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Loan is paid off, but finance company raises questions

Dear Car Fix: I recently paid off my car almost 2 1/2 years early. The financing company (American Honda Finance Corp.) sent my title with a letter recommending two things:

1) "Once your account is paid in full, to remove the lien from the vehicle, we recommend that you contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles agency and present them with the title and/or lien release documents." Before making the trip, I spoke to three people by phone at the DMV, but only one said it was unnecessary to visit the DMV since the financing company already released the title to me and the car is mine. If I don't have to visit the DMV and pay $95 that would be great, but I why am I getting two different answers?

2) "You may be eligible to receive a refund for credit insurance or debt waiver (GAP) coverage purchased in conjunction with this account. Contact your dealer or coverage provider to request a refund of any unearned premiums."

I'm not interested in being misled and giving up more time and money. Just want to make sure I do what is best -- for me!

-- L.S., Kenmore

Dear L.S.: Here are the facts:

You do not need to get a new title, you just need to make sure that your lien release is attached to your title showing that the loan was paid off and the finance company no longer has an interest in your vehicle. When you sell or trade in your car, you will need the title and lien release. Never buy a car from anyone without a clear title (no liens on the vehicle). The DMV can make a clear title for you, but there will be a fee and it takes four to six weeks.

GAP insurance can provide valuable protection during the early years of your car's life if you have a loan or a lease.

If a loss occurs, GAP insurance will pay the difference between the actual cash value of the vehicle and the current outstanding balance on your loan or lease. Gap insurance protects your vehicle lease or loan. Sometimes it will also pay your regular insurance deductible.

If your vehicle has been totaled by accident, theft, fire, flood, tornado, vandalism or hurricanes, your insurance company typically pays the actual cash value. That may be less than its actual retail value. It is often considerably less than the actual amount you still owe on your loan or the amount due for a lease payoff.

The amount between your insurance deductible and the loss from this financial shortfall is the "gap" you can be left owing money.

When it comes to reimbursements, it depends on how you purchased your vehicle. If you were financing your vehicle, I do not believe you will receive any refund. It is usually part of your vehicle's financed monthly payment. The coverage that gets paid for (monthly) is used that same month.

If you paid for your vehicle and your gap insurance policy in full, you will need to contact the company you purchased the policy through to see if there is any unused premium which needs to be refunded back to you.


Dear Car Fix: I have a 2007 Nissan Versa that I bought used at a reputable car dealership, and I forgot to get the 30,000 mile checkup. I am now at 40,000 miles and I do not have the $489 for the 30,000-mile check-up. I have $200 and would like to know what can I ask the mechanic to do that would cover some of the major checkup required in the 30,000-mile check-up. The oil change and filter comes with the checkup. What else can I ask him to do at this time.

-- C.F., Buffalo

Dear C.F.: Many people are on a budget. Per Nissan's scheduled maintenance, this is what you will need, but always use your owner's manual to get what any car needs at what mileage.

*All lights -- you can do this yourself

*Brake fluid level -- have a technician check if low

*Clutch fluid -- have a technician check if low

*Differential oil level -- have a technician check if low

*Engine air filter replace -- you can do this yourself

*Engine coolant level/top-off -- you can do this yourself

*Engine drive belts inspected -- have a technician check if worn

*Power steering fluid/top-off -- have a technician check if low

*Radiator hoses -- have a technician check and replace if cracked or leaking

*Tires/adjust air pressure -- you can do this yourself

*Transmission fluid/oil -- have a technician check if low

*Washer fluid level/top-off -- you can do this yourself

*Wiper blades replaced or checked -- you can do this yourself

*Have your oil changed or do it yourself. It's easy, and empowering, too.


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