Avoid DMV Mistakes That Can Derail Your M&A or Refinancing Transaction

By: Jack Underwood, COGENCY GLOBAL INC. on Thu, Apr 19, 2012
mergers-conversions.jpegA corporate merger or acquisition often involves the amalgamation of two or more corporate fleets composed of rolling stock and/or equipment.  Refinancing or forbearance agreements usually require these assets to be properly secured as collateral.  Any delays in this process will most likely mean lost corporate revenue and unhappy executives.  Legal professionals unfamiliar with the ever-changing requirements for each state and jurisdiction are often shocked to discover how complicated it can be to get liens perfected or placed on vehicles, names changed on titles or commercial vehicles transferred from state-to-state.  How will you address the complicated process of insuring that all your client’s motor vehicle assets are compliant with state Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines?

When your firm is assisting a client with a transaction that involves motor vehicle documentation, you want to make sure that this portion of the project is done with the same accuracy as the rest of your work.  What are the most common mistakes that are made when dealing with a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and how do you avoid them?  Listed below are the four most common errors and some suggestions to help you navigate them.  

1. Incorrect Fees: With ongoing fiscal crises being faced by most states, a common place to find new revenue is through motor vehicle fees.  The rate of change for state fees is increasing and the fees almost always go UP.  If you send your documents to the appropriate office but don’t include the correct fees, your entire package can be rejected.  DMV rejections can greatly increase the time it takes to complete your paperwork and result in unnecessary stress and complications for your firm or your clients.

The best approach is to verify that each fee is correct prior to sending any documentation to a state office.  Once the state office receives the documentation with incorrect fees, it will usually result in a rejection.  Most staff offices are so busy they don’t have the time to contact the sender and explain things in detail.  Some states and jurisdictions have posted their fee schedules on their websites, but not all of these sites contain current information.  Speaking to a member of the office staff is usually the safest strategy, but be prepared to wait for a human to answer your call after you have navigated their automated menus.  Unfortunately, in states that are “county-driven”, you can sometimes call the same office and get two different answers to the same question.  If researching fees and dealing directly with DMV offices is not something you have the time to do yourself, outsourcing the process to an experienced and knowledgeable DMV service specialist is likely a better option.  This could save you precious time and possibly money, too.   

2. Misjudging Turnaround Times: Because of the current economic situation in most states and jurisdictions, your paperwork is most likely being processed in offices that are working with less staff and reduced hours.  This can result in longer lines and longer waits for your documentation to be completed.  This environment also can result in mistakes caused by stressed and stretched employees.

How can you get an accurate estimate of the dates when you might expect your documentation back in your office?  Many states have estimated turn times posted on their websites.  A good rule of thumb is to never assume that your work will be completed early.  Add a few days margin and then be prepared to call the appropriate office if your documentation is past due.  By engaging with a service provider that is working with many DMV offices regularly, estimated completion dates are usually more accurate because of the frequency and number of transactions they handle.  When follow-up is necessary, it is taken care of by someone who knows how long transactions should take.

3. Outdated or Improperly Completed Forms: As state regulations and procedures change, so do the state forms.  The key to success and the fastest turnaround time possible is recording the right information in the right place on the right form.


  • Make sure you are using the most current state form.  Don’t assume that a particular form is up to date just because it is only a few months old.  Many states have their forms available on their websites.

  • Proofreading – Wouldn’t it be nice if you had “spell check” on all the state forms that you have to complete by hand? As with all legal documentation, everything must match exactly -- from the company name and address to the vehicle identification numbers (VINs).  DMV rejections cost time and money so accuracy is essential.  Whether you or another member of your team is completing the required forms, a good policy is to have someone else proof the work.  A fresh pair of eyes will often notice errors before the documentation is sent to the state office or agent.  An advantage of working with a DMV service provider is that your forms will be carefully reviewed by someone with experience who will be more likely to spot mistakes before the paperwork is sent to the DMV office.

4: Overlooking Essential Details:  As with all legal documentation, the details are important.  Frequent errors include:

  • mismatched company or officer names

  • incorrect company addresses

  • wrong vehicle identification numbers

  • information recorded in the wrong place on a state form or using the wrong form altogether

  • missing or incorrect documentation such as Power of Attorney forms, lien information, etc.


  • Double-check each detail and then solicit a colleague to proof all essential information.

When handling the recordation of motor vehicle liens and the transfer of titles, paying careful attention to avoid the common mistakes described in this article will help ensure your clients’ M&A and financing transactions are not delayed.

Due to the complexity of dealing with the different and ever-changing requirements at 1,400+ jurisdictions around the country, legal professionals often choose outsourcing this responsibility to an experienced DMV service firm.  Doing so can save the law firm time, reduce billable hours to the client and will often get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Jack Underwood
is the Director of Business Development at ABS National Auto Services (ABS), headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee.  ABS has been providing nationwide vehicle titling and registration services for more than 20 years and works with COGENCY GLOBAL INC. to assist our clients with the DMV due diligence and documentation services often required for corporate transactions. If you have questions, contact your COGENCY GLOBAL INC. representative or send an email to


This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.

Topics: Article 9 Filing, Searching and Due Diligence, UCC