My husband thought that he was co-signing for his son's car. It turns out that they made my husband the primary loan holder but the dealership only put his son's name on the title.

His son is now in legal trouble and he will be unable to make the payments. We are now responsible for the loan on a car that we can't drive. Is this legal?

I am not asking about the difference between primary and co-signer. I was asking if anyone knew if the dealership has a legal obligation to put the primary loan holder on the title because in Ohio only the owner of a vehicle can purchase the yearly tags. I am fully aware that the loan is our responsibility. I

  • 1
    what part are you asking about? In the US at least there is no legal difference between co-signer and primary. Both are responsible for the loan. We have many questions on the site where people are surprised by what role they are assigned. What surprises me is that the lender didn't insist on the bank,primary, and secondary all being listed on the title. Aug 30, 2018 at 10:32
  • In the UK, we're able to insure anyone on a leased vehicle. For example, I have a leased car which I make the payments on, but my fiancee is insured on the vehicle so she can drive it. Are you not able to do that?
    – dvniel
    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:35
  • Yes, search the questions. It is never a good idea to cosign. You do have the right to drive the car, unless of course it was impounded.
    – Pete B.
    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:48
  • I am not asking about the difference between primary and co-signer. They made him the primary but did not put him on the title and in Ohio only the owner of the vehicle can purchase the yearly tags. So I was just wondering if the dealership had a legal obligation to put him on the title before I took further action.
    – margaret
    Aug 31, 2018 at 0:00
  • "I was asking if anyone knew if the dealership has a legal obligation to put the primary loan holder on the title." In this case, it's off-topic, and you should ask Law.SE.
    – RonJohn
    Aug 31, 2018 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


It is a common misconception that a co-signer is not in the same bind as the loan taker - it is simply wrong; they are both fully responsible.

As a co-signer, you have full responsibility for the full loan, at any given time. The only difference to the loan taker is the courtesy that they ask the loan taker first for payment. Simply don't ever co-sign (unless you are willing to pay it all and get nothing for it).

Also, the loan company is not responsible for the physical ownership of the car. If your son (or whomever you co-signed for) has possession, or trashes the car, or doesn't give it to you, that's between you and him. With your co-signing, you committed to pay the loan back to them, including interest, period. No relation to the possession or usability of the car.

  • I've never understood why people don't think the co-signer has the same responsibility as the signer. It's right there in the word: co-. We don't think that people who are co-equal are unequal, do we? Of course not, because that's what co- means!!
    – RonJohn
    Aug 30, 2018 at 19:40
  • husband was not made the co-signer he was made the primary but not put on the title. Just wondering if that was legal.
    – margaret
    Aug 30, 2018 at 23:41
  • If he explicitly agrees to it, by signing it? sure it's legal. He agreed to it.
    – Aganju
    Aug 30, 2018 at 23:56
  • there is nothing in the contract about who would be on the title. Under normal circumstances would it not be the primary loan holder?
    – margaret
    Aug 31, 2018 at 0:03

The legality of them assigning borrowers to titles would depend on your location, so I would suggest seeking legal advice if you plan to fight the lender or try to get out of the contract that was signed.

Another option is to check with your lender to see if they would approve a transfer of title from your husband's son, to your husband. Since he is the primary borrower, it's possible that they would have no problem allowing the title to be transferred to your husband while a lean exists on the car title. For this I would check with your local government to determine what documents would be required for this.

This would at least open up additional options in the future. You could then work on refinancing, selling, or using the car as you see fit.

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