Are Car Dealerships Dying Out?

Over the past three years, the automotive industry has faced quite a bit of turmoil. From the pandemic and lockdowns to supply chain shortages and aggressive price markups, car dealerships have been put through the wringer. Now, used car prices have gone up and there’s more inventory at dealerships, but no one wants to buy because of inflation. The prices are higher and because of interest rates, the monthly payments are higher.

The average price of a decent new car right now is around $46,000. At a typical interest rate of around 6-7% over a 60-month term (5 years), the monthly cost for a new car is around $1,000 per month. 

Now, where does that put the car dealership industry? Well, dealerships now have inventory but they don’t have any buyers. Manufacturers are pressing on dealerships from the other end, saying they’re not going to produce hundreds of cars for dealer lots anymore, and some aren’t going to be selling to dealerships at all. Some manufacturers want to sell straight to the consumer, like Tesla. No markups by the dealership, just straight from the manufacturer to the consumer.

What’s that going to do for used cars? Will used cars only be sold through dealerships? Where do you see the used car business in two or three years? Will there be factory stores with a small used car department?

What about electric vehicles? Many of these manufacturers are telling dealerships that in 3-4 years, they can only sell EVs or mostly EVs. Many states are even canceling the eligibility of gasoline vehicles by the end of the decade. So dealerships won’t even be able to sell gas vehicles anymore; they won’t be allowed to go on the road. It’s clear that dealerships have to make a big transition if they want to stay afloat, and that’s going to put a big crimp on their parts and service business.

Most dealerships have a fixed absorption, meaning the fixed operations (service and parts) covers the fixed expenses; meaning overhead, rent, taxes, and insurance, all of this is paid for by their service and parts department. The sales department is where the profit comes from. So if your service and parts department can do 100% fixed absorption, you’re in good shape.

Well, electric vehicles don’t need as much service compared to gasoline vehicles. They don’t have internally lubricated engines or transmissions that need to be serviced regularly. They might need new brakes or tires, but that’s not the same as more expanded repairs. A lot of this is covered by a warranty, but the manufacturer still pays the dealer for the warranty. So what happens when everything goes to EVs and the fixed absorption only comes out to 20-30%? Well, now the sales department has to cover the difference; and if you have a lower margin and a lower volume, that may not be enough to withstand the expense footprint of a large traditional dealership. 

What do you think about phasing out car dealerships and buying directly from the manufacturer? Take away the wishful thinking of how you want a car dealership to be, and let us know how you think it’s actually going to be. No one wants to deal with a runaround salesperson who goes back and forth with the elusive “manager in the back”, would this alternative be a better option? What if negotiating was taken out of the picture and cars had fixed prices? What is the happy medium for consumers and how does a dealership enterprise create a structure that’s profitable and sustainable without going out of business?

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Who Can Apply For A Duplicate Car Title?

Who can apply for a duplicate title for a motor vehicle? In all 50 states, the only person entitled to make an application for a duplicate title or replacement title is the current titled owner.

What does ‘current titled owner’ mean?

The current titled owner means the actual person who is currently listed on the official title records with the DMV. 

So if you had a title that was signed over to you on the back, but it was lost before it could be submitted to the DMV, you are not the current titled owner; those changes aren’t reflected in the official title records until you make an application. Until you submit the title transfer documents to the DMV and receive a new title printed in your name, you are not the current titled owner and cannot apply for a duplicate title.

Multiple owners & lienholders

If there are two or more people listed on the title, everyone listed on the title must sign the form before a duplicate title can be issued. Similarly, if there is a lienholder listed on the title records, they will need to sign the form before a duplicate title can be issued. Even if you’ve paid off your loan, if your lienholder didn’t remove themselves from the title record, they still have to sign since they’re listed on the title. The bank might know the loan is paid off, but the DMV won’t until they’ve been given proper notice. That’s why it’s crucial to get a vehicle lien release from your lender as soon as your loan is satisfied.

In summary, if you’re listed as the current titled owner on the DMV title records, you are entitled to apply for a duplicate title. If you’re not the current titled owner, you are not eligible to file for a duplicate title; however, other methods of title recovery may be available. 

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Classic Car Restoration Billing Fraud

If you’re an owner of a classic car or restore classic cars, be on the lookout for unscrupulous restoration companies. Here’s an example of a restoration gone wrong that ended up costing the owner millions of dollars.

According to an article from IndyStar, the ex-CEO of Angie’s list, Bill Oesterle, recently won a lawsuit against a former mechanic. In this case, Oesterle was restoring classic cars and decided to work with a boutique mechanic, which is someone who does work on older vehicles. This mechanic performed work on the vehicles and also helped him locate others to purchase. Well as it turns out, over the course of a couple of years, Oesterle was overcharged for service work on multiple rare vehicles, and some of the vehicles were misrepresented. 

Oesterle paid $50,000 for what he thought was a very rare Austin Healey 100M sports car as a coveted factory model that just needed some assembly. Come to find out, the vehicle that was purchased was not the original factory model that the alleged mechanic had promised. The mechanic told Oesterle the color, and the cost for assembly at $10,000, but sent an invoice for $130,000. But that wasn’t even the worst. In another instance, Oesterle purchased another classic car for $16,000 and was told the work would be done in two years and cost $200,000. Four years later, the job still isn’t done, but Oeseterle was left with bills totaling over a million dollars. 

What’s the takeaway?

If you’re going to hire someone to restore your vehicle, make sure to research the company or the person beforehand. Even if you did your due diligence in the beginning, due diligence is an ongoing process. If the numbers aren’t adding up, say something as soon as possible. 

If you’re a mechanic, make sure you’re managing your restorations properly. The mechanic in this case will have to pay back $7.2 million because of treble damages. Treble damages mean that if you’ve caused damage through fraud, you have to pay back three times what you took in. Treble damage statutes are found in many states, but not all.

So make sure if you’re a mechanic that you’re managing your restorations properly, and if you’re a vehicle owner, make sure you get regular updates. Do your due diligence on the company not only in the beginning but throughout the restoration process.

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Vermont Title?

When using the Vermont registration process to obtain a title for an older vehicle, one of the top questions is how long does it take to get the title from the Vermont DMV?

What is the Vermont registration process?

For vehicles that are 15 years old or older, a non-resident of Vermont can use their bill of sale to apply for a registration, then use that registration as proof of ownership to transfer to a title certificate in their home state. In Vermont, this registration document is the equivalent of a title certificate for vehicles that are 15 years old or older. 

This process only requires a valid bill of sale, you don’t need the prior title certificate or the prior owner. The bill of sale may be typed or handwritten. 

How long does the Vermont registration process take?

Once the paperwork has been submitted properly and the taxes and fees have been paid, the average turnaround time for the Vermont DMV is 7-10 business days. Once you receive the registration document in the mail, that’s not the end of it, you’ll need to bring it directly to your state DMV to apply for a title certificate.

At your local DMV, you’ll complete a vehicle title application. You’ll likely also need proof of auto insurance at the time of application. In many states, titles can be issued on the same day at the DMV. Although, if your state DMV has major and minor branches, some minor branches can’t issue titles on the spot because they don’t keep the title certificates in stock. In this case, they’ll likely mail you the title certificate once it’s been printed. 

Depending on your state, you may have to make an appointment or you may opt to mail in your application. It may take an additional 5-10 business days to receive your final title certificate from your home state.

Tips for the Vermont registration process

Submitting a typed title application vs a handwritten title application

It’s advised that if you’re using this process, you type your Vermont title application rather than handwriting it. The reason being is that the Vermont DMV uses an automated system to automatically scan documents as they come in, and handwritten documents may put a wrench in that automation. If a handwritten document is messy, or something is slightly off, the system will kick out the application and send it over for manual review. Even if the application is filled out correctly, the manual review can take 3-4 weeks, rather than 7-10 business days. They may end up rejecting your application, resulting in your having to start over, where an automated system could’ve alerted you of the rejection weeks in advance.

Don’t use the online registration process

If you’re obtaining a Vermont registration to convert it to a title certificate in your state, don’t use the online registration process. This feature is provided by the Vermont DMV for residents of Vermont and it doesn’t issue a full registration, only a provisional registration. If you’re a non-resident of Vermont, submit your application via postal mail. 

Bring the VT bulletin to your state DMV

Many states are familiar with the Vermont registration process, but it’s important to be prepared in the event that your particular DMV is not. The Title Informational Bulletin provided by the Vermont DMV describes how the process works and explains that the registration document you have is the equivalent of a title certificate.

In summary, typically it should take about 7-10 business days to receive your Vermont registration document, as long as all of the information is correct and typed. Depending on your state’s DMV procedures, it may take an additional 5-10 business days or more to receive your final title certificate. Remember, this process only works for vehicles that are eligible for a title. If your vehicle is not assembled, salvage, parts-only, non-repairable, or newer than 15 years old, this process will not work. Depending on your vehicle, there may be other circumstances where this process will not work. However, if done correctly, the Vermont registration process is a valuable way to get a title for a vehicle that you own, but are simply missing the proper documentation.

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Vehicle Titles Are Going Digital, Starting With West Virginia

It’s official! Vehicle titles are going digital. At the end of 2022, West Virginia became the first state to transition to digital vehicle titles and registrations.

What are the perks of a digital vehicle title?

With a digital vehicle title, gone are the days when you’re searching tirelessly for a document that you probably haven’t seen in years. You’ll be able to access and keep your vehicle title on your smartphone, like an airline ticket. It’s not a tangible document, so it won’t get lost amongst other important documents, and it’s accessed by a secured app. When you need to access your vehicle title to sell your car or trade it in, you can easily access your current title on your phone.

Since the vehicle title isn’t used regularly, printed titles often are misplaced, damaged, or stolen. With a digital title, the access is always there and kept secured behind a login so nothing can happen to your title when it’s not being used.

What do you think about the transition to digital vehicle titles?

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

How To Check For Odometer Tampering

Whether you sell used cars or you’re looking to buy one, be on the lookout for an uptick in odometer tampering. According to an article from Car and Driver, odometer fraud has increased in recent years thanks to new technology, it’s easier than ever to tamper with vehicle odometers. More and more used cars are now found to have had their odometer reading changed to falsely reflect lower mileage and a higher overall vehicle value. How can you tell if your car’s odometer has been tampered with?

NMVTIS vehicle history check

Before buying a used car, whether for resale or private use, the very first thing to do is to run a vehicle history check using an NMVTIS-approved provider. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is a national database that stores all registered and titled vehicle history information. A vehicle history check through an NMVTIS provider will give you the full history of the vehicle, along with the odometer reading recorded at each transfer or from a prior sale. With this information, you can compare the mileage on the report to what is actually showing on the vehicle. If the mileage is too low on the car, compared to the history report, this indicates that the odometer has been tampered with. 

What does odometer tampering look like?

For example, let’s say someone buys a car that has 180,000 miles but was last recorded in 2012 as having 90,000 miles. From 2012 to now, there was no mileage recorded because the vehicle wasn’t sold or advertised for sale. Some states require annual mileage reporting along with other regular inspections, but not all states require this, and bad actors will look for cars from these states specifically. Since there isn’t any official documentation to reflect the new odometer reading, this person rolls back the odometer to a bit more than what was last reported, say 95,000 miles. Then, they’ll sell the vehicle to someone else, reflecting the mileage as lower to increase the value of the vehicle. So the buyer ends up with a much higher mileage vehicle that is likely worth half of what they paid for it.

Back before digital odometers, the mileage was shown on a wheel and could literally be rolled back to reflect a lower mileage. This would end up leaving tiny scrapes on the odometer, which would give away that it had been tampered with. Nowadays, the mileage is electronically calculated, and with the right hacking knowledge, it’s a lot harder to spot. 

So make sure you’re running a vehicle history check with the NMVTIS before buying a used car. We expect that over the next few years, odometer tampering will increase, but with these increases in activity will likely come changes in policy and new protections. In the meantime, check the VIN and compare the recorded mileage to avoid being victimized by odometer tampering. 

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Wells Fargo Auto Lenders Offering $500 To Repo Companies Amid Shortage Of Drivers

If you’re the borrower on a defaulted automotive loan, meaning you’re behind on monthly payments, be aware that lenders are starting to ramp up their recovery tactics to recoup their funds.

As an example, toward the end of 2022, Wells Fargo Automotive began offering incentives to repo companies to prioritize the repossession of their vehicles, according to an article from Auto Finance News. Wells Fargo is offering $500 per vehicle to repo companies amid a shortage of drivers and other personnel. 

Frankly, there aren’t enough repo agencies available to recover their vehicles, so banks are putting bounties out to have their vehicles repoed first. So if you have a vehicle with a loan in default, be aware of this, but also consider that you may be in a good position to negotiate the remaining cost with your lender. Your lender doesn’t actually want your car, they just want the money. Oftentimes under similar circumstances, lenders are more willing to negotiate the amount for a lien release rather than be at risk of never recovering that vehicle.

Even if a vehicle is repoed, there are many costs involved. First, the $500 incentive, then the transportation fees, and auction fees which can add up to several thousands of dollars. So in lieu of that hassle, lenders often see the value in negotiating rather than paying thousands of dollars to repo a vehicle in unknown condition or an unknown location.

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

DMV Employee Allegedly Involved In Fraudulent Vehicle Title Application

The call is coming from inside the house! Even DMV employees can get involved in vehicle title fraud. Here’s an article out of Illinois where a DMV employee allegedly forged a vehicle title application using government resources. 

According to the case, allegedly this employee of the Illinois Secretary of State was trying to get a title for a 2020 Land Rover that was actually a stolen vehicle. This person and a colleague that helped used a fake VIN to run a VIN check against the SOS computer database to avoid official detection. Unfortunately for them, the alleged scheme was uncovered.

This is a very isolated event, however, it does raise cautionary flags. If you’re looking to get a title for a vehicle through a non-standard method (e.g. bonded title, loophole, court order, etc.), you’ll want to ensure that you or the person doing the process for you is using completely legitimate means.

There are many ways to get a vehicle title; some are legitimate, and some are not. And when an improper method to get a title is used, you may find yourself in a position where the title gets revoked, and you face legal consequences or fines, or both. In some instances, you may not even realize that the title has been revoked until you go to apply for a new one in your name. You may not have done anything wrong in the process, but a prior owner could’ve done the process improperly in the past, resulting in your current title being revoked.

So, make sure that the method to obtain your vehicle title is legitimate for your vehicle and for your situation. Properly obtaining your vehicle title will provide you with security in that title, knowing that it won’t be revoked at a later date.

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Florida Certificate of Destruction Cars Are Hitting The Marketplace

It’s been a few months since Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc across Florida, and now the vehicles that were damaged as a result are hitting the market. We’ve had hundreds of inquiries from people who have recently purchased these vehicles, only to find out that their new vehicle was issued a certificate of destruction. One caller purchased 14 vehicles from an auction, only to find that each one was issued a certificate of destruction. So, what does this designation mean? What can and can’t you do with these vehicles?

What is a certificate of destruction in Florida?

A certificate of destruction is issued by a government agency to declare that the vehicle is no longer eligible for road use. In Florida, they call this a certificate of destruction but is also known in other states as a non-repairable, junk, or parts only. 

A certificate of destruction is not a vehicle title, even though it looks like one. A vehicle title designates the vehicle owner, while the certificate of destruction designates the vehicle to be destroyed or dismantled. This designation is taken very seriously by both state and federal government agencies. In fact, in Florida, violating the certificate of destruction by selling, transporting, or delivering the vehicle without making proper notifications is a third-degree felony.

If a vehicle has been given a certificate of destruction, nothing shall be applicable. A certificate of destruction cannot be transferred or changed or ever roadworthy again. Nothing is applicable to the vehicle after it has obtained a certificate of destruction, other than complete destruction.

Why is a certificate of destruction issued?

The certificate of destruction may be issued by the government, but it’s the insurance companies who make the recommendation. This is because these vehicles have incurred significant damage from floods or accidents and the insurance companies who paid the claim do not want a damaged car to go back on the roads, even if it was repaired. Just because a repair is made doesn’t make the vehicle safe for regular use. 

For example, a vehicle damaged by hurricane Ian may have significant flood damage that isn’t readily apparent. If ABC insurance company approves the vehicle for road use after the claim has been paid, and the flood damage corroded the brake line causing an accident, the vehicle owner can sue ABC insurance company for putting the car back on the road in the first place. The insurance companies want to ensure that no one gets hurt and that they don’t get sued for damages so they’re playing it safe by issuing a certificate of destruction. 

Watch out for certificate of destruction cars at insurance auctions

We’ve been getting hundreds of calls daily from people looking to purchase these types of cars at insurance auctions like Copart and IAA. Even if the car looks to be in good condition from the outside, remember that water damage isn’t always visible. If the car was crashed previously, you may see the physical repairs, but water and electrical damage can be easily hidden. If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle from an insurance auction, make sure to understand that particular vehicle’s history. Many people buy cars from auctions all the time to flip and sell for a profit, but that can’t happen if the car has a certificate of destruction. 

Before buying a vehicle from an insurance auction, check the VIN through the National Motor Vehicle Information System (NMVTIS). This is a national database for all 50 states that shows which VINs are out of commission due to destruction designations. 

If you’re on the lookout for a vehicle from a Florida auction, be aware that these vehicles that were issued a certificate of destruction from hurricane Ian are showing up in the marketplace. Before you buy, check the VIN with the NMVTIS so you don’t get stuck with a vehicle that you can never put on the road.

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.

Auto Title Fraud Scheme Busted in Pennsylvania

Recently, another example of a massive auto title fraud scheme was brought to light, this time out of Pennsylvania. According to this article, the Pennsylvania Attorney General busted a massive auto title fraud scheme that included 21 businesses, 5 residents, and about 30 people. So what happened?

According to the article, allegedly they were forging documents and using improper methods to get titles for vehicles that should not have been titled at all. Some of the vehicles were stolen, some had active liens, some had prior owners that were objecting, and some were actually salvage vehicles that had the VIN swapped to hide the salvage brand. All of this is considered to be title washing. The article mentions that hundreds, if not thousands of titles were issued and many of them will be revoked. 

The moral of the story is that if you’re looking to get a new title, don’t use a sketchy or illegitimate process to get one. Specifically, be cautious about using the services of a title company that says they can get you an actual title certificate. Many title companies will say, “Give us $600 and we’ll get you a title, no questions asked, don’t worry about it”, and if you’re looking for relief from a complex situation, this may sound great, when in reality it will probably cause you more trouble down the road. The problem with this quick fix is that oftentimes these companies do not disclose the process used to get your title. This means, that they could be using one of the fraudulent methods from above, like the case in Pennsylvania. Even if you were part of this unknowingly, you’re still going to be on the hook for it because the title will be in your name. You may have not gotten your hands dirty, but you’ll be the one who has to answer for it as the vehicle’s owner. 

If you’re looking for help with a complex title situation, hiring a title company may be beneficial, but it’s crucial for you to thoroughly understand the process before agreeing. Make sure to read over any documents that the title company has you sign to avoid agreeing to something that you’re not comfortable with or sure about. The paperwork has your name on it, and if the title company uses a fraudulent practice, you don’t want to be left holding the bag while they make off with your money. 

Title documents are very serious government documents that are heavily scrutinized by state DMV agencies and the DOJ. Remember that when you are applying for a vehicle title, you are swearing under the penalty of perjury that it is being done correctly. If it’s done incorrectly, it could get you into a lot of trouble or you could lose your vehicle. 

No title? No problem! takes the hassle out of getting your car title. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.