3OYS: Buying a used car? Make sure to check for liens

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- A Chandler man bought a car, then found out the seller had pulled a fast one before handing over the vehicle.

John Begley enjoys his motorcycle, but when the weather isn't so nice, he says he needs a car to get work. So, Begley hopped online recently and started searching for a used vehicle to buy.

"I looked on Craigslist and found what I thought to be a good deal," Begley said to 3 On Your Side. "A 2003 Chevy Trailblazer."

John said when he initially looked at it, the car seemed clean, so he bought it from a private seller for only $3,000. After taking possession of the vehicle, John said he took the title to Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division to register it. That's when he discovered a big problem.

"It was like somebody punched you in the stomach, basically," Begley said. "What do you do now?"

Here's the problem: The seller of the Trailblazer took out a $3,000 loan against the vehicle, pocketed the money, and then sold the Trailblazer to John for another $3,000.

Because there's a lien on the vehicle by a title loan company, John can't properly register the vehicle under his name until that $3,000 lien is paid off.

"I bought cars off Craigslist before," Begley said. "I didn't even know people were scamming people off used vehicles."

3 On Your Side got involved and went to the seller's Chandler home. A relative told 3 On Your Side reporter Gary Harper that he was out.

"Can you please tell him to call me as soon as possible?" Harper asked.  "It's extremely urgent."

Two hours after Harper's visit, 3 On Your Side got a phone call that the seller who acknowledged the $3,000 title loan, and agreed to pay Begley back in installments.

"Long story short, I owe him some money," the seller told Harper.  "I want to pay him.  Pretty much, there's the story."

"Alright," Harper replied. "And you're going to give him $1,000."

"I'm going to pay him $1,000," the seller said.

"Today?" Harper asked.

"Today," the seller confirmed.

After the conversation, Begley said the seller paid him $1,000 in cash and agreed to pay the rest over the next two weeks. Begley said he's optimistic the remaining two grand will be paid. He said his situation should be a warning to anyone buying a car.

"Don't trust people on their word on Craigislist," Begley said. "Unfortunately, I don't want to sound like a bad guy but you have to take care of yourself."

There's one easy step car buyers can take to prevent something like this from happening. For only $1.50, you can have the MVD run a background check on the car you're interested in buying. If there's a lien, you'll find out.

If John had spent that $1.50, he wouldn't be in this situation.

For more information on how to have the MVD run a check, visit the link below: