Most people who trade in their old cars assume the dealer will take care of the change in ownership -- and that's usually what happens. But a local woman was recently shocked to learn she's still on the hook for a car she sold years ago.
Nicole Crosswhite can't begin to tell you what happened to the green '89 Honda she used to drive. The Renton woman hasn't seen the Honda since she traded it in to a dealer in August of 2006. In fact, the old car never even crossed her mind until she checked her credit report last January.
"I pulled my credit report earlier this year, and I saw a large sum from a collection agency and decided to call and see what it was regarding," she said.
It turns out, the car she traded in had been found stripped on the side of the road in Centrailia and towed back in 2009. That was three years after she sold it to the dealer, but the Honda was still in her name.
Crosswhite was shocked. She says she was even more shocked by the Centralia Police Report indicating the car was reported stolen. According to the State Department of Licensing, the Honda was stolen just nine days after Crosswhite traded it in. The state's records do not indicate who filed the theft report.
"No one's contacted me about a car that was stolen," said Crosswhite, who added that no one had ever contacted her about the car being towed.
To make matters worse, the towing company eventually sent the towing and storage bill to collections. And now, the collections agency is suing Crosswhite for more than $2,300.
It's happening because no seller's report was filed with the state to document the change in ownership of the Honda. Crosswhite says she assumed the dealer had handled the transfer, as the salesman indicated he would, as part of her transaction in 2006.
Nicole didn't know that regardless of what you're told, when you sell, trade or even give your car away, it's ultimately (and legally) your responsibility as the owner to go to a licensing agency and file an official seller's report with the state. You can also do it online. The state DOL says it deals with the problem on a weekly basis.
Crosswhite says try as she might, no one at the dealership would do anything until she sent them an email that showed she was copying the same email to the Problem Solvers at KOMO 4. Her persistence finally got her to a person who is authorized to pay the towing bill, so she can deal with the collection agency and clear her credit report. Now Crosswhite wonders what else has happened during the 8 years since she turned the Honda over to the dealer.
"I have a feeling that possibly other things could come of this," she said. "Because I just found out earlier that this car is still in my name!"
She probably doesn't need to worry about the old Honda going forward, however. It appears the towing company sold it for scrap -- for $85.