehicle still belongs to its rightful owner. The police would likely confiscate the car once they discover it’s stolen, so you’d lose both the car and the money you paid for it.
You might have to prove that you bought the car in good faith, not knowing it was stolen. However, there’s the issue of getting your money back. Auction houses might have policies for such situations, but it’s not guaranteed. You might have to take legal action against the seller.
Insurance won’t be much help either. Most policies don’t cover buying stolen goods, even unknowingly. So, you can’t rely on insurance to recoup your losses. The goal is to always check a vehicle’s history before paying for it at an auction.
What to Do if Your Car Is Stolen
Always keep the bill of sale, ideally in the car, to show law enforcement if needed. This can help prove you bought the car and prevent arrest. If you discover the car is stolen, don’t try to keep or resell it; this could lead to charges of possessing stolen property. Being unaware isn’t usually a valid legal defense, especially if you can’t prove you were tricked into buying a stolen car. Once you know the car is stolen, contact your local defense lawyer. They’ll investigate and gather evidence to prove your innocence, such as showing the car was stolen from a place you have never been.
Bought a Stolen Car with Title
It is possible to be given a title for a stolen car—the scrupulous seller may have faked the title or did a title wash. I understand how this situation can be quite unexpected and complicated. Initially, everything seemed fine; the car looked great, and the title didn’t raise any red flags. However, after a while, you only got to discover the car’s stolen status. Shocking. Unfortunately, the car is no longer legally yours, and the police will soon come for it since it is actually someone else’s property with the original title certificate.
How Do I Know if I Bought a Stolen Car?
Don’t pay for a car simply because you like it, especially if it comes really cheap. When something is too good to be true, it probably is anyway. Usually, the first thing you should do to avoid buying a stolen car is to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is unique to every vehicle. You should locate the VIN on the dashboard near the windshield or the driver’s side door post. Verify this number using online services or contacting your local DMV. If the VIN looks tampered with, it’s a red flag.
You must also examine the car’s title and registration documents so you don’t end up buying a stolen car with a fake title.
Services such as Carfax or AutoCheck can provide a detailed history report of the car, including if it was ever reported stolen. You will even uncover additional information such as whether the car was totaled or not.
Sometimes, stolen cars may have different keys or locks that seem tampered with. Check for any signs of forced entry or ignition damage. Ask for maintenance records too. Regular maintenance records can indicate a car’s legitimate history. A lack of these records can be suspicious.
If you’re still not certain, have the car inspected by a professional mechanic or a vehicle inspection service. Verify the seller’s information, making sure that it matches the name on the title and registration. If something feels off during the transaction, it’s better to walk away.
Conclusion—Car Reported Stolen After Purchase
If you find out you bought a stolen vehicle, your local criminal defense lawyer can help. They typically understand that innocent people can be wrongly charged and have the experience to help you out. If you are in this situation, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and how they can assist you in getting out of it and getting your money back.
Read also: What Can Someone Do with a Stolen Car Title?