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Worshrag’s Rebuilt Car Title Saga, Part III

Worshrag and I sat in the notary public’s office. Across the desk, the notary was putting in order the documents required to send for a Pennsylvania title in our son’s name for his rebuilt 2010 Honda Fit. Everything was filled out and ready to go.

Almost as an afterthought, the notary asked me, “And this is the correct mileage?”

When I hesitated, he looked up at me. He couldn’t miss the pained look that must have been on my face. In the chair beside me, I could sense Worshrag tensing up.

“No,” I said in a tiny voice.

THE SAGA OF OUR QUEST to obtain a clean Pennsylvania title for a little car we bought for Worshrag was a months-long nightmare our family will never forget. Or forgive. Or get over.

A car dealer in Wexford had warned us about the problems of a rebuilt car ­ specifically of a rebuilt car title in Pennsylvania – but we ignored his advice. The car ran well, Worsh liked it, and the private sellers were asking $2,000 below book.

We’re cheap. We admit it. We’re even proud of it. Living frugally and buying used has been our lifestyle.

There is, however, a risk to buying used, because used things may come with problems. The problem that came with this car was not the car itself. It was one of those lovely government regulations meant to protect the consumer that instead only make life more difficult. The situation was so frustrating that Honey and I came close to selling the car and starting over.

When we bought the car, we went with the sellers to the local state licensing agent to consummate the deal. The agent said we couldn’t title the car in Worshrag’s name, though, because he had no valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. He had neglected to do that despite having lived and worked in Pa. for a couple of years.

Faced with making a decision on the spot, the best option seemed to be to put the car in our name, title it in West Virginia, then later title it back to Worshrag in Pennsylvania. The agent didn’t mention that this might be a problem.

A few months later we had obtained the W.Va. car title and Worsh had his Pa. license. When he came home for Christmas break we went together to a license bureau to transfer the title.

Not so fast.

Bringing a reconstructed car into Pennsylvania ­ never mind that we recently brought it from Pennsylvania and it still had a valid inspection sticker ­ required an expensive “enhanced” inspection, with the standard that everything on the car be in original working order.

We rushed around and managed to get the $175 inspection, but of course it failed, for a couple of issues we thought were ticky-tacky.

WORSHRAG TOOK THE CAR back to the college town in central Pennsylvania where he worked and took it to a Honda dealer for an estimate. Just one item ­ new tire pressure sensors in all wheels to make a dashboard indicator light go off ­ was going to cost $500.

I told him to hold off while I looked around for another Pennsylvania repair shop that does enhanced inspections but not might interpret the rules so strictly. I found one, and the next time the car was back home, I took it there, held my breath, and ­ lo and behold! ­ It passed the enhanced inspection.

“I didn’t think the radiator mount was unsafe, and I’m not going to fail the car for air pressure and check engine lights,” the inspector told me.

I could have kissed him. I was on Cloud Nine, but his parting comment brought me back to earth.

“By the way,” he said. “We noticed that the mileage on the title was off from what was on the odometer. By quite a bit.”

I ALMOST CRIED when I told Honey that the mileage listed on the W.Va. title was nearly 10,000 miles too low. It was a simple clerical error that we had not noticed when we got the title back.

“We were so close,” I wailed. “We finally passed the inspection and now this.”

Not knowing whether a phone call to the DMV in Charleston would or could correct the error ­ and being afraid that even asking could invalidate the title ­ we decided to submit the title we had and cross our fingers.

When Worshrag and I walked into the notary’s office we had all the necessary documents. The man went through them carefully, asked a few questions, and filled out the application.

“Well, it looks like everything is here,” he said. “You should get the title back in a couple of weeks.”

Then he asked the question I didn’t want to answer: “And this is the correct mileage?”

“No.” I answered in a tiny, pained voice. I didn’t want to tell him but when he asked me directly I could not lie. There was a long, uncomfortable moment. “Well, how much is it off?” he asked.

I could feel Worshrag’s eyes boring into the side of my head.

“The DMV transcribed the number wrong. It wasn’t our fault,” I said pathetically. “If I said it was only a couple thousand miles off, would you still send it in?”

By phrasing it as a hypothetical question, it wasn’t a lie, exactly. My conscience allowed me that leeway.

The notary thought a moment. He could, he said, but the state might reject it if someone were to check the records.

“Yes, try, please. Please. Thank you.” I was begging.

He took pity and said OK.

Worshrag yelled at me when we got outside. “Why did you say “no!” Why didn’t you just tell him the mileage was right!!??”

“Because he asked me!” I said.

Two weeks later Worshrag got an envelope in the mail from PENNDOT.

Inside was a beautiful new Pennsylvania car title.

Five years later, our son still has the car. It still runs well, and many, many miles have been added to whatever mileage is on the title.

And my conscience is clear. Mostly.

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