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I'm looking for a single word or short phrase describing a person who is in possession of something, but isn't necessarily the owner, or the sole proprietor. This is somewhat specific to cars, as I'm trying to use it to describe the contact for the vehicle, but in a way that conveys they have the vehicle.

For example: "He's the _______ of the vehicle", or "Vehicle _________: John Smith"

The tricky part about this one is that "owner", "seller", and "dealer" may all be true, but may also all be false (what if the owner and seller is the brother of the guy who actually has the vehicle in his possession?) Or with dealers, the dealership technically owns the vehicle, so it's misleading to say that Salesman X is the "owner" of the vehicle.

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  • Seems to me you answered your own question: "in possession of" – MetaEd Dec 11 '15 at 19:16
  • @MετάEd Possession doesn't carry the connotation of authorization or designation that I think the situation calls for—even a thief could be "in possession of" (or "the driver of"). – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 1:38
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The word "custodian" may be what you're looking for, although a little formal. Having custody of a vehicle would imply having the keys and a responsibility to take care of it on behalf of the owner, but not necessarily the legal ownership.

Alternatively, if you don't need to describe it in terms of the vehicle, you might want to refer to this person as the "representative" of the owner/seller (who may be the owner/seller themselves).

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  • This answer would be improved by providing some references of the word definitions (quote exact definitions, include a link, and ensure the source's name is in plain text not hidden behind a link). – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 0:45
  • I think representative may be the closest one, so far. It seems to cover both owner and dealer, but also anyone in possession of the vehicle. – zerodahero Dec 12 '15 at 17:10
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You may use "holder"

"He's the holder of his brother's car."

examples:

"The second issue is who is the holder of the privilege."

"If any person is the holder of a negotiable instrument the value of which has been paid..."

"it is the holder of the Crown who possesses such powers."

"She is the holder of a EU passport" - a person who has possession or control of something.

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  • The links are great, though I think to comply with the rules your references need to also "Provide the name of the original author". – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 0:56
  • @ErikE Have you tried the links? They take you straight to a page where the sentence, the book title and its author are displayed. – Centaurus Dec 12 '15 at 1:09
  • I fully trust that your links are intact and provide these things. However, the rules nonetheless request source attribution in order to stay on the right side of the law. SE content is sometimes syndicated and may not retain links, so it is important that the author receive credit in plain text, thus why the site rules say "always give proper credit to the author". Have you tried the link in my comment? It takes you straight to a page where the rules are clearly explained—you should be able to understand from that. – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 1:11
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It may not fit all possible scenarios but the simplest might be "driver", possibly qualified by "primary".

"The primary driver" is responsible for checking the oil level periodically.

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"Possessor" fits your requirements fairly well.

A person who takes, occupies, or holds something without necessarily having ownership, or as distinguished from the owner.

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  • When quoting a source, the site rules require both a link (if the source is online) and the source's name in plain text (not hidden behind the link, using the link text is okay). – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 0:59
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From a legal point of view, the proprietor of the vehicle is the bare owner. The driver, that has the "right of use", is the usufructuary.

"Usufructuary" definition: one having the the legal right of using, enjoying or benefiting of something belonging to another.

Usufruct right varies according to countries. For example, in Scotland (source Wikipedia):

A liferent, by which a usufruct is known in Scots law, is the right to receive for life the benefits of a property or other asset, without the right to dispose of the property or asset. An individual who enjoys this right is called a liferenter. The owner of a property burdened by a usufruct is called the fiar and right of ownership is known as the fee.

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  • Well, I learned a new word. I'm not sure I'll get much use out of it, but I'll definitely recognize it from now on. – Brian Tung Dec 12 '15 at 0:39
  • Please provide a link to the source of your definition, plus the source's name in plain text (if not in the link's name). – ErikE Dec 12 '15 at 0:44
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From what I remember, the (British) Department of Transport refers to the keeper of the vehicle.

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Consider trustee:

trustee, noun

: a person or organization that has been given responsibility for managing someone else's property or money through a trust

Merriam-Webster

Or perhaps custodian:

custodian, n

: someone who keeps and protects something valuable for another person

Merriam-Webster

Or even caretaker:

caretaker, noun

: a person who takes care of buildings or land while the owner is not there

Merriam-Webster

And maybe simply designated user or authorized user.

I would steer away from using possessor or driver by themselves, because inarguably any person driving the vehicle, thief or not, is the current possessor or driver. The word you use probably should have the connotation of designation or official authorization.

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You could say he is the agent for the vehicle

One empowered to act for or represent another: an author's agent; an insurance agent.

American Heritage

Legally, you could also call him a bailee

A person or party to whom goods are delivered for a purpose, such as custody or repair, without transfer of ownership.

Oxford Dictionary Online

But this is a technical business or legal term and may not be understood by many.

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Consider registered owner (aka record holder), to be distingued from the legal owner or lienholder.

The term registered owner is usually used in instances of title of a vehicle (such as an automobile) to refer to the person who has right of possession of the vehicle, as opposed to the party that has right of property. The party that has right of property is referred to as a lienholder, and in the event the registered owner fails to pay off the lien according to the agreed-to terms, the lienholder has the right to invoke repossession of the vehicle. Wikipedia

In the United States the certificate of title for a vehicle (also known as a car title or pink slip; or pinks in the plural) is a legal form, establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle. Vehicle titles in the U.S. are commonly issued by the state DMV.

The certificate of title normally specifies:

Identifying information about the vehicle, normally at minimum its vehicle identification number, make, and year of manufacture.

The license plate number.

Technical information about the vehicle to define its taxation regime, e.g., its gross vehicle weight, motive power, and purchase price when new.

The name and address of the purchaser or "registered owner" who would normally possess and use it.

If money is owed on the vehicle, the name of the lienholder or "legal owner" to whom this money is owed. Wikipedia

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