What to do with an old inherited car

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6 min read

When property is passed down, it's always a bittersweet surprise. When that property happens to be a car, it may not be as simple as a new set of wheels. For example, you may now have an extra car you don’t have space for, whether it’s your current car or the one you inherited. And, of course, this gift comes with paperwork (like putting the car’s title in your name through the DMV, aka everyone’s favorite place).

You’ll also potentially (likely) be navigating legal jurisdictions, registration stuff, restoration costs, and taxes. It can be a lot.

Or, maybe you’ve already decided to flat out sell it. Rather than wasting time with the endless articles that come up when you search 'sell my junk car,' we've detailed everything you need to know right here.

Spoiler alert: Junk car pickup can be super easy—when you sell your car to Peddle.

how are titles transferred in case of a car inheritance?

In some states, vehicle owners can register their cars with a transfer-on-death (TOD) form. This is a simple way of naming a beneficiary to inherit a vehicle upon the owner's death. While it may sound morbid, a TOD can be a real lifesaver for beneficiaries of old cars—they can save you from having to go through lengthy probate proceedings to transfer the car title (probate being the legal asset-review process that happens to determine inheritors after someone dies).

If you are trying to transfer ownership of the car while it's still in probate, you might not be able to register it. Before attempting to transfer ownership of the car, it is prudent to contact the probate court and determine if you are allowed to transfer the title. In addition, you'll typically need to settle any outstanding debts and fees on the car before you take ownership of the title.

who owes taxes on an inherited vehicle?

But wait, there’s more. While successfully navigating through the probate process may be a significant feat, you’ll still need to tackle taxes and the registration. To do this, you need to determine the value of the vehicle in order to pay taxes properly when registering it.

Different vehicles have different values depending on their condition and wear (duh). So we’d recommend seeking the services of a professional appraiser.

Once the value has been determined, pop over to the DMV to settle the registration and tag fees (you won't be charged a sales tax, given that you haven't bought anything). However, depending on where you register the car, you may be required to pay the use or property tax. Moreover, you will also need to settle the inheritance tax.

do I have to take insurance?

Upon inheriting the car of a deceased person, the first thing you should keep in mind is that any insurance policy that covered the car will have elapsed with the demise of the policyholder—you need to notify the insurer. This will leave you with a third-party cover, which means that the car can't be stored on a public road. It will also leave you vulnerable to losses through fire or theft, even though some insurance companies may continue covering the car against fire and theft for a short period as a sign of goodwill. The safe move is definitely to get new insurance coverage for the car.

should a mechanic inspect an old inherited car?

When a car sits unused for any extended period, it can develop mechanical problems. So yes, it’s definitely important to have a mechanic inspect the car before you take it out for a spin. An inspection should cover every facet of the vehicle, including the engine, exterior, tires, brakes, hoses, radiators, belts, and fluids before you take the car on the road.

If you’re planning on selling your car you should be aware of the fundamental issues your car is experiencing so you can price it accurately. Depending on where you live and the car's condition, you can expect to pay between $100 and $250 for a mechanical inspection.

car storage options

Suppose you don't want to use the car you inherited right away. Perhaps it’s a collectable kind of deal. Or you’re just really sentimental. There are dedicated storage units that you can rent to store your car. The fee you'll pay for the storage unit will depend on the duration of the storage, the size of the storage unit, and where the storage facility is located. On average, vehicle storage units cost between $45 and $450 per month.

That said, there are measures that you should take before storing your car. Here is an outline of some of them:

  • Vacuum out any food crumbs to prevent pests from destroying it
  • Apply a fresh coat of wax to keep your finish protected
  • Vacuum your car's interior
  • Disconnect your battery
  • Drain all the fluids
  • Consider putting it on jack stands to unload the tires.

Heeding these measures will ensure that your car remains in pristine condition while in storage.

consider selling your car

Congratulations! You have successfully navigated the title transfer process, and you are now the legal owner of the car you just inherited. You are now free to sell it. Even so, selling your junk car can also be complicated. (Unless you use Peddle, see below.) Typically, selling means going through a similar title process as you did when transferring ownership from the deceased person. Or…

Peddle can help you sell your junk car

Interested in selling an old or crappy inherited car the easy way? Peddle will buy it. We offer free junk car pickup, and will hand you a check on the spot. Get a free, no-pressure instant offer in minutes.