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Can a Car be Sold Without the Title?

It can be difficult to sell a car without a title.
The bank might hold a lien on the title of a car under loan.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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There are circumstances in which a car can be sold without the title, but as a general rule, this is something to avoid. You should also be aware that laws vary from state to state and in different regions of the world; if you are trying to sell a car without a title, you should talk directly with your local department of motor vehicles.

Even in areas where selling without a title is permitted, you may have trouble selling the car, as most buyers are suspicious of sellers who do not have titles. As a buyer, you should also beware of people trying to sell cars without titles; make sure that you understand the circumstances, and enter into a deal at your own risk when a car is sold without the title.

A car title is a document which proves ownership of a vehicle. It also has useful information like the car's mileage at last sale. Without a title, there is no way to prove that you own a vehicle except by going into the department of motor vehicles and asking them to pull up your title record. When a car is sold without the title, the implication is that the car may be stolen, and this could be problematic for the purchaser. It may also be difficult for the buyer to register a car which has been sold without the title.

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The most common reason for a car to be sold without the title is in the case of a car which is actually owned by a third party lien holder, like a bank. In this case, the seller should ideally pay the loan and then sell the car, but when this is not an option, the seller can arrange for the sale of the car, while the lienholder transfers the title. In a situation where this occurs, it may be beneficial to carry out the transaction in the office of the leinholder, to ensure that it runs smoothly and that there are no problems in the future.

It is also possible to simply lose the title to a car, in which case some people may try to sell their vehicles without titles. Getting a replacement title is usually not that difficult, and it is highly recommended if you have lost track of the title to your vehicle. If getting a replacement title is not an option for whatever reason, contact your department of motor vehicles and find out if they allow transfers of cars with lost titles. Typically they will provide a “lost title form” which is given to the buyer of the car so that he or she can register it.

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Discuss this Article

NikkiVann
Post 80

I purchased a motorcycle from a relative and did not get the title transferred. Now, a few years later, I can not find the signed title that was given to me, and my relative is threatening to take it back while refusing to apply for title replacement, even though it was paid in full at the time of purchase. When faced with this situation in Florida, what can one do?

rl2014
Post 79

We bought a vehicle from a used car dealer. He said the guy he accepted the car from, his friend, would give us a the title. He has cashed the check and received his money, but two months later we still haven't been able to get the title from either guy.

Today, he finally said his friend is trying to get the lien off the vehicle, but if we let him come get the car, in case the state wanted to see the car, what are our legal options in Oklahoma, to either get our money back, and he can have the car or be compensated for expenses and tags. Without tags, we can't drive it.

anon948426
Post 77

Who should you contact when someone says they bought a car without a title, from the wife of the owner but they never saw the owner by choice of the buyer. Now they didn't provide enough money to the owner, and they still can't transfer ownership (legally, but they claim to, after eight months). By they, I refer to Allstate Insurance, and I still can't buy one for 2/3 of the value (got one with no drivetrain?)

anon357129
Post 76

The buyer agreed to pay half now and other half next week for our truck, but never did. We have no bill of sale and he took the title. It was signed but not notarized. What can I do?

anon351414
Post 75

I'm looking to buy a car in Massachusetts. The person doesn't have the title he bought the car as scrap. He has a VIN number, but that is all. Is there anyway to retrieve the title and transfer it over to me?

anon337899
Post 74

I bought a car and I sent ownership to my sister, but lost all the receipts of ownership, mechanical, etc. The friend I bought the car from moved to another province. What do I do? I live in Canada (Ontario).

hub1234
Post 73

DH purchased a 1960s model vehicle in GA. No title required for 1985 and older. He went to register in TN, but they won't accept the bill of sale, only the title or proof you tried to obtain one from last registrant. He ran an ad in the county newspaper where last registrant was known to live and she responded. She said her ex-husband stole it from her yard. The VIN is clean and not even on file anymore. Any suggestions as to where we can go from here to either keep the vehicle or get our money back?

anon332998
Post 71

Community property doesn't stop applying because your husband beat you. If you are trying to sell a vehicle in a spouse's possession, you will run into a laundry list of legal issues.

anon331559
Post 70

I have a car but could not afford the taxes or have the title sent to the state. After four years, the vehicle no longer runs. I have a letter stating that the car is paid for as well as all the original paperwork including title. Can I sell this vehicle for junk?

anon321162
Post 67

My father's "friend" junked a similar car with my dad's title. He just sold the car and the new owner can't register it because the title comes up as junked.

My father had a copy title ordered a while back. What does he need to do to get this fixed? The car is physically in my yard now, but the issue with the title is very concerning!

Didn't the junk yard notice the different VIN numbers when this guy junked his vehicle? What can we do to get this matter fixed?

anon320411
Post 66

I'm purchasing a new car from a dealer in MA, but the vehicle has a VT inspection sticker on it. The dealer says it came to them via a swap. Why would it need an inspection if the car is just swapped between dealers?

anon315196
Post 65

I bought my car from my neighbor and when I went to transfer the car, she wasn't around. I have attempted multiple times to reach her and still haven't. I have the title and copy of her receipt but I can't transfer the vehicle until she signs it, but the problem with that is I can't find her for her to do so.

I don't know what to do. My tags are expired and I really need to get this car in my name.

anon301494
Post 64

My daughter's friend abandoned his car at her neighbor's house for nine months and agreed to make weekly payments, but never did. The neighbor owed me 400.00 for me getting his truck out of impound. The neighbor told my daughter's friend he was going to sell it for parts if he didn't remove the van and pay him. This is nine months later. He said do what you have to do. The neighbor let a month go by and nothing. Well, the neighbor gave me 200.00 toward what he owed me. I wrote out a paper stating he takes full responsibility for selling van and I had him sign it, but then he told the cops a different. How do I protect myself?

anon294124
Post 63

My father bought me a new vehicle for graduation and he paid it off. In order for me to trade my vehicle in to a dealership, how do I legally go about doing the trade-in since it's still in his name? Do I pay him $1 and have everything transferred into my name or what? Please advise. Thank you very much!

anon292636
Post 62

Does anyone know if I can still insure and register my car in the state of New Jersey if my friend still has the title until I pay what he wanted for the car then he will give me the title?

anon281443
Post 61

My daughter bought a car from her grandparents, which they had just put into their name the week before. Do I have to wait for the title to get here to transfer it into my name or is there a way to do it without the title?

anon272205
Post 59

I wanted to know the exact answer to the same question that post58 asked, anon266990.

anon266990
Post 58

I currently have a title loan out on my car and it just recently broke down. The engine is locked up, so now I need to salvage it. Can I get a certified copy of the title since the original title is with the car title loan company?

amypollick
Post 57

@anon259564: Since you have all the paperwork, call the police in the city where you live and report the car as stolen. Tell them your ex stole it and where he lives. They can then contact law enforcement in that city in Florida. If they find it, they will impound it and you can hire someone to pick it up from the impound yard. No problem.

If he has sold the car, they'll search for it using the Vehicle Identification Number and when they find it, they'll seize it and impound it.

Since you have the title, there's no question of you selling it to him or some such garbage; otherwise, you'd have signed the title over to him. If he has applied for a title in Florida, then that's fraud, I believe.

Report the car stolen and let the police handle it.

anon259564
Post 56

After physically attacking me, my husband left me and moved to Florida. He took a car that is in my name only and now I want to sell it. I know where the car is kept, but how do I find a company to buy it and tow it, because I know he won't just give up the keys.

All the paperwork, title registration and such are with me. He has nothing but the keys. Help. I cannot go near him because he is violent and I have a restraining order on him, but I need the money to get another car.

anon243493
Post 55

I bought a truck in Colorado and got the title, but before I got it in my name it was impounded and couldn't get it out without proving ownership.

I misplaced the title, so I contacted the original owner to see if he would get me a duplicate title. I never heard anything back until I contacted the impound yard and the guy said that the original owner got it out already.

I then found the original title and tried to get it in my name, but the title office said my title was no longer good since a duplicate one had been issued. I have the title he signed over to me. What can I do?

anon242522
Post 54

I recently moved out of state. I have a 2007 Dodge Minivan that I left to my ex husband. The title is in my name alone and so is the vehicle plate registration. I wanted to know how I can transfer it to him without having to go back to the state I lived prior to where I live now. Can I just sign the title and mail it to him, or do I have to be with him to a notary place to sign the vehicle over?

anon232214
Post 53

I bought a truck from someone on craigslist for $400. When I got the truck home, I found out that the title was never transferred from the previous owner's name. I figured there would be some fees for him to transfer it into his name so I can transfer it into mine. The DMV said that it would cost $411.50 to get it re-registered.

The guy I bought the car from is refusing to pay that much to re-register the truck and are jerking me around about what they can "work-out" with me. What can I do, legally, to either make them pay the fee so I can get the truck registered, or have them give my $400 back? P.S. I have the title, but that doesn't do me much good if it's not in my name, and I cannot get in touch with the owner before the person I got the truck from.

anon231113
Post 52

I bought a car about two months ago. I have the bill of sales and the title, but it is not yet in my name. I am trying to trade my car on craigslist so I do not want to change two titles. I cannot afford to do so. Is it possible to just transfer the bill of sales over to someone else? - Harmony from Texas

anon226533
Post 51

I sold my car last feb and the buyer still has not put it in his name. I notified the DMV in Florida where I sold it but lost the papers to prove and I do not know the guy's real name. I only know his nickname. What should I do?

amypollick
Post 48

@anon201238: It can't be legal for him to do you that way about the tags. The county is due that money for tags, and apparently, they aren't getting it.

First thing to do is call the commissioner of licenses for your county and tell them what's going on. Make copies of the checks and receipts you paid him for "tags" and be prepared to show them. I suspect the license commissioner will not be a bit happy that all this money has been going to a private individual, not to the county. You also need to ask about the procedure for getting tags when you don't have the title, but have purchased and financed a vehicle. If you have your paperwork, you should be able to take it and go to the license bureau and get your tags.

Second, this insurance business is obviously a scam. Now, when you purchase a vehicle, you often must have proof of insurance, so if something happens to it, you will be able to get it fixed. That's standard. However, him forcing you to buy extra insurance is a scam and probably illegal, too. Your license commissioner could probably confirm whether it is or not. If it is, get a lawyer to write this scuzz a letter to tell him to get off your backs about insurance, or it's going to get ugly. Good luck.

anon201238
Post 47

So my husband bought a truck from a dealership (buy here, pay here) but the guy will not put the title in our name. The only way for us to get tags is through him and he is charging us $600 every six months for them, plus $600 every six months for insurance even though we carry our own insurance. He has put the cheapest insurance on the truck which is $600 for the year. Also, we paid the taxes for the title to be put in our name but he has transferred it to two other companies and charged us an additional two times for the taxes. What can we do?

Our truck should have been paid off by sept 15 but because of this it will not be paid off until about may of next year, but by then he will have added another $1200 again. Can he do this. Also every time we ask for the title he says he's not in the office or when we just show up, he hides in his office. Please help.

meya20
Post 45

My ex-boss gave me his car because he went back to florida. The car is from florida, but he didn't give me anything for the car except for the keys. I now want to sell the car, but I have nothing to prove that I own it. I can't get in contact with my ex-boss, so how would I go about getting the documents I need in order to be able to sell the car?

anon179224
Post 44

Tell me please how to check a car loan or not. I live in Portugal.

I have the suspicion that the car is stolen or a loan. The plate numbers in a glass of wine peel

and should be riveted. The car was imported from the USA.

anon172522
Post 42

so my boyfriend sold his tahoe about two months ago. On the "vehicle report of sale" says his name and then who he sold it to, but does not have the bottom half with the signatures and the guy has not registered the tahoe in his name. is my boyfriend still responsible for anything to come about relating to that vehicle? how do we get it out of his name?

anon168578
Post 41

I bought a truck from someone for $2,000 and he supplied me with a copy (which I didn't know at the time) of the title, and it's out of state, and he screwed up the VIN on the bill of sale. Can I sue this jerk? What can I do to get my documents? Help!

anon164693
Post 40

i have a question. my dad committed suicide a little over a year ago. i had my car at my dad's friend's shop, and he was supposed to fix it. for my dad's car, and the guy says that my dad gave him the title the night before he passed, but he never fixed my car and I'm not sure he even has the title. can i just go pick my dad's car up?

anon162657
Post 39

I bought a utility trailer and the guy who sold us the trailer signed the back of the title but never put it in his name. can't find him. how do i get in my name?

anon154343
Post 37

wow. I'm really surprised how many people are clueless about the importance of obtaining the title when buying a car.

Bottom line: if you can't prove you own the vehicle, then the state will not issue you license plates. The title is your proof. No one should hand over their money if the seller cannot provide you with BOTH the car, and its title. Period.

Some other points: Check to make sure the VIN (vehicle ID number) on the title matches the number on the car.

Check the title to make sure it doesn't say lien anywhere on it. Some states issue a title to the buyer, even if the bank has a lien on it. (This means the bank owns the car, and you wont get your plates until someone pays off the bank.)

The first thing you should check when shopping for a car is the title. If they don't have the title, then walk away!

anon128680
Post 35

Pay your child support. Sounds like the motorcycle should be the least of your worries. Be a dad, grow up and take responsibility for your actions! Money comes and goes, but the kid's childhood lasts only but a precious second. It'll literally be gone in a flash of an eye, so try to enjoy it while you can.

anon125951
Post 34

Almost sold my car today but when I went to give the buyer my title it was actually an application for the title. I guess I never officially got the title but the car is in my name and sales tax info and everything else is on there. Problem is I'm no longer in the same state I bought it in. What can I do?

anon122389
Post 33

I bought a car from pa auction. they never mentioned that was a reconstructed title. what i should do please? --SASA

anon117374
Post 32

Car titles can be acquired through the use of a Notary Acceptor. Use a Notary Acceptor to produce and maintain a good administrative record to your right to title. 100 percent effective.

anon112558
Post 31

I need some advice. I bought a truck some months ago and never had the extra money to put it in my name. When I bought it, the guy had me sign a form to have it taken out of his name. Well, I just moved and noticed that I lost the title before I could even put it in my name. I intended on putting it in my name next week, but not sure how I could do this with no title or bill of sale. I don't know where the guy lives because when I bought the truck, he met me at the store so I could test drive it. All I know is his first name. Does anybody know where I'm suppose to go or how I could get another title if it was never even in my name? I have had insurance on the truck the whole time I've had it and he had me sign a form, but I'm not sure which courthouse he went to. Any advice?

anon111329
Post 30

I want to purchase a car from someone but they don't have a title. The story is he bought the car from a state auction and that they scrapped the title because the car had damage to the rear of the car.

What should I do?

anon109083
Post 29

In Pennsylvania, there is a process to affect the involuntary transfer of a motor vehicle title, to an automobile that you legally purchased from a legitimate owner who did not have or supply you with the title. Look up involuntary transfer of motor vehicle title in pennsylvania.

anon107165
Post 28

How can I sell my motorcycle if child support has it? No smart comments like "pay the child support." I know I can buy a new frame and title and swap it out. Any other ways?

anon106594
Post 27

Bought a car in NY. I think the guy I purchased it from bought it from an auction which I found out later. I have no title and it is not registered. How can I sell this vehicle?

anon101933
Post 26

I bought a truck from a dude for two grand. paid cash. He gives me the title with someone else's name on it. he said he never got it transferred and the guy was his buddy. He owed this guy 1500 so he was able to get the title from him and give it to us. no biggie so now these tools are nowhere to be found and i need a john hancock in front of the notary public to make it legal. what do i do?

saul123
Post 24

i need help. i bought a truck from some guy and he told me he didn't have the title -- that some bank has it. he has not answered my calls and he moved from where he was. is there anything i can do in order to get that title back? i really need it. i have to travel soon.

anon97198
Post 23

A title on automobiles was not a general requirement until 1973, so if a car is older than that, the strong likelihood is that it doesn't have a title because it was never issued one when it was new.

anon93989
Post 22

I purchased the car from a person I knew. I handed over the money and got the keys to the car. Asked for the title and he told me that I would get it in the evening of the same day. It has been a month and he has given me the run for it. I have the bill of sale.

My feeling is that he put the title on lien with someone else and took the cash. And now intentionally he sold the car to me too and took the money from me. Since I do not have the title, can I still register the car. I am located in Orlando Florida. Can you please suggest what I should do.

anon89327
Post 21

I brought a car from a junkyard dealer and I did not get a title, just a bill of sale. Is there a way where I can get the title, so I can register my car.

LordVoo
Post 20

The Notary Certificate of Dishonor is effectively used for Declaratory Judgment to perfect the involuntary transfer of a motor vehicle title

I was battling a quiet title controversy over a Dodge truck.

Facts:

Out of state truck contracted/sold to me by an un-notarized contract.

The owner failed to deliver the title and the truck is here in Florida from Arkansas.

The Florida DMV will/would not entertain any transfer of title given there is no bill of sale and no title. The un-notarized contract was understandably insufficient.

The truck was registered, expired, in another state other than Florida; and when I contacted the DMV in the other state, they would not provide any information or services unless I went to the out-of-state DMV in person.

It was suggested to me to hire a PI, somehow get the seller's utility company to give out information on the seller, and a whole host of other impossible things requiring travel out-of-state, travel expenses, time, money, lodging, risk; all given the fact that the seller resides out-of-state that would accompany the civil action.

The only evidence I was able to produce was the Affidavit of Due Diligence which took 20-days, the cost of a notary and certified return receipt U.S. Mail (no PI, or interstate travel, etc).

I think I have stressed the fact that the controversy was interstate.

Resolution: 1. I created a Letter of Request supported by an Affidavit in Negative Averment.

2. I petitioned a notary by affidavit to begin a protest.

3. The notary re-sent the Letter of Request supported by the Affidavit in Negative Averment and the Notice of Dishonor (with presentment attached) via certified return receipt U.S. Mail, allowing the correspondent/adversary the customary twenty (20) days to respond.

4. The notary then sent the Notice of Protest (1-page) notice via certified return receipt U.S. Mail delivery confirmation.

5. Then awarded the stipulations in the Letter Rogatory to me with copies sent to the seller.

6. I opened a civil case with two attachments attached; one being an Affidavit of Due Diligence with the evidence of due diligence being the Certificate of Dishonor and the second being a Petition for Title.

7. Two weeks later the court delivered the Declaratory Judgment.

8. The truck is now titled and registered to me.

For the mailings of notices, I had the notary use a US Postal product.

It is always helpful to have someone witness all documentation sent, so there are two persons' signatures (other than your own) on the record - a la "out of the mouth of 2 or 3 comes the truth", with the sender/notary writing a certificate of content/service describing the contents of the envelope(s).

anon77198
Post 17

anyone ever heard of Broadway Title co?

They can title car, boats, trailers.

they are one of the oldest in the country.

they can do boats and trailers any year.

trela
Post 16

Is it possible to get a salvage or restored title to a vehicle if it was sold at an insurance auction with only a bill of sale or "parts only" paperwork? If so, in what state?

anon60711
Post 15

We (the consumers) should never have to worry about all this crap. Why do we even need to physically hold a title? The state in which the vehicle is registered, should possess the so called document. That way both parties (seller and buyer) have the safety of never losing a title. Both parties would have to contact the state to have a transfer of ownership. Anyone see any errors with that?

anon60223
Post 14

i paid off my car from finance company out of mass and i live in va. they tell me the title will take 4-6 weeks to come. is something like this true? i'm starting to think something's wrong.

anon56098
Post 13

I am looking to buy a used car and I just got the car fax report and it looks like there were 11,300 miles on it before a title was issued on it. Here is how it reads:

09/19/2006

NICB Vehicle manufactured

and shipped to original dealer

09/19/2006

Motor Vehicle Dept.

Registered as

personal vehicle

09/19/2006

11,300

Motor Vehicle Dept.

Title #xxxxxxxxxx

Odometer reading reported

10/10/2006

Motor Vehicle Dept.

Title #xxxxxxxxxx

Title issued or updated

FIRST owner reported

Does this seem right?

anon48306
Post 12

all of you are stupid buying a car without a title. most people sell them like that because they're stolen because it is not hard to go and get one. i just had to get one because i lost mine, so you're stupid if you buy it and they're stupid for selling it. a title is only $40 at the most. i paid $20 for mine.

gregnjess
Post 11

Here is the deal. I bought a car about 5 years ago from a couple that was moving to guam. Now there is a lienholder. Well was the car is paid off now. The title was a washington state title and we were in oklahoma. Apparently for washington you have to mail in the title in order to change who it's registered to so that is what we did. I assumed that the title would go back to the bank and never questioned why I didn't receive it and I was able to get my car registered in oklahoma but not get a title until I had the washington state one in my hands. So no problem just renewed every year. Well I moved to florida. Paid off my loan and come to find out they never had an original of the title -- just a certified copy where the title was being signed over to me. So I called the bank and now they won't help me. I'm told I have to contact the previous owner and have them place a lost title request to get another one. Well they were in guam and now we don't know where they are located. I'm told now the only thing I can do is go back to oklahoma and go to court and have a judge sign a document saying that the car is mine and then bring that back to florida so I can register the car. I can't afford to go all the way to oklahoma and pay court fees as well to come back here to florida to pay again to get it registered. Do I have any other options?

anon41163
Post 10

My husband is trying to get a loan for a vehicle. The bank will not give him the money without a title. Well the guy he is trying to buy it from cannot find the title. What do we do?

anon37771
Post 9

the owner of a bodyshop where my boyfriend works said the car has been abandoned for about 3 years. he was going to take it to the junk yard. told my boyfriend if he got it running it was his. the only problem is there is no title. is there any way of getting a new one for this car? and how would we go about doing that

anon29061
Post 8

I bought this car from a salvage dealer, but they didn't give me a title, what do I do now? Where can I get one and how much would you think it would cost me?

anon21603
Post 7

i bought a truck from a friend, he gave me the title and i changed locations before i got to send in the title, in the process of moving i lost the title, and now i need to sell it immediately so i can move back to texas before thanksgiving..

vickie47
Post 6

i brought a truck in august 2008 from a local dealership. i still have not gotten the title i cannot get this vehicle licensed i have a loan on the vehicle and the loan company wants to know whats going on, what do i do now?

anon19466
Post 5

I purchased a 73mg without a title. The seller stated the original owner is deceased and title had a lien. The car is not salvaged. How do I register in my name?

laladitz
Post 4

My car title was signed in my name and so was the registration. Is it legal for my parents to force me to sign the title over to them?

alicean
Post 3

Can you change a title to a car after someone has passed away?

phillsco
Post 2

can a lien holder (dealership) retitle a car?

storman
Post 1

My ex-husband and I are both still on the auto loan and I believe only his name is on the title (I haven't gotten it yet).

1. Can I get the title if only the ex-husband is on it and where do I go to get it (courthouse or dmv)?

2. I am trading my car with my parents car and then they are turning around and selling my car. I have to go all the way to MN from AL to do so. What do I need to bring with me as far as documentation?

3. If ex won't change the car title can I still sell the car? It's included in his child support responsibilities.

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