Dealership leaves NY car buyer stranded with no plates, registration, title

GARRISON, Putnam County (WABC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has made getting a deal on a used car nearly impossible, so when a Putnam County grandfather found a used Jeep thousands below sticker, he didn't flinch before buying.

But now, months after driving off the dealership lot, he -- and the granddaughter he bought it for -- are dealing with triple trouble: Expired plates, no registration, and no title.

So he turned to 7 On Your Side to get out of neutral.

It was the sweetest of 16s for Gianna Thompson when her generous grandpa Vincent surprised her with the new set of wheels.

"We call him Papa, and he buys all the grandkids cars," she said.

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Last summer, he paid $21,750 in full for a 3-year-old Jeep.

"It feels great to have my own car," Thompson said, even though she can only sit in the vehicle.

Her Jeep is idle because the temporary plates issued by the dealer have been expired for nearly a month.

"I said, 'Legally, you can't drive it,'" mom Elena Thompson said.

The dealer promised to send plates a couple weeks after purchase that never showed up. Also unfulfilled were promises to send a registration or title.

"I called at least 100 times," Elena Thompson said. "My phone has all the calls, and they either don't answer or they put you to voicemail."

Then she tried texting for weeks, and as the salesmen stalled, Elena stewed.

"I was so surprised," Gianna said. "I was shocked."

The reason for delay ended up being that the Jeep had a lien on it -- a car loan possibly unpaid by the previous owner.

We contacted the dealership's owner, who said the problem was completely his fault. He had to clean house, firing several sales managers after a myriad of customer problems.

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And within one day, the lien was removed. New temporary and then permanent plates were mailed out, and the dealer even refunded nearly $2,000 as a courtesy.

"Thank you so much," Elena said. "If it wasn't for you, she would not be driving."

It's not advisable to buy a car without a title free of liens at point of sale, especially if you're paying in full.

You can easily check for liens, for free, online.

CLICK HERE to check a car's title for a lien in New York.

CLICK HERE to check a car's title for a lien in New Jersey.

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