Frank's Corner: Selling a Boat

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    What You Need to Know When Selling a Boat

    What's to know about selling a boat? You get cash and you give the buyer a PWD-143 form and a signed title, right? Well - That's a start. Consider these very real scenarios.

    (1)"Good evening, Mr. Smith. This is Texas Game Warden John Doe. Iím calling as part of an investigation of damages to several boats caused by a boat registered to you at the XYZ Marina earlier this morning." This comes as a great surprise to you because your boat is parked in your drive way and has been there for two weeks.

    (2)You receive a bill in the mail from Texas Tollways for the month of June. Your bill is $18. You phone to inquire about it and you are told that a boat trailer registered to you was photographed passing through the tollgates near Austin. This comes as a great surprise to you because you havenít been any where near Austin for six months and you have never towed a boat through Austin.

    So why is the game warden calling you and why did you get a tollway bill for a boat and trailer you sold three months ago. Since youíve read my article entitled "Buying a Used Boat", you, the seller, knew to prepare a PWD - 143 (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department form), Form 130-U (Texas Department of Motor Vehicles) and sign the back of the Texas Certificate of Title.

    First Scenario:

    Why does the game warden think your boat was involved? Could he be talking about the boat you sold three months ago? That may be indeed what he is talking about. The State of Texas says that the owner of record is responsible for a boat until a new owner of record is established. "The vessel and outboard motor title will remain in your name [seller] until a new title is applied for and processed by the local office or through the mail." (TPWD website)

    What this is saying is even though you gave a signed the PWD-143 and the signed title to the buyer when you received his cash, in the eyes of the state of Texas, YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE AND YOU STILL HAVE FUTURE LIABILITY for that boat until the title is transferred out of your name. The state of Texas recommends doing the following to avoid having retained liability, "Seller - by accompanying the buyer to the local office you are assured that the record is transferred out of your name and future liability for the vessel eliminated."

    If your boat caused damage to property or injury to persons, the burden will be on you to prove you sold the boat and someone else is responsible.

    Second Scenario:

    Was your buyer from the other side of Austin? If so, it is entirely likely he took the new tollways to avoid hauling a boat through I-35 traffic. The tollway offers three means to pay; use a toll tag, hand pay at some tollway exits, or drive through the tollgate and receive a bill by mail. It is likely that is what happened. Guess what? In the eyes of the state, you are still liable for toll even though you sold the boat trailer. The state says, "The vehicle owner is responsible for any toll charges, regardless of who was driving."

    To reduce your liability for the boat trailer you sold, you should do three things: one, Complete a Texas Dept of Motor Vehicles form # 130-U and give it to the buyer; two, send a completed Texas Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification to the state notifying the state you have sold the trailer; three, complete a comprehensive bill of sale that includes the buyerís name, address, and phone number (driverís license would be good, too.) and have the buyer sign the bill of sale.

    The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles recommends, "In order to protect yourself, it is very important that you notify us when you sell a vehicle. After we receive and process your vehicle transfer notification, the buyer is presumed to be the new owner and may be subject to criminal and civil liability for the vehicle. For this reason, make sure to request the buyer's contact information before the sale is complete, and include this contact information on your vehicle transfer notification."

    "The vehicle transfer notification does not remove your name from the state's record, but the record is marked to show that you have notified us that you no longer own the vehicle. Your name will not be removed from the record until a new title is applied for and issued to the new owner."


    If you think the deal is done when youíve received the cash and the buyer has received the title, think again. You are not off the hook of liability until the state has recorded someone else as owner of record.

    If you have a story about buying or selling a boat, please feel free to email me. Let's us share our experiences so others may benefit.

    Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.
    Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
    Information compiled by Randle Moore, June 28, 2010

    About the author: Randle Moore sails on Canyon Lake and is dedicated to boater education. More information can be obtained at South Texas Sailing

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