TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For weeks, Carvana has been in the hot seat over undelivered titles, keeping some Tampa Bay area buyers from registering their vehicles. For some, the long wait meant they had to stop driving cars they were stuck paying for.
Now, Better Call Behnken has learned state regulators have reached a settlement agreement with Carvana over similar complaints, dating back to February 2020.
Two days after our first report, the state filed an administrative complaint, citing Carvana’s Jacksonville location and Carvana’s CEO, Earnest C. Garcia III, for failing to transfer titles within 30 days, as is required by Florida law.
In that complaint, twelve consumers’ situations were named. Those consumers waited between three and eight months before finally receiving titles. All of those titles were issued by November 2020.
Yet it wasn’t until just last month that the state filed its complaint, threatening a fine or suspension or revocation of the license.
Public records also show a settlement agreement was signed in that case last week. Carvana agreed to pay a fine of $500 per impacted customer for a grand total of $6,000.
While the state was investigating and negotiating that case, Tampa Bay area customers were dealing with their own nightmares.
Customers, such as Jimmy Torres bought his Lexus SUV from Carvana when he had not yet retired to Florida.
He says it took months to get his Michigan plate, and now he can’t get a Florida plate because Carvana and its lender partner haven’t located the title and sent it to the state.
“Florida tells me I have to get it from Carvana,” Torres said. “Every time I called, everybody’s sorry, everybody’s sorry, but I still don’t have a title.”
Now, his Michigan plate is expired, and he says his insurance company is threatening to drop him.
After Better Call Behnken got involved, the state issued him a temporary tag, but there are no answers about the title.
Meanwhile, Michael Johnston, in Treasure Island, turned to Better Call Behnken when he couldn’t drive the Infinity SUV he bought from Carvana.
When Carvana was no longer able to legally issue Johnston another Florida temporary plate, he says the mega car dealer emailed him a copy of an Arizona plate and told him to tape it in his back window. That led to Johnston getting pulled over twice by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
“When he pulled me over, I gave him all the paperwork. He ran this and said it’s not valid,” Johnston said of one of his traffic stops. “[The deputy] doesn’t even know why they would give this to me. It’s not legal either to have it in Florida if I am a Florida resident.”
Here’s background on this story:
We’ve heard from five local consumers but dug up public records that show many others complaining to the state in other areas of Florida.
Last month, Better Call Behnken told you about Dan Padilla, of Tampa, who couldn’t drive the Subaru he bought from Carvana because the company couldn’t locate his title.
After that report, Carvana swapped out the car for a Volkswagen Jetta. Padilla was happy to get rid of the headache, but the car swap still offered no answer as to the location of the title is for the Subaru he bought in April.
A spokeswoman for Carvana said she would look into the issues and get back to Behnken, but that has not happened.
We reached out to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. In response, the department reached out to Johnston and provided him with a new temporary Florida plate so he can legally drive in Florida for now.
Meanwhile, the FLHSMV is looking into Johnston’s issue. Johnston says that’s not enough.
Florida is not the only state where Carvana customers have complained about similar title issues. We found that North Carolina handled complaints differently. Public records show that the state recently suspended Carvana’s license in one county until the end of January.
A spokeswoman from the North Carolina Department of Justice said one of the reasons is that Carvana issued out-of-state temporary tags and plates and failed to turn over titles to the state DMV.