The information contained on this page should be read for informational purposes only. At the present time, The Smith Law Firm, LLC, is not taking any new vehicle title cases. We continue to handle personal injury, family law matters, and some types of class actions. However, we are not taking cases involving automobile titles and will not be able to answer your questions by phone.
Did you purchase a vehicle without receiving the title?
In the State of Missouri, the seller of a vehicle MUST provide the title to the buyer on the day of the sale. Failing to provide the title not only creates civil liability on the part of the seller, but can also amount to a misdemeanor.
What if I have a car loan? Can the seller hold the title?
Absolutely not. Regardless of whether you finance the purchase, pay with a trade-in, or pay cash, the seller cannot keep the title. The seller cannot sell the vehicle to you in the first place, unless he/she/it provides you with the title at the time of sale. Many unsavory sellers fail to provide the title, then try to blame the buyer. Other unsavory or disreputable sellers simply say that they made a mistake and need a little bit more time.
What should I do if I purchased a car and the dealer didn't give me the title?
Your best course of action is to call the dealership and demand that they provide you with the title immediately. If the dealer/seller cannot immediately provide you with the title, call or email our office. We can help!
How much does it cost to hire your firm?
In every case, you can take advantage of a free consultation. Call us at (314) 725-4400, text us at (314) 974-3266, or send us a direct message here. In many cases we will be able to take your case on a contingent fee, meaning that we will take a percentage of any monetary recovery. This also typically results in you keeping your car and the seller/dealer covering the reasonable value of our fees.
Where can I get more information?
See below of a loose collection of statutes and other relevant laws. There is no substitute for solid legal representation.
The seller of an automobile in Missouri is required to provid the buyer with the title at the time of sale. Failing to provide the title is considered fraudulent. If the seller fails to provide the title, the seller can become liabile for any actual damages, attorney fees, and punitive damages. Failure to provide the title can also render the sale void. If you have questions regarding the failure to provide a title, please don't hesitate to contact our office.
301.210. Sale and transfer of vehicles--assignment of certificate--new certificate--notice of sale to nonresident--director of revenue to keep file-- other sales void
1. In the event of a sale or transfer of ownership of a motor vehicle or trailer for which a certificate of ownership has been issued, the holder of such certificate shall endorse on the same an assignment thereof, with warranty of title in form printed thereon, and prescribed by the director of revenue, with a statement of all liens or encumbrances on such motor vehicle or trailer, and deliver the same to the buyer at the time of the delivery to him of such motor vehicle or trailer; provided that, when the transfer of a motor vehicle, trailer, boat or outboard motor occurs within a corporation which holds a license to operate as a motor vehicle or boat dealer pursuant to sections 301.550 to 301.575, [FN1] the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection 6 of section 144.070, RSMo, shall not apply.
2. The buyer shall then present such certificate, assigned as aforesaid, to the director of revenue, at the time of making application for the registration of such motor vehicle or trailer, whereupon a new certificate of ownership shall be issued to the buyer, the fee therefor being that prescribed in subsection 5 of section 301.190.
3. If such motor vehicle or trailer is sold to a resident of another state or country, or if such motor vehicle or trailer is destroyed or dismantled, the owner thereof shall immediately notify the director of revenue. Certificates when so signed and returned to the director of revenue shall be retained by the director of revenue and all certificates shall be appropriately indexed so that at all times it will be possible for him to expeditiously trace the ownership of the motor vehicle or trailer designated therein.
4. It shall be unlawful for any person to buy or sell in this state any motor vehicle or trailer registered under the laws of this state, unless, at the time of the delivery thereof, there shall pass between the parties such certificates of ownership with an assignment thereof, as provided in this section, and the sale of any motor vehicle or trailer registered under the laws of this state, without the assignment of such certificate of ownership, shall be fraudulent and void.
“…is a criminal act.”
Pending completion of sales, car dealership, as certificate owner of automobiles, had legal right to transfer possession of automobiles to buyers without delivering properly assigned certificates of ownership. Bradley v. K & E Investments, Inc. (App. S.D. 1993) 847 S.W.2d 915, rehearing and/or transfer denied. Automobiles 20
The provisions of this section are absolute and mandatory and are rigidly enforced. Kelso v. Kelso (Sup. 1957) 306 S.W.2d 534.
Where automobile sold was new car that had no registration of ownership, sale was not void because of noncompliance with this section. Stephen Burns, Inc. v. Trantham (App. 1957) 305 S.W.2d 66.
Provision of this section of the effect that the sale of any motor vehicle which has been registered under the laws of the state without the assignment of the certificate of ownership shall be fraudulent and void, is absolute, mandatory, and both rigidly and technically enforced, and not only is a sale void under the statute's terms where such an assignment does not take place, but both the seller and buyer are guilty of the commission of a misdemeanor by noncompliance therewith, and under such circumstances, not even an insurable interest in the motor vehicle passes to the buyer. Bordman Inv. Co. v. Peoples Bank of Kansas City (App. 1958) 320 S.W.2d 72. Automobiles 19; Insurance 1790(4)
Mandates of statute prohibiting sale of motor vehicle without transfer of certificate of ownership can be relaxed by application of equitable principles in appropriate circumstances. Rockwood Bank v. Camp (App. E.D. 1999) 984 S.W.2d 868. Automobiles 19
Buyer of used vehicle established prima facie case, on motion for summary judgment, in support of allegations that automobile dealer violated statute on sale and transfer of vehicles and assignment of certificate of ownership; uncontested and undisputed evidence established that vehicle was delivered to buyer, but that no certificate of ownership, properly assigned or otherwise, was delivered to buyer at time of transaction. Reddish v. Heartland Auto Plaza (App. S.D. 2006) 197 S.W.3d 634. Judgment 185.3(18)
Prospective buyer of automobile had no right of ownership or right to possession of automobile, where seller kept title of automobile pending payment of remaining balance by buyer. Minton v. Hill (App. W.D. 1997) 944 S.W.2d 250. Automobiles 20
Provisions of this section are absolute and mandatory and require individual seller of motor vehicle or trailer to endorse assignment of certificate of title, together with statement of all liens and encumbrances, to buyer, and unless such assignment passes between parties, purported sale is fraudulent and void, so it transfers no title, and buyer acquires no interest which can be insured or mortgaged. Merchants-Produce Bank v. Mack Trucks, Inc., C.A.8 (Mo.)1969, 411 F.2d 1174. Automobiles 19
Contract for sale of motor vehicle registered under Missouri law without assignment and delivery of certificate of title is unlawful and may be repudiated while transaction remains executory in that title documents have not been delivered. Reddish v. Heartland Auto Plaza (App. S.D. 2006) 197 S.W.3d 634. Automobiles 19; Sales 114
Car owner's failure to assign ownership interest in car precluded alleged buyer from acquiring any ownership interest in car, and thus alleged buyer's subsequent attempt to resell car was fraudulent and void; owner was not in default on car payments at time of alleged assignment, car had not been repossessed, owner was listed on title as car's sole owner, owner's parent actually filled out assignment block on car's title, parent was not holder of title certificate, and there was no proof that parent had any authority to sign owner's name. Jackson v. Cannon (App. S.D. 2004) 147 S.W.3d 168. Automobiles 19; Automobiles 20
A sale of an automobile not in accord with § 301.440 and this section governing such sales is a nullity. Still v. Travelers Indem. Co. (Sup. 1963) 374 S.W.2d 95. Automobiles 19
Unless and until assignment of certificate of title to motor vehicle is filled in, acknowledged and delivered to purchaser, no title passes and buyer acquires no right of possession and user against seller, who may repudiate and tender back the consideration. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. (App. 1958) 311 S.W.2d 41. Automobiles 20
Where sellers of truck accepted automobile as part consideration and agreed to assume payment of balance owing by buyer to credit company, but buyer failed to assign certificate of title to automobile to seller, seller did not receive title to the automobile, and did not become subject to garnishment by credit company, notwithstanding failure to return automobile which had been stolen in meantime. Universal Credit Co. v. Story (App. 1939) 128 S.W.2d 654. Garnishment 33
Under this section the sale of motor vehicle which has been registered under Missouri law without assignment of certificate of ownership is fraudulent and void and both the seller and purchaser are guilty of misdemeanor and the transaction passes no title or ownership in or to the automobile and the buyer acquires no right of possession and user against the seller and the seller may repudiate and tender back the consideration. Haynes v. Linder (App. 1959) 323 S.W.2d 505. Automobiles 19; Automobiles 325
In action to recover automobile, where seller made delivery accompanied by insufficiently executed certificates of title, buyers failed to pay as agreed, and both parties had violated this section, the transaction was not so irregular as to require court to leave parties as it found them, since the agreement to buy was executory. Pearl v. Interstate Securities Co. (Sup. 1947) 206 S.W.2d 975, 357 Mo. 160. Automobiles 19
Buyer of motor tractors who took delivery without certificate of title could have recovered his money paid provided he had repented the illegal transaction within a reasonable time while the contract was executory and providing he had cleansed himself by restoring the other party to his former status. Riss & Co. v. Wallace (App. 1946) 195 S.W.2d 881, 239 Mo.App. 979. Contracts 138(3)
In order to exercise the remedy of repudiation in cases where a purported contract for the sale of an automobile is rendered void for failure to follow mandatory certificate of ownership statute provisions, the purchaser is required to return the automobile in as good a condition as it was when it was received. Shivers v. Carr (App. S.D. 2007) 219 S.W.3d 301. Automobiles 19
Where sale of automobile to plaintiff was invalid because of failure to deliver certificate of ownership at time the automobile was purchased, plaintiff could repudiate the contract and recover the purchase price paid, since the contract was executory pending the delivery of title, but plaintiff must return or tender the car in as good condition as he received it. Lebcowitz v. Simms (App. 1957) 300 S.W.2d 827. Sales 391(1); Sales 392
Where seller sold automobile and represented he had title to same, but afterwards refused to give the title to such automobile, buyer had the right to rescind contract and recover his money provided he tendered the automobile, which he had received, back in as good condition as it was at the time he received it. Cantrell v. Sheppard (App. 1952) 247 S.W.2d 872. Sales 120; Sales 391(8)
Statute declaring sale of motor vehicle without transfer of title to be illegal and void did not preclude buyer of vehicle from maintaining claims under Merchandising Practice Act, common law fraud, or Truth in Lending Act against seller of motor vehicle, even though there was no contemporaneous assignment of certificate of title; overruling Minton v. Hill, 944 S.W.2d 250. Antle v. Reynolds (App. W.D. 2000) 15 S.W.3d 762. Consumer Credit 32; Antitrust And Trade Regulation 193; Fraud 31