To Sell A Car

In the process of moving to another state, we decided to sell my car to some friends. This turned out to be much harder than anticipated.

I admit that this is entirely my fault and I deserve to be made fun of for it, but we couldn't find the title. It could be that the bank which financed the loan never sent it to us. It could be that it's in our safe deposit box in our last city and that I'll find it next month when I go back for the rest of our stuff. Or maybe I'm just a bad document caretaker and I lost it along the way. I don't know. But the end result is that we don't have the title and needed to have a duplicate issued before we can sell the car.

Late May

I called the county clerk's office to ask how to apply for a duplicate title. The clerk was very helpful and friendly, and offered to look up the necessary information while I was on the phone. I gave her my car's VIN and my personal information, and she came back with the unwelcome news that the bank still had a collateral lien on the car. I pointed out that I bought it used in 2000 and didn't have a 12-year loan on a used Oldsmobile, and that I hadn't been arrested for chronic non-payment of the loan. She laughingly agreed that I'd clearly paid it off, but needed a notarized lien release from the financing bank before she could issue a new title.

When I tried to find contact information for that bank, I discovered they had been acquired by another bank in 2004 and no longer existed.

OK. So.

Early June

I called the new bank, Regions, and explained the situation. They were more pleasant and easier to work with than I'd feared, but couldn't find any information about my paid-off-9-years-ago loan from their subsidiary. They took all my information, though, and agreed to send a lien release if they couldn't find proof that I still owed them money. That seemed perfectly fair and reasonable - from a bank! - and I sat back to wait for the letter to arrive.

It didn't arrive.

Late June

I called Regions again. They were missing some information from the lien release application form (but weren't sure exactly which information) and needed to re-file it. Given how nice they were and that I wasn't even their customer any more, I didn't protest or complain too much.

July

A couple of week later, the official, notarized lien release came in the mail. The VIN wasn't quite identical to the one I gave them, but I hoped the county clerk would call it "good enough" and accept the note.

Now we were ready to apply for the replacement title. The state's form required that Jen and I both have our signatures notarized, so on a sunny Saturday, we drove to a nearby UPS Store and paid up. We stuffed the lien release letter, the application, and a check for $14 in an envelope and mailed it to the county clerk's office.

August

Not a peep from the county clerk. I didn't rush things because, well, government office… But after a few weeks of silence, I called to check on the application.

The county clerk never received it.

The notarized application? The check? The necessary, certified original copy of the lien release? Lost forever to the mail system.

I asked the clerk if I could just take the car out back and burn it, as that might be the easiest way to dispose of it. She asked me to please not to.

I sheepishly called Regions again to explain the situation, apologize profusely, and to ask them to please send me yet another copy of the lien release. They cheerfully agreed to and collected all my information to fill out the request form.

I called US Bank to cancel my lost check and they told me there was a $30 change to stop payment on a $14 note. I told them not to bother and that I'd take my chances.

Now

And that's where it stands. All I wanted to do is sell my car, and it's involved the county clerk, three banks (one of them out of business), a UPS Store, and the post office. As of today, I'm no closer to the goal than I was two months ago.

As a side note: yeah, it was my fault for losing the original title (if I ever even had it). But I wouldn't have been able to transfer the title to the new owners without the lien release anyway, so this was destined to be a pain in the butt in any case.