I have recently moved out of my mother's house. I'm 19. My mom gave me her car since she got another one. I pay the car payments but she pays the insurance, but she expects me to pay all the month’s payments at once and it is getting frustrating to deal with as I am on my own now. we moved the insurance over to my name and I'm not sure exactly what the title name is but every paper I need for my car is in my name (not educated on car titles). Am I able to just say no and pay for it on my own or could she legally take the car from me?

  • 12
    I'm confused a bit. It seems like you have the money to make the payment, just not all at once. Is that the case? I would be concerned that your cash reserves are low enough that you can only make the payment piecemeal. You also say she pays the insurance, but you moved it over to your name. Who's paying the insurance? If you're making all the payments, how does your mom know whether you're making all the payments at once or not?
    – Teepeemm
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 13:42
  • 5
    Could she mean that she wants you to take out a new loan, paying off "her" car and now "you" have your own loan and car?
    – Aww_Geez
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 14:45
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    Can you clarify "she expects me to pay all the month’s payments at once", please? If she expects you to pay the remainder of the loan all at once then that is obviously very difficult. Have you asked her why she doesn't want you to continue paying the loan down monthly? If she is the sole borrower of the loan then it does put her finances in jeopardy if you miss even a single payment. Is she worried about this situation?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 16:30
  • 8
    What jurisdiction?
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 19:26
  • 5
    Isn't this question more appropriate for law.SE? Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 12:32

7 Answers 7


im not sure exactly what the title name is

Well, you need to be, because that and only that determines ownership (in the US, at least).

See Wikipedia: Vehicle title

  • 35
    I'm going to guess here that since payments are being made, most likely to a bank or other lending company, that they hold the title with a lien. Unless you were the one who purchased the car initially and signed the loan agreement, then your mother's name is on the title not yours. Once the loan is paid off they will send the released title to your mother in her name and you will have paid off a car that is not yours. I recommend that you address this with your mother NOW before making any additional payments.
    – jwh20
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 9:29
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    @jwh20, it really depends on where you are. In some places the bank holds the title until the car is paid off. In others you get the title and the paper just lists the bank as a lienholder (In my state I hold the title to my car even though there is a loan on it). In either case, though, the loan is a contract between the bank and the legal owner of the car. If OP/mom can't pay off the loan they would probably need to refinance to change the title.
    – Seth R
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 14:54
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    @jwh20 That brings up an interesting point that should be added to this answer - if you want to find out whose name is on the title of the car, Call the bank.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 15:34
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    While the title determines ownership it does not determine who has the right to use it. There are certainly cases (e.g., commercial rentals) where the owner passed the right to use the car to somebody else, and they certainly cannot simply come and use it themselves during the rental period. If there is an agreement between mother and child, ownership may not convey authority to the mother to take it away, as long as the agreement is in force. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 16:00
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    @Zibbobz how do they know that the person on the phone is the one who's been making the payments?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 16:57

The car is most certainly in your mom's name, and as such she is the owner. This is an easy thing to find out, look at the registration that should be in your glove box. Being that she is the owner she can do what she wants with the car, and that may include preventing you from driving it. Another resource to tap, is a police officer. You can ask the officer either at the station or one out and about that is not too busy, who actually owns the car.

So you have some choices:

The first is to walk away from the car. Hand it back to her and buy a car on your own. This might seem emotionally draining because of all the car payments you have made, but truthfully the car is most likely worth much less than the payments that you made. Cars simply depreciate much faster then most payment schedules. So the reality is you are not really losing money.

Walking away from the car may put your mom in a financial bind, and despite your current disagreements this may not be something you want to do to your mom.

The second is to work with your mom and buy the car from her. Since you are out on your own, be out on your own. Your own insurance, your own loan on the car, your own cell phone etc... It is a lot but in the end it is a healthy step for you to be an independent adult.

One good resource, for determining the value of the car, is getting an estimate from Carvana or Carmax.

Best of luck to you and your mom.

  • 10
    This is not something a police officer is trained to do, nor is it their job. If OP were to take the car, their job would be to enforce the status quo ante bellum, not figure out a legal dispute. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 12:12
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    @Studoku he's probably referring to asking the policeman to "run the plates".
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 12:19
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    @RonJohn We don't know what jurisdiction the OP is in, but certainly in the UK it would be a disciplinary offence for a police officer to do that sort of search simply because "a member of the public asked them to do it" with no suspicion of any criminal activity involved That's only one step away from "somebody paid the officer to give them the information" which is plain illegal.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 12:46
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    The car title determines ownership, the registration does not. Anybody's name can be on the registration, it does not indicate legal ownership - that document won't really provide any information at all. Also, you shouldn't keep the ownership documents (the title) in the glovebox. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 14:18
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    Ownership of the car is not the only thing that determines what a person can do with it. Contractual agreements -- like a rental -- may authorize other persons to use it and may abridge the authority of the owner (they have agreed to not use the car for a given period of time). If a legal agreement between mother and child can be construed (like a lease) that can well bind the mother. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 15:56

This is a question the answer to which will depend on your jurisdiction.

For example in the UK ownership of a vehicle, and being recorded in government records as the "registered keeper" are not the same thing. In most cases the two will in practice be the same person but it is not necessarily the case.

So in the UK the question is: When your mother "gave" you the car, did she intend to give you the right to sell the car, to control who may use the car, or both, or neither?

In other words, you may have some rights to do certain things with the car but this will depend on what rights your mother gave you.

Really you need to ask your mother these questions.

For example, you might ask her: "Did you give me this car? Or did you just lend it to me?"

If she says she gave it to you you might ask her to make over the title documents to you (in the UK this is the V5 log book) unless this is in the name of a leasing company (which is common in the UK).

If she says she did not give it to you, you might say that if you can't use it you don't intend to make any further payments.

But if her name is on the finance agreement, don't expect her to give you the V5 until the lease is paid in full.


If your mother originally bought the vehicle and has not yet paid back the original loan, then she will almost certainly be the legal owner. A bank places a lien on a vehicle when there's a loan outstanding on it, and the lien prevents ownership from being transferred until the debt is satisfied. There are paid services you can use to report any liens on a vehicle, and some locales will let you look up this information for free (for example, see here if you live in New York state). If there's a lien on the title, then your mom still owns it and has full control over it.

If there's not a lien on it, then it will depend on whether she signed the title over to you or not. Typically, the title isn't transferred until the vehicle is paid for but transactions between close family members aren't always typical. Privacy laws generally don't let civilians look up vehicle owner information, but any official paperwork from the state regarding the vehicle will be addressed to the legal owner (registration stickers, inspection tag reminders, license plate renewal forms, tax forms, traffic tickets from red light cameras, etc). Check your glove compartment, you might have some of this documentation in there. The vehicle's owner is sometimes listed on insurance paperwork as well.

Ultimately, whoever owns the vehicle is in control of it. Neither one of you can take the vehicle away from the owner without their permission. That's what the law says, at least. You're dealing with a family member, though, so you also have to make sure you're not completely wrecking this relationship in the process.

You have a couple of options for resolving this situation amicably. If you like the car, a straightforward solution is for you to get your own loan and buy the car from her. You'll be the legal owner, and you can make your own car payments directly. Your mom will get the remaining payments immediately like she wishes, but the downside is that loan rates for an 18-19-year old won't be very good. This might not be a big deal if the purchase price is low (it's an older vehicle and you've already made some payments) and/or you have a decent sized down payment.

If your mother still owns the vehicle, another option is for her to sell the vehicle, pay off any outstanding debt, and then you buy a vehicle on your own. This probably isn't the best option at the moment, as vehicles are currently in extremely short supply and prices have gotten ridiculous. Under normal market conditions, though, this can be a relatively low-friction way to resolve the situation.

One big moral of this story is that any time you make a significant purchase (i.e., anything expensive enough to require a payment plan) from another person, make sure you have a contract and/or a bill of sale. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a hand-written document that outlines the amount owed, the payment plan that you agreed to, and has both of your signatures and the date. A document like that eliminates any ambiguity about who owns what or whether the debt is paid off yet. Close family members might sometimes feel like a formal contract implies a lack of trust, but it's important nonetheless. Aside from resolving disputes like this, a formal document is an important thing to have for legal reasons. For example, say you get caught on camera running a toll booth or a red light. The ticket will get sent to your mom since she's the legal owner. It's very easy for her to defend herself if she can show the judge the contract that says you're buying the vehicle but aren't yet the legal owner because you're still making payments. Without that documentation, it can be hard for her to prove she wasn't the one driving the vehicle (particularly problematic for family members that look similar) and she could end up with the violation on her driving record. One simple piece of paper can save you a world of headache.


Since you probably can't pay all the payments at once, you need to get a loan for the amount of the remainder of the loan. Once you have a check in hand, you have your mom go with you to the DMV, and have her sign over the car to you. Then and ONLY then hand her the check.

The car is now official yours.


Dont know where you from but if when we look at Germany you only need the so called "Fahrzeugschein" and "Fahrzeugbrief" then the car is yours. With those documents you can register the car.

  • Both of these words seem to translate to "Registration". In Germany is this different from the Title? Which in the US is the only thing designating ownership. Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 13:05
  • @JTP A Fahrzeugschein is a little booklet certifying the car as roadworthy and listing stuff like dimensions,engine specs,max allowed load, approved rim sizes etc. A Fahrzeugbrief is a large paper sheet that lists the current and previous owner(s) of the car,among other technical data. I don't know much about the US system, but I guess the latter might map to a Title?
    – TooTea
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 22:49

In many states for the car to be on your mother's insurance policy she is required to have her name on the title. This does not prevent your name from also being on the title but best case here would be that you are both joint owners and the car would not be solely yours.

Most likely, your mother gets a discount on the insurance for paying it in full instead of spreading it out over multiple payments, sometimes this discount can be fairly significant. If your concern is just wanting to pay for the insurance over time I would suggest discussing options with your mother where you would pay the entire amount of the discount that she is missing out on.

Something else to consider is that there are possibly other discounts that you may lose by moving the car to your own policy such as having a discount for multiple vehicles or multiple policies such as auto and home/renters together. Add to that the fact that you are a young driver and your insurance rates on a policy of your own could be substantially higher than what you are paying now.

  • Observation: Local DMV requires the insurance match the title, period. Every name on the title must be on the insurance even if that person does not drive. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 2:24

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