How My Wife Stole My Car in Massachusetts

An object lesson in navigating the registry of motor vehicles
FEB 2019
Eric
L.
Biological Engineering

When we moved from Arizona to Massachusetts, my wife graciously offered to take care of registering our car, letting me focus on starting classes at MIT.

If someone offers to go to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) on your behalf, you say two things, and two things only: 1) ‘Yes’ and 2) ‘THANK YOU.’ If you’re married to that someone, you might also say, “This is why I married you!” (Just kidding, don’t say that.)

Why ‘yes, thank you’? Because getting something done at the RMV is remarkably complicated (there’s a website to interpret their website) and a major pain if the issue doesn’t correspond with a short list of problems with predefined solutions. Thankfully, my wife registered our car within a few weeks of our arrival with no issues, and I was relieved that I didn’t have to go with her to do it.

The trouble for us started a few months later when we paid off the balance of our car loan, and we ended up with a title (proof of ownership) that said Arizona, not Massachusetts.

When my wife went in to have it fixed, the poor souls at the RMV were confused: what to do with a car that was legally registered in two places at once? They sent her to a supervisor.

“I see what happened here,” the supervisor said. “Your lender should have sent the title to us, but instead they sent it to you. We can fix this.”

“But what I really want to know,” she continued, “is why your car is registered to just you here in Massachusetts, but the Arizona title shows both you and your husband as owners?”

My wife, who has a playful streak, replied, “Did I steal the car from my husband?”

“Apparently, yes,” the supervisor said, with some disbelief. “And, not only that, but you got official approval for doing it!”

My wife is now the sole owner of the car (can I play this card when we’re deciding who is the designated driver?), and it doesn’t bother me enough to spend time at the RMV to change it.

So what should you do if you’re moving to MA with a car and want to avoid my fate? Well, maybe try to pay off your loan before you come (or keep the loan while you’re here), maybe work through this helpful checklist before you start your drive, but definitely keep an eye out for grand theft auto of the officially-approved variety.