NBC 5 Responds

Three Things to Do Before You Sell Your Car

North Texas woman shares her tale of selling a car online hoping others learn from her mistake

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Apps have made it easy to sell big-ticket items like cars or trucks. There’s no need to hassle with finding a car dealership or pay a third party when you can post it online for free.

With just a few pics and clicks your post is live and ready for offers. But instead of buyer beware — there’s a lot more the seller needs to know before they hand over the keys and take the cash.

“We had a 2003 mustang,” Desoto resident Lara Lauer said.

In February, Lauer was looking for a quick and easy way to sell her car so she used the app OfferUp.

“It was kind of just the easiest option,” she said.

It was easy and free to post. Lauer listed her car and within a few months got an offer.

“(The buyer) test drove it once and then I think that night or a couple of days later, he said he wanted to buy it,” Lauer said.

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She said the buyer paid cash — she wrote a receipt and didn’t give it much thought -- until she started to get bills from the North Texas Toll Authority.

“I think early March was when the first bill came in,” Lauer said. “I've never used it enough where I would need a TollTag or anything like that."

Lauer contacted NTTA to let them know she sold the car. She said a representative said they would make a note on her account, but a few weeks later another bill came. Then another. So she called them back to see what she should do.

“They say, 'Oh, you know, because of COVID we’re backed up several weeks.' And I don't know for sure if that's just an excuse or if it's reality,” Lauer said.

On the day she sold her car — she went online to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website and completed a vehicle transfer notification. She thought that was all she needed to do and trusted the buyer would handle things from there.

“We signed the title over to him and he just verbally agreed that he would go on to the DMV website and, you know, apply for his own registration and his own license plates,” Lauer said.

But Lauer left the plates on the car and that’s how the NTTA charges customers who use a toll road but don’t have a TollTag.

“That's probably the biggest regret I have,” she said. “It was an error that I left them on the car."

In the state of Texas, vehicles are required to be titled in the buyer’s name within 30 days from the date of sale.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, here’s what you need to do.

  • Meet the buyer at your county tax office to make sure the title application is filled out.
  • Take your license plates off the car so they can’t be reused. The tax office can give the buyer paper tags.
  • Get a copy of the buyer’s driver’s license. You’ll need this info to fill out a vehicle transfer notification.
  • Keep a copy of the vehicle transfer on hand as it protects the seller from parking tickets and tolls after the vehicle is sold.

The vehicle transfer is the document Lauer hoped would help free her from the NTTA’s toll bills that kept coming.

“I had mailed this to them, and they had sent me a letter back saying they were unable to process it. So I called, I spoke to the representative and she's like, 'Well, it's not the car, it's the plates.' And I’m like, 'Duh, it's the plates.' I know that but clearly, I did what I was supposed to do and I transferred the vehicle.

So, Lauer reached out to NBC 5 Responds for help.

NBC 5 Responds contacted the NTTA. A spokesman responded via email issued the following statement.

“By law, we must use info from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – that is the official record for pay-by-mail (zipcash). We send invoices to the address of the registered owner. because the transfer notice was delayed, TXDMV had inaccurate info in their system and the invoices went to your viewer, the former (and at that point still the registered) owner. one transaction took place before the transfer date, but we are waiving all tolls.”

While NBC 5 Responds was able to get those tolls waived from Lauer's bill, she since learned the original buyer resold the car. The NTTA and the DMV said a new owner hadn’t registered the vehicle in their name.

Lauer is working with OfferUp and is in the process of filing a police report and said she hoped other’s learn from her mistake.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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