I wanted a car and the sales representative advised me that it was best to put the car in my significant other's name. So I did. I put $10k down and put the car in his name which he didn't mind as long as I would be making the payments.

I have made all of the payments, including paying the registration fee and insurance. We are not married but we are now separating. He took plate off the car and has told me to give him the keys. I refused and he called the cops, saying that was his car and that I didn't want to give him the keys.

I have invested a lot in this car. I want this car but I don't want to keep paying for it if I can't use it. I would like to pay it off but I am scared that if I do that, he will keep the car because it's under his name. I don't trust him telling me that he will transfer it over once it's paid off because of what he is doing now. As of now I am stopping all payments towards it.

I don't want to lose the money I have put into it. What can I do to either have the car transferred over to my name or can I take him to small claims and sue him for the money I am paying towards a car?

  • Assuming US, which state are you in? Did you live together, if so, for how long?
    – Hart CO
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 16:45
  • Is your name on the loan? Is his? Both?
    – Damila
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 17:00
  • His name only, and I live in the US
    – Del1013
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:28
  • 1
    "I have invested a lot in this car" - Cars are not an investment. They only cost you money. I'd also think hard before putting $10k into a down payment on any car in the future - you can buy an entire car for that amount - and if you're in the position that you need a cosigner just to get the loan, it's a strong warning sign it's too much car. So take your $10k and buy a <$10k car and be clear of any payments.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 23:05
  • The car salesman's advice was to benefit HIMSELF. Your credit probably didn't allow you to get the mega loan needed ($10k down for a car? Is this car over $50k?)
    – Nelson
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 1:01

4 Answers 4


Did the police come, what did they say? How is the car titled? In their name only? How is the loan, in their name only?

If the car is financed and titled, in their name, then they own the car. It probably does not matter if you made the payments or down payment. Following the advice of a car salesman is often a detriment to one's financial well being.

Will it bother them if you threaten to stop making payments? If so you may have some negotiating room there, but otherwise you probably have no choice but to hand over the keys.

On the slightly positive note, that despite significant investment into this car (10K plus payments), it is unlikely to have retained much value. Cars depreciate in value quickly unless they are about 10 years old.

You can try small claims court, but typically they are for amounts less than 5K or lower. The other thing you can do is consult with a lawyer as your particular jurisdiction may address this kind of thing.

As adults, when we make mistakes, it costs us money. This is a mistake that you made, that will probably cost you a lot but you will recover. It helps us remember to not make the same mistake again. Since you seem to have some cash (you can pay off the car). You are probably best to cut your losses, hand over the keys, and purchase something using cash.

  • She keeps telling me that she doesn't want the car, so its aggrevating for her to keep telling me it's her car. But thank you
    – Del1013
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:30
  • 18
    @Del1013 Which side of this are you? Your question is written from her perspective, but your comments are from his perspective? Is this a made-up scenario?
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 23:02
  • The cAr is under her name, but everything paid for was from my end. So why would I even make this up? Makes no sense. I described the scenerio as it is.
    – Del1013
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:09
  • Sorry I reread my story and I see where I put him instead of her.
    – Del1013
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:15

There is little you can do yourself in terms of getting the car immediately. Because the car is registered in his name, it is his, and he can do whatever he wants with it. The fact that you have been making the payments is unfortunately irrelevant.

The salesman advised you wrongly by the way. The best way (from your point of view) would have been to have the car in your name and have your SO co-sign the loan. The car would have been yours and you would have got the same loan rate (and he would have been obligated to make payments if you didn't, which is why from his point of view it would have been a bad deal).

However if you are going through a separation, whether you are legally married or not, you will need to come to some agreement over division of shared assets, which includes the car. If you made the payments on it, it is likely that you could get the car in the separation agreement. The bad news is that will take probably a lot of time, and a lawyer is probably going to be involved. Since you are going through such a separation, getting a lawyer involved now is probably a good idea, and they may have a legal way of getting you what you want now.

  • Yes that's what I will end up doing, getting a lawyer. She keeps telling me she doesn't want the car, and she will transfer it over to my name on it's done and paid for, but I won't be doing that. Then she keeps trying to take it away from me. Then she says she doesn't want it again so I'm just better off cutting my loses amd all ties with her.
    – Del1013
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:33
  • 5
    She keeps telling me she doesn't want the car... Then she keeps trying to take it away from me. It sounds like she legitimately doesn't want the car - what she wants a tool she can use to control you. Your plan of cutting ties sounds appropriate in this case.
    – dwizum
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:35

I get you're driven by emotions of possession and loss right now. But let's step back and look at the financial science here.

The two numbers you are interested in

  • The amount of money still owing on the car; i.e. the amount to pay it off.
  • The Kelly Blue-Book value; that is to say, the money you could get for the car if you sold it right now either privately or to a dealer (different numbers, those two).

Based on this, you either have equity in the car, or the car is upside-down.

Do not use this information in an argument. Keep it secret.

If you have serious equity

Then it's time to lawyer up. However you really sunk yourself by the arrangement you did. This is a tough one, prepare to lose the car. It'll come down to subtle legal arguments about community property in your particular state.

If you are upside-down (or just sick of it)

You don't want the car. It's a money-loser. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get out of that arrangement scot-free? Well, you can, because of that stupid arrangement you shouldn't have done.

As a deception strategy, keep making it sound like you really want to keep the car, and are angry and hurt by your partner wanting to take it back. Act like you are "over a barrel". Make it sound like you're giving it back because you really believe you don't have a choice, act horribly hurt, and tearfully hand over the keys, in whatever style would be believable.

  • As soon as you're out of visibility range, laugh yourself all the way to the bank. You just unloaded a huge liability. Now they are stuck with it, because it's in their name.

Then go buy the same make and model and year of used car. That will destroy any belief that you have sentimental value in that car, and sends a clear message "I don't want it back, bucko! You wanted it, you're stuck with it!"

Is this fair play? Turnabout is fair play. Your partner is trying to unfairly violate the verbal agreement, for the purpose of hurting you and causing you deprivation. (most places in the US, having no car is deprivation). You would've never done this maliciously out of the blue, right? But flip it back around - absolutely.


It sounds like you are A) still paying on the loan and B) the car and loan are in your SO's name.

It does not sound like your separation is a pleasant one, I am sorry. But look at it from his point of view. He still owes money on the car loan. You could out of spite just stop making payments. Since the loan is in his name, he would have to pay off the loan. You just trash the car and stick him with the remainder of the loan payments. You may get in trouble for it but it would be a financial burden for him.

If he really is going to give you the car back when you finish paying it off (and not try to keep it and say it is his which is what it seems you're worried about), git him to sign a note to that effect. Even in that case, if the car is in his name and the loan is paid off, the bank will send HIM the title. You will need him to sign the title transfer to get it fully in your name at that time. Unfortunately some states collect sales tax when you do a title transfer, and they may make you pay sales tax on the likely value of your car even if no money changes hands.

  • "You just trash the car and stick him with the remainder of the loan payments." - It sounds like you're suggesting that the asker vandalize another person's property out of spite; am I understanding you right? Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 23:55
  • Not suggesting that at all, but bringing up a point that the other person might be concerned about. It's always helpful to think of things from the point of view of the other person. It didn't seem to me that the OP had given much thought to what their SO might be thinking. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:19
  • Oh, I get it. I misunderstood you. My bad. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:33

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