This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

What to Do If Sold a Stolen Car and Seller Refuses Refund?

Question from Christina, What to Do If Sold a Stolen Car and Seller Refuses Refund?

Answer from AI:

Discovering that a car you purchased is stolen can be a distressing experience. When the seller, who initially agreed to refund the purchase price, refuses to do so and involves the police, it’s crucial to understand your legal options. In the United States, the specific steps and forms required to address this issue can vary by state, but general guidelines can help you navigate the situation.

Understanding Your Legal Position

When you buy a stolen vehicle unknowingly, the law typically views you as an innocent purchaser. However, because the vehicle is stolen, you do not have legal ownership, and the car is usually returned to its rightful owner. The key issue then becomes recovering your money from the seller.

Steps to Take for Legal Action

  1. Gather Evidence: Compile all communication with the seller, including texts, emails, and any written agreement about the refund. Also, keep records of the original purchase transaction and any police reports or investigations related to the car being stolen.
  2. Attempt to Resolve Without Court: Before taking legal action, it’s often recommended to make a final attempt to resolve the issue directly with the seller. A written demand letter stating the amount owed and the intention to pursue legal action if not paid can sometimes prompt payment.
  3. Identify the Correct Court: Small claims court is typically the appropriate venue for disputes involving relatively small amounts of money, like $1,600. The jurisdiction (where to file the lawsuit) usually depends on where the defendant lives or where the contract was breached.
  4. Obtain and Fill Out Court Forms: Visit your local small claims court’s website or office to get the necessary forms to file a lawsuit. These often include a complaint or petition form and a summons form. The specific names and types of forms can vary by state.
  5. File the Lawsuit and Serve the Defendant: After filling out the forms, file them with the court and pay any required filing fee. Then, you must formally notify the seller (now the defendant) of the lawsuit by serving them with the court documents, following your state’s rules for service of process.
  6. Prepare for Court: Collect all evidence supporting your case, including any proof of the vehicle’s stolen status, your purchase, attempts to get a refund, and the seller’s agreement to pay you back. You may also want to prepare a brief statement outlining your case.
  7. Attend the Court Hearing: On the scheduled date, present your case to the judge. Be sure to bring all your evidence and speak clearly and respectfully.

Additional Considerations

Legal Advice: While small claims court is designed to be accessible without a lawyer, consulting with one can provide valuable advice specific to your situation. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, the likelihood of success, and whether you can recover any additional costs, such as court fees.

State-Specific Information: Laws and procedures vary by state, so it’s important to refer to your state’s specific guidelines. The State Consumer Protection Offices can be a helpful resource for state-specific legal assistance and information.


Dealing with the aftermath of purchasing a stolen vehicle is undoubtedly challenging, but understanding your legal options and the steps to take can help you seek restitution. Remember, the information provided here is general, and consulting with a legal professional is recommended for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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