Car sale nightmare: Police ticket driver for car she no longer owns

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – What happens to your car after you sell it or trade it in to a dealership shouldn’t be your problem, but that hasn’t been the case for an Albuquerque couple that traded in their SUV nearly two years ago.

A vehicle Susan Sanders thought she got rid of in 2015 now has the police and MVD after her for troubles she didn’t cause.

“It was very easy, we just traded it in, got a new car,” Sanders recalled the process of trading in her family’s Ford Explorer in 2015.

However, that Ford Explorer has now come back to haunt her.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Sanders told KRQE News 13. “I’ve been passed around,” she said, explaining how she hasn’t been able to get this problem solved.

In November 2015, she traded in her 2002 Ford Explorer to Reliable Nissan on Coors in northwest Albuquerque.

Sanders filled out the proper paperwork, signed over the title, and removed the old license plate. She even filed a Notice of Sale with MVD for the Explorer.

She had a new car and all was well. However, a year-and-a-half later in April, she found out she was wrong.

“We got a call from APD in the middle of the night saying they had our car,” Sanders told KRQE News 13. She thought that couldn’t be, since her new car was sitting in the driveway. Then she realized police were asking about her old Ford Explorer.

“They thought that our car had been stolen, and we explained to them that we had traded it in,” Sanders said. “And they said that the VIN number traced it back to us, that we were the current owners.”

Sanders was baffled. While her old SUV had been out of sight and out of mind, KRQE News 13 has learned it was sure raising eyebrows in a northeast Albuquerque neighborhood.

“For a month it was the talk of the neighborhood,” said Anne Uhring, who lives near Wyoming and Indian School.

Sanders went to the location and snapped photos of the vehicle where APD said the Explorer sat abandoned without a license plate.

“It was all beat up,” Sanders says. Photos of the vehicle show broken door handles, and damage to the body.
“We thought it was a stolen vehicle,” Uhring said.

Neighbors spotted different people loading and unloading property from the Explorer, saying they’d come up with excuses for not driving it away.

“They only had one key and the guy they lent it to went to jail,” Uhring recalled one person telling her.

“The thing was all torn up inside, the door knobs had been ripped off,” said Andrew Crofton, who also lives in the neighborhood.

Photo taken where neighbors say the Explorer was left abandoned for weeks.

Worried it could be involved in crime, neighbors called 311 and police responded, leaving tickets on the SUV.

“You don’t know what the car is being used for and why it was there, and it never had a plate on it,” said Uhring.

No one knew who really owned the Explorer, including the police.

But in May, Sanders got a citation in the mail for unpaid parking tickets – $60 worth and if she didn’t pay soon, the city warned, those fines will go up and up.

“What’s going on?” Sanders asked.

KRQE News 13 learned according to MVD records, Sanders was the last to register the Explorer with the State of New Mexico. So when police checked the Explorer’s VIN number, it was her information that came up in the national database.

“Really our hands are tied because we have to go off the information that the NCIC database is showing and if it shows it’s still registered under the old owner, that’s who the citation is gonna go to,” explained officer Fred Duran, of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Sanders went to metro court and the tickets were dismissed due to her clean driving record, but it didn’t fix the problem.

She went back and forth between APD and the MVD trying to figure out why her name was still attached to a car she traded into a dealership.

KRQE News 13 asked MVD the same thing.

“In our system it shows that Mrs. Sanders sold the vehicle to Reliable Nissan,” said Ben Cloutier, Director of Communications with New Mexico’s Taxation & Revenue Department.

“At that point we don’t have any records beyond that,” Cloutier added.

KRQE News 13 has learned Reliable sent the Explorer to Manheim Auto Auction where it was sold less than two weeks after it was traded in.

Who bought it at auction is unclear, since according to the MVD, it’s not the responsibility of the dealership or the auction house to make sure a vehicle is registered.

“If the vehicle’s been sold, it’s up to the next owner to register that vehicle, but that hasn’t occurred,” Cloutier explained.

In the case of an abandoned vehicle, Duran said, “We place the citation on the vehicle itself and then the owner of the vehicle is supposed to respond to it either by paying it or going to a requested court hearing.”

In this case, Duran said officers could potentially cite the driver or have the vehicle towed, if that new owner is actually caught driving without proper registration, title, or insurance. But that’s a law that’s tough to enforce, leaving Sanders in the middle of the mess.

Meanwhile, Sanders is worried about what could happen with her name still popping up in the system. “God forbid something should happen to someone by this car and it’s still registered in my name,” Sanders said.

For now, Cloutier told KRQE News 13 the MVD has provided records to law enforcement that show Sanders no longer owns the Explorer.

“Bottom line, I want this car out of my name,” said Sanders.

After our interview, Sanders received another letter; this time from MVD, stating a lien has been placed on the Explorer for towing fees.

As of Wednesday, KRQE News 13 learned the Explorer is still in the tow yard, with a $785 fee attached to it.

MVD told Sanders if she doesn’t pay tow fees, the tow company would simply assume she has no interest in the car – something she’s been trying to tell people for months.

Cloutier said in some cases, dealerships will take care of registration and titling when someone buys a used car, but in New Mexico they don’t have to.

KRQE News 13 compiled the following list of tips you should know when buying and selling a car in New Mexico:

Selling a Car:

  • Remove the old license plate – New Mexico is a “Vehicle Plate to Owner” state. If the vehicle is sold, traded-in or given as a gift, the vehicle owner is responsible for removing the license plate from the vehicle.
  • File a Notice of Vehicle Sold form with MVD
  • Keep the VIN number of the vehicle you sell
  • Fill out Bill of Sale form and file with MVD
  • Sign over Certificate of Title and Odometer Disclosure statement – keep copies of both

Buying a Car:

  • Obtain Certificate of Title
  • Complete Emission Testing: Required for Bernalillo County residents
  • Register vehicle with New Mexico MVD within 30 days of purchase
  • Out-of-state vehicles coming to New Mexico require an in-person VIN inspection at specified MVD locations
  • Take with you to MVD:
    • Odometer Statement,
    • Certificate of Title,
    • Application for Title and Registration,
    • Proof of Insurance,
    • Driver’s License, and
    • Emission Test Certificate if applicable.
  • Registration fee for passenger vehicles is based on the weight and model year of the vehicle. Fees range from $27.00 to $62.00 for a one (1) year registration or $54.00 to $124.00 for a two (2) year registration.
  • Registration fees for trucks with a declared gross vehicle weight (DGVW) of 26,000 pounds or less are also based on the weight and model year of the vehicle. Registration fees range from $38.00 to $207.00 for a one (1) year registration or $76.00 to $414.00 for a two (2) year registration. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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