Arizona driver received abandoned vehicle fee for car sold years ago

The notice arrived months ago, telling the family to pay a $500 fine and that their MVC account was blocked.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:19 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - An abandoned vehicle notice from the Arizona Department of Transportation showed up months ago in the mail for Bruce Mathews’ daughter. The notice came along with a $500 fine and a blocked MVD account. “She was horrified when she first received the notice,” Matthews recalled. But here’s the catch: Mathews helped his daughter sell that 2007 Chevy Cobalt to a scrapper years ago. “It wasn’t hers,” he said. “Hadn’t been hers for six years!”

He contacted ADOT’s abandoned vehicle unit to try to resolve the situation. Mathews had recently thrown out old paperwork related to the sale. He figured enough time had passed, and there was no reason to keep it. “We had sent the notice into MVD that the vehicle had been sold and signed the title over to the salvage company,” he said. “I figured clearly MVD has the paperwork, so I’ll just call them.”

The agency didn’t have the paperwork. “This is wrong. They put up a block wall in front of you. It just frustrates you that much more, makes you that much more determined,” Mathews said. “If it’s happening to us, it’s happening to other people.”

It’s unclear what happened to that Cobalt over the past several years or how many times its changed hands, but when On Your Side got involved, MVD investigated. Bill Lamoreax, a spokesperson for the agency, said MVD was not able to find records showing a transfer of ownership. “The right things were done by signing the back of the title, but then the one thing that didn’t happen was that title wasn’t then ever submitted to an MVD to get reprocessed and retitled,” Lamoreaux said.

When you sell a vehicle, it is critical to ensure it is completely out of your name. “If the buyer and seller both come into an MVD office together, you can make sure that title is transferred properly,” Lamoreaux said. Sellers can also submit a sold notice in person or online at this website. “That way, the previous owner is not on the hook for any issues in the future for accidents or citations or even criminal activity, or even in this case, an abandoned vehicle issue,” Lamoreaux said. It is free to file a sold notice.

In the case of the Cobalt, some years-old insurance information ultimately helped prove the vehicle had been sold. MVD wiped away the fine. “We are very happy to get this particular case resolved in a positive manner for this customer,” Lamoreaux said.