Selling A Vehicle? Gephardt Reveals Common Misstep That Could Leave You In A Legal Lurch

Jul 12, 2021, 10:15 PM | Updated: 11:10 pm

LAYTON, Utah – People sell vehicles all the time: cars, RVs, trucks, and boats but there is an important step a lot of sellers may not know about and if you miss it, it could leave you owing somebody else’s bill. 

“My husband and I sold a boat,” Jennifer Ericksen told KSL-TV about the old jalopy of a boat that had been gathering dust on the side of her house.

The Ericksens just wanted it gone.

“Basically, giving it away for $1,” she said.

It sold quickly and the new owner towed it off. A few months later, Ericksen received a certified letter from a towing company. 

“The boat had been impounded and that we would now need to pay the impound fees to get this free boat out,” Ericksen explained. 

She called the tow yard and was told the boat was still registered in her name. The guy who bought it never bothered to get new tags in his name. When Ericksen told the tow yard she had no intention of paying for a boat she had sold, she said the person on the phone threatened to take her to court. 

“Essentially, they just told me that they would let the judge decide,” she said. 

With that, Ericksen decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators. 

We reached out to the company that towed her boat. They did not want to talk on camera, but told us by phone that they did a job, towing an illegally parked vehicle, and they deserve to be paid for it. The company said it is now going through legal channels to get what is owed to them. 

To be clear, the tow company did exactly what it is supposed to do – search the VIN or registration, then contact the last registered owner by a certified letter. That is the law! Could Ericksen be on the hook for a vehicle towed after she sold it off? 

Monte Roberts, the division director of Utah’s Department of Motor Vehicles, believes since Ericksen has proof – a bill of sale showing she sold the boat – she probably will not ultimately be on the hook for the impound fees. However, a lot of sellers, especially those who make a handshake deal, could be forced to pay. 

The person who bought Jennifer's boat did not get the tags in his name leaving Jennifer on the hook for towing charges. (KSL TV) Jennifer Ericksen explains how selling her boat for $1 caused her a legal headache. (KSL TV) Monte Roberts (KSL TV)

“I think if you’ve got documentation to demonstrate that you actually did it (sold the vehicle), you should be fine,” said Roberts. “But again, it’s just the hassle of having to go through all that work.”

Work. As in, having to fight the bill for impound and towing fees. It is a fight that could have been avoided if Ericksen had taken one simple step when she sold the boat. Roberts said she should have reported the boat sold to the DMV and canceled the registration. 

“Just by taking the license plate off, I think people think that they’ve done what they’re supposed to,” said Roberts. “But technically, the vehicle is still registered in their name.” 

The DMV does not have exact numbers on how many vehicles are sold but not reregistered, but the agency said Ericksen certainly is not the first victim, nor will she be the last.  

As for Ericksen, she is glad to know that she likely will not owe this bill, and she hopes her experience helps KSL-TV viewers avoid a similar headache when they sell an old boat or car taking up space in their driveway. 

“I want people to know that this is a problem,” she said. “And if they’re (buyers) not going to register it, then they can use that vehicle and I have the liability for it. So, I want people to know that when you sell a vehicle or give one away, any kind of watercraft, anything that is registered with the DMV, you absolutely have to call and cancel that registration.” 

When a vehicle is impounded and nobody claims it, the tow company gets to keep it. They can turn around and sell it to try and recoup the money they are owed for the tow and impound fees. 

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

(KSL TV)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt helps restore West Valley man’s Social Security disability payments

Jeff Davis gets disability payments from the Social Security Administration. At least, he did up until his mom passed away in December.
7 days ago
The Pearsons tell KSL’s Matt Gephardt they should be reimbursed by either the airline or the onli...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Sandy couple Gets Gephardt after booking error left them paying out for pricey return flights

A Sandy couple bought roundtrip tickets to Hawaii, but when they discovered their return tickets were no good, they had to buy pricey replacements. When they were refused reimbursement, they decided to Get Gephardt.
8 days ago
Amy Olsen...
Matt Gephardt

Utahns cleared of DUI accusations are forced to pay to get their licenses back

Amy Olsen has her driving privilege back now, but it cost her $255. For her, it is a frustrating ordeal that began months earlier when a trooper pulled her over.
12 days ago
Gas bill...
Matt Gephardt

Gas company increasing bills for customers on fixed payments plan

If you're told you're going to pay the same price for 12 months, you wouldn't expect the price to go up. But when the natural gas company raised the rates on a Payson woman, she decided to Get Gephardt to investigate.
12 days ago
Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...
Matt Gephardt

$21 billion in gift cards go unused. Here’s how to avoid letting them go to waste

Gift cards: they are one of the most popular gifts to give and to receive, but that does not necessarily mean they are going to get used.
14 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

How to beat the dynamic pricing used by Amazon and many other retailers to pay less

The KSL Investigates team gives you information on how to beat dynamic pricing to get your money's worth and pay less.
15 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Selling A Vehicle? Gephardt Reveals Common Misstep That Could Leave You In A Legal Lurch