Help, my BMW dealership is holding my title hostage!

highway2Question: I bought a BMW 750 Li from my local dealership recently. Last week, I tried to sell the car to a private party and was told by my bank that I could not sell the car because the dealership hadn’t supplied them with the title.

It doesn’t look as though they will be able to find the title in time for me to sell the car, so I’ve spoken with the dealership about buying the car back. But we can’t agree on a price.

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I’ve been told that they’ll pay me $28,000 for the car. Then a representative backpedaled and said, “If the tires are bald or there are dents or dings, maybe not that much.”

I have put about 6,000 miles on the car and had it serviced at the dealership. The car is in the exact same condition as when I drove it off the lot except for a rock chip in the right rear tail light.

I have had the car listed for sale and the KBB trade-in value is between $30,627 and $31,627. The dealership says KBB is not a true indicator of market value (funny, because when I bought the car, they used KBB as if it was a bible). Can you help me?

Monique Vasanji, Carmel, Calif.

Answer: This one’s a little confusing. I had never heard of a car being sold without a title, but when I called the BMW dealership, a manager told me it can happen with a used vehicle. However, it’s “highly unusual” for a title to go missing for as long as yours did.

I asked about the whereabouts of the title and was told the dealership was trying to track it down, but a manager agreed that your best option would be to sell the car back to the dealership.

Before I get to the resolution, let me just say this: Never buy a car without a title, no matter how reputable the seller is. No title, no car.

The real problem you’re encountering is the value of the car. How much are those 6,000 miles you put on the Beemer going to cost you? The dealership wants to make as much money as it can off the BMW when it resells it, so it’s downplaying the KBB value in an effort to increase its profit.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it does seem a little odd that the same salesmen who swore that KBB was the bible of car prices are now saying it’s not a true indicator of a vehicle’s value.

Well, which is it?

You have to be careful — very, very careful — when you’re negotiating with a dealership over a trade-in value. When you’re buying a new vehicle, it’s almost always better to sell your old car on the market instead of trading it in. The dealership will invariably try to lowball you, casting aspersions on KBB or anyone else who would claim your old ride is worth more than it says.

(By the way, if you ever encounter a problem like this, you can appeal it directly to BMW North America’s executive contacts.)

I contacted the dealership and it agreed to buy the vehicle for the value of the balance of your loan, which you accepted.