If the registration of the car is not in your name yet, I suggest you explore the possibility of rescinding the purchase contract with a lawyer as soon as possible.
I assume you bought the car with you taking over the payments on the loan secured by the car. Maybe you bought the car expecting the seller to pay off the debt (not the best of all possible worlds). Either way, you will in all probability be stuck with the payments. You need to find out how much is owed on the car, if you don't know already. If this surprises you, you may want to consider rescinding the contract for fraud. If the debt exceeds the value of the car, you could be in financial trouble. If you have to pay off the debt, you made a bad deal. If the seller has to pay off the debt, good luck. The seller will likely let it go in default. If the payments aren't paid, the lender will repossess the car and seek a deficiency judgment. Someone will have a blemish on his credit, and that someone could be you.
You may have the right to rescind the purchase agreement and get your money back. Getting your money back may present some thorny issues, but at least you may be able to get out of the burden of paying the lender for the car and save your credit.
If you are happy with the deal, then you need to get your car registered in California. I highly recommend making an appointment at DMV and talking to a representative there. You can also visit the DMV website. It has instructions on buying or selling a vehicle. Also, you can visit the Arizona Department of Transportation website for information about transferring the registration in your name, if this has not been done already. I would think the scenario would go as follows: you get the registration transferred to your name in Arizona. Then you get the car registered in California. Of course, your title will be subject to the lender's lien.
The bottom line is that the lender will not turn loose of his security in the car without full payment.
James C. Glassford
Attorney at Law