OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. -- First-time car buyer Adam MacDonald says he’s paying $349 a month in car payments and insurance for a vehicle he has not been able to legally drive. It’s an ordeal he hopes other car buyers out there can learn from. FOX 17 spoke with MacDonald on Tuesday.
On August 3rd, he bought a Mazda CX-5 from Preferred Chevrolet Buick GMC in Grand Haven. He says he drove it off the lot with a paper plate which was valid for 15 days. When the paper plate expired, MacDonald says he called the dealer and asked where his permanent plate was.
"The first excuse they gave me was the Secretary of State's backed up so it shouldn't take too much longer. Maybe a week or two," he recalled.
MacDonald said, "We found out that it's actually illegal to drive it, and when we called someone about it at the dealership they basically just laughed at us about that."
So he waited.
"And then (we) still haven't heard nothing, haven't received anything. So then I actually went to the Secretary of State about a month after I bought the car, and then they said they had nothing registered for the vehicle in my name or anything," he explained.
MacDonald says he later learned the dealership didn’t have the title at the time of the sale. Weeks after making the purchase, he says the dealer told him they had to file for a 'lost title’ after attempts to get it from the bank in Illinois where the vehicle came from failed.
"I feel mainly, like, used and lied to because they keep saying one thing after another. They're not being truthful," he said.
So the FOX 17 Problem Solvers called Preferred Chevrolet GMC Buick in Grand Haven, also on Tuesday.
Used car director Chuck Pelfresne declined an on camera interview but said the vehicle previously had a lien on it. In July, the dealership got a 'lien release' from Chase Bank in Illinois. However, he said the dealership did not receive the title.
Pelfresne admits the dealership sold the vehicle to MacDonald on August 3rd without a title, but he says efforts to get the title from Chase Bank were ongoing with no success.
Pelfresne says the Secretary of State processed a duplicate title on September 26th, but it takes time to receive it. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, FOX 17 was told the dealership obtained possession of the title.
When asked if the dealership sold the SUV prematurely, Pelfresne replied, "I don't think so."
MacDonald begs to differ and says it's a lesson learned.
"Definitely ask for the title before you buy the car 'cause they should have the title before you buy the car and also just doing your research," he advised.
MacDonald says he's been trying for weeks to get a loaner vehicle while the dealership waits for the title. However, he says the dealership did not get back to him on that. Wednesday afternoon, FOX 17 spoke with the dealer again. They apologized for what happened and offered MacDonald a loaner and a refund for the last two months of car payments, as well as his insurance costs.
The dealer maintains that this was just a matter of the time it took to receive the title from the state.
FOX 17 also spoke with the Secretary of State's Office which says it 'does not appear proper procedures were followed' in this case by the dealer.
"The dealer is required to have the title in their immediate possession in order to sell the vehicle," Mike Doyle, communications manager with the Secretary of State's Office said.
He says when buying a used car consumers should always ask to see the vehicle's title.
If you’re in the market to buy a used vehicle then the state suggests the following:
- Ask to see the vehicle’s title
- Verify the VIN on the title matches the VIN on the vehicle.
- Have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchase
- Request a copy of the front and back of the vehicle’s title at time of purchase.
- Contact the Department of State if a title is not received within 30 days