What Happens If I Bought A Stolen Vehicle Without Knowing

What Happens If I Bought A Stolen Vehicle Without Knowing

Let’s say you bought a car and the seller didn’t have a title for it. Maybe it was some overgrown project car dug out of the seller’s back yard, or maybe the seller drove to the car to the meetup and it seemed to run just fine. Hold on a sec! What if you just accidentally bought a stolen vehicle without knowing it?

What happens next? Are you going to jail? Did you do anything wrong?

Let’s look at the most likely scenarios for your future right after we discuss how to avoid all of this.

We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.


How to Avoid All of This

First, did you mess up by buying a car without a title? No. Replacing a car title is easy when the title is simply lost or missing. It’s what we do here at Title Gods, but this isn’t about that; this is about you possibly buying stolen property without knowing it. The problem is “I had no idea” is exactly what a thief would say, so you can imagine how dicey this situation can get.

Good news: you can easily spot a stolen vehicle even if you don’t know much about cars. There are also additional precautions you should take before agreeing to purchase a car with no title; these include getting an ironclad bill of sale, copying or photographing the seller’s driver’s license or ID, and running the vehicle’s VIN number before money changes hands.

Purchasing a VIN report is the best way to avoid accidentally buying a stolen vehicle. Even if the car has a clean title, the VIN check might uncover hidden terrors like past accidents or prior theft history. We offer $10 VIN Checks and we strongly suggest that you make them a part of your car buying experience every time. And if we discover the vehicle you’re asking about is stolen we won’t call the police.

Follow those easy precautions to avoid ever accidentally buying a stolen vehicle. For argument’s sake let’s assume you did none of them, and let’s look at the other ways you could suddenly realize that nice gentleman from the Internet actually sold you a stolen car.

How to Find Out You Accidentally Bought a Stolen Car

Go to the DMV

Likely result: Arrested on the spot

This is how most people find out they have a stolen car. You cruise down to the local DMV office in your shiny new ride. You park two spots from the door, walk inside, and there’s nobody in line – today’s a good day. You approach the counter and inquire about recovering a lost title. You give the agent your car’s VIN number. Then you get arrested on the spot for attempting to title a stolen vehicle.

Well that escalated quickly.

Unlikely result: The police hear you out

If the police know there’s a stolen vehicle in the parking lot, they’re not letting you walk away. They probably won’t even ask for your side of the story until you’re nice and comfortable at the station. In some states you might be jailed and have to bail yourself out. “Sorry work, I can’t make it back from lunch – I’m in jail. Long story.” I bet it is.

Your pleas of “I swear I didn’t know that car was stolen!” will probably fall on deaf ears, and the officer will most likely be obligated to arrest you even if your explanation is as smooth as poetry.

Either way: There’s the potential for jail time and a costly legal battle, and your car will be impounded.


Get Pulled Over

Likely result: Arrested on the spot

Maybe in all the excitement of buying that car you didn’t notice it had a tail light out. Sometime later Johnny Law pulls you over, and this is what happens:

·       The officer runs your car’s license plates. They’re probably stolen or unregistered. You go to jail.

·       Or your car doesn’t have plates, so the officer asks for your paperwork.

·       You don’t have a title, so you produce the Bill of Sale. The Bill of Sale contains the VIN number.

·       The officer runs the VIN number. It comes back stolen. You go to jail.

No matter what, the inarguable fact is that you’re driving a stolen vehicle.

Unlikely result: The police hear you out

If you live in a small town where Johnny Law’s sister is your kid’s fourth-grade teacher, chances are your story will be heard. Even still, the officer may be legally required to take you into custody for driving a stolen vehicle.

Either way: There’s the potential for jail time and a costly legal battle, and your car will be impounded.


Try to Sell the Car

Likely result: The police are called

Does this sound familiar? It doesn’t bother you that your car doesn’t have a title. You always obey all traffic laws, you never get pulled over, and your plates are never run. It’s entirely possible to drive around like this for years and people do it all the time. If this is you, there’s a chance you accidentally bought a stolen vehicle and don’t know it.

You should not continue to take that chance.

Year after year the problem of vehicle theft continues to grow, and more people are getting Carfax reports or VIN checks before buying a car. Weeks, months, or even years down the road, you’re going to want to sell that car of yours. And when you do there’s a strong chance someone’s going to investigate its history.

For that person, “I didn’t know this car was stolen” will fall on deaf ears. The would-be buyer won’t even bother telling you they called the police. Knock knock, who’s there? The 5-0.

Unlikely result: You’re stuck with a stolen car

Some people don’t want to get mixed up in other people’s business. Others are (perhaps too) trusting and will believe that you accidentally bought a stolen car. Now you’ve got a hot ride you can’t sell and shouldn’t drive, and any money you spent on it is down the drain.

Either way: There’s the potential for jail time and a costly legal battle, and your car will be useless or impounded.


No Matter What

What happens if you accidentally buy a stolen vehicle? The car will be impounded, and you may go to jail. Your car and any money invested in it will be gone. To recover that money you must find, sue, and win a judgement against the person who sold you the car. You may spend thousands of dollars over several years suing someone who can’t pay you anyway. You may never find the person to begin with.

Take the proper precautions before buying a vehicle and remember: even if you accidentally bought a stolen car, you still bought a stolen car.

Worst of all, you’ll feel like a sucker. Nobody likes that.



Title Gods Can Help

Accidentally buying a stolen vehicle can and does happen. In some states it’s illegal to buy or sell a vehicle without a title, but you aren’t on the hook for the theft unless you stole the car. Contact an attorney, especially if you find yourself being charged with Possession of Stolen Property or any other offense.

We don’t make any money on our $10 VIN Checks. They’re purely to help you avoid this terrible situation because it’s something you never want to experience. Ask us how we know.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any titling questions or concerns. Contact an attorney if you’re worried you may have accidentally bought a stolen vehicle. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.