I'm in AZ. If I purchase an auto from a dealer and pay in full but don't take delivery, am I an owner?

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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I am not aware of the exact laws as applicable in Az, however world over the there are lot of common features in laws relating to sale and purchase. As per these general provisions of law we can identify several distinct component sub-transactions within a complete sale and purchase transaction which frequently take place at different times. These are:

  • Establishment of a contract between the seller and purchaser to respectively sell and buy the product product on agreed terms and condition.
  • Delivery of the product by seller to customer.
  • Payment for the product by purchaser to supplier.
  • Transfer of ownership of goods from seller to buyer.

Contract terms among others specify the payment terms, delivery terms and, point of time when ownership of the goods is transferred. Please note that, except for the first of these activities, there is no fixed sequence in which the activities take place. A seller may insist on payment in advance, against delivery, or on credit. Similarly a seller may deliver a product like auto on trial, with the provision that the product may be returned if found unsatisfactory. In this case the product is delivered but ownership is not transferred. In another instance the buyer may select a product and ask the seller to make some alterations in the product before delivery. In this case the instructions for alterations of the product may be construed as transfer of ownership even though physical delivery is not made. In case of, automobiles another test of ownership is the owner as declared in the automobile registration. Thus if, seller instructs the concerned authority to transfer a particular automobile in name of a purchaser, it will clearly establish that the ownership has been transferred from seller to buyer.

Alternatively if the buyer is not able to identify a particular automobile as his property, it will be rather difficult to establish transfer of ownership even if cost of the auto has been paid in full in advance. In such cases the owner can take appropriate legal action for non performance of agreed contract, which may include forcing the  seller to deliver an auto as per the agreed specifications and transfer its ownership. Alternatively you can insist on refund of the advance paid.

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