The Investigators: Pandemic puts the brakes on new car titles and registrations

What to know if you buy a car from a private seller

The Investigators: Car title trouble with clerk's office closed

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With public access to many government offices in Tennessee closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, simple tasks like registering a vehicle or transferring a title are anything but simple.

Larry Levine purchased a 2010 Mazda 3 from a private seller at the end of March. The car was for his daughter after hers broke down. Weeks later, she was unable to drive it.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Levine said. “We don’t want to have our daughter possibly pulled over and challenged.”

In Tennessee, transferring car titles and registrations must be done in person at the local county clerks’ offices. However, many county clerks’ offices are closed, including in Shelby County.

Levine reached out to the WMC Action News 5 Investigators for help.

In an email, Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert confirmed that her offices were closed due to COVID-19.

“However, the current/properly assigned title and/or bill of sale will be sufficient as proof of ownership until the Clerk’s office is able to process the paperwork and register the vehicle,” wrote Halbert. “Law enforcement has been instructed to honor this."

It is welcome news for Levine because it means that his daughter can legally drive with the proper paperwork.

The Mississippi Department of Revenue told The Investigators that county clerks’ offices are open across the state to complete similar transactions.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration says Arkansans can transfer titles or register a vehicle online.

Arkansas has extended the expiration dates on licenses and registrations due to the pandemic. Mississippi has extended its expiration date to Aug. 3 for licenses set to expire between March 13 and June 30.

In Tennessee, if your registration expires between March 12 and May 18, it now won’t expire until June 15.

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