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We all remember buying our first car. Jonathan Fredricks dreamed of the day when he turned 16, to be able to drive off of a used car dealer’s lot with his first car. He worked at a fast-food restaurant for over a year to save enough money. Little did he know that in less than five months it would be repossessed. 

Jonathan Fredricks will always remember his first car, but not in a good way

2016 Mazda
2016 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

Jonathan’s grandfather took him to various dealerships in the Dallas area. When they got to I Drive-DFW, they took some time exploring the cars. Jonathan had $10,000 saved up but scouring the lot he couldn’t find what he wanted. 

That’s when salesman James Steelman offered to see them his own car; a 2016 Mazda CX-5. He was sold on the Mazda. “It looked great,” he told Jalopnik. It was super clean, nice, and pretty new, so I was like, let’s go for it.”

The price out the door was $9,893. Jonathan enjoyed his first car for almost five months. But when he stepped out of a store one day, his car was being towed away. I Drive DFW was repossessing the Mazda because it wasn’t Steelman’s car. It was the dealer’s car. 

The story told by the salesman is very different from the dealer’s

a car salesman talks to a customer on the sales lot, when is the best time of the year to buy an SUV?
Car Salesman Speaks With Customer | Getty Images

Now things get really strange because Steelman has one story, and I Drive-DFW has an entirely different one. The dealer says that it sold the Mazda to Steelman, but it ended up repossessing it when he quit making the payments. 

They also say he wasn’t a salesman at I Drive-DFW, but a “freelance salesman.” What, exactly, is a freelance car salesman? Anyway, the dealer maintains that it owns the car and that they didn’t know it was sold in the first place. 

Steelman says he didn’t owe I Drive-DFW any money, and that he was within his rights to sell it. He filed for bankruptcy a year ago, but the Mazda was a protected asset. Of course, his past infers something else might be going on.

The salesman had been convicted of fraud

car salesman
A pre-owned car salesman | Getty

Maintenance Tip: Check This Before Buying a Car or Pulling a Car Out of Storage

Steelman was convicted of fraud, and before that had been committing other white-collar crimes. However, anyone can change. He says he has been trying to clean up his act since his conviction.

In the meantime, the dealer is trying to help Jonathan out under the circumstances. But he’s out $10,000 and doesn’t have his Mazda, so how much help they are is not apparent. Jonathan’s grandfather says, “I believed him. He was the nicest man and I guess that’s how you get in this kind of trouble.” 

Without a title, you don’t own the car. So it seems that Jonathan and his grandpa missed that vital piece of info. Or only pay a portion of the money until the title is in your hand, although that poses other potential issues. The bottom line is that if it is a used car you must have a title to call it your car. Keep this story in mind the next time you go hunting for a used vehicle.