I-TEAM helps local man seal the deal after used car title mishap

The checklist to follow to make sure it doesn’t happen to you

Keith Haywood has been trying to get a title for the car he bought for his daughter but can't due to the DMV saying the car is registered to someone else. This happens more often than you think. What you need to know before you buy a used car.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Day after day for nine months, Keith Haywood was forced to walk out to his yard and see the Chevy Equinox he paid $3,000 for sitting there, collecting pollen.

“Every time I come out here and I look to the left, it’s here,” Haywood said. “I’m stuck. What are we going to do with this car?”

Haywood contacted the I-TEAM after he said he bought the car online as a gift for his daughter. He got the title of the car but when he went to the DMV, he was told the car was registered to someone else.

So, who owns this car?

“I have no idea who owns it, but I have possession of it, and that’s what I’m hoping to find out,” said Haywood.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan said situations like this happen more often than you’d think.

“One of the big things I can say is (you should) confirm the identity of the person who is selling it to you,” Bryan said. “Get a government ID, compare that to the name on the title to ensure the person selling you the vehicle is the owner.”

Bryan has a list of important steps when it comes to buying a car from a private owner.

Starting with where the transaction should happen, and no it’s not the Sheriff’s Office.

“How about going to the Tax Collector’s Office and doing it there, that way both parties are there on site, that way they can take all the documents inside and retrieve valuable information and confirm everything is legit with the purchase of that vehicle,” Bryan said.

Bryan said it would be a clear deterrent for criminals and scammers if you say, “Hey, I’ll meet you at the tax collector’s office?”

After checking the person’s ID, make sure the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN on the title matches the VIN on the car.

Find the 17-digit VIN either on the side of the driver’s side door, or on the lower portion on the windshield that is looking outside of the car.

If the VIN number doesn’t match up…

“If they’re making an excuse, they’re probably making an excuse for a reason, and excuses usually lead to bad transactions,” Bryan warned.

While the car Haywood bought wasn’t necessarily a bad transaction as much as a mishap, following this checklist would probably have kept him from needing to call the I-TEAM.

But since he did, we got results for Haywood a couple of weeks later.

We worked with Florida Highway Patrol, the Clay County Tax Collector’s Office, and the dealership the car was registered to, and he finally got the title to his daughter’s Chevy Equinox.

Not only did News4Jax help get the title switched over, but someone from each organization escorted Haywood’s daughter to the Tax Collector’s Office to make sure the right name went on the new title.

“You guys got a lot of guys to go out of their way to get this done,” Haywood said. “I was ready to throw in the towel until I called you guys. Once I called you guys, I thank you guys a lot for getting it done.”

About the Author:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.