How To Sell a Car Without a Title
Pro tip: Find the title.
It’s time to let go of that old car. Whether you’re selling a classic, a cheap Craigslist special, or a fresh SUV, the steps are easy. You place an ad explaining how the car ran when parked and chase away a few lowballers. After all, you know what you’ve got. Pretty soon, someone will show up, leaving you with a wad of cash and an empty oil-stained spot in your driveway.
Going through your car’s records, you find insurance paperwork, grease-smudged receipts, some takeout menus, and info from the previous owner. There’s just one thing missing: the car’s title.
It can be a hassle, and even illegal in some places, to sell a car with a lost or missing title, so you need to know how to handle your business. The Car Bibles team knows a few things about title trouble, and we’ll walk you through everything you need to turn that car into cash.
Note: You Might Not Be Able To
The first thing to know is that it simply might not be possible. In some states like Illinois, a title is required to complete a sale or purchase of a vehicle. The only option is to get a new title, and it is illegal to sell one without the title.
Here’s What You Need To Sell Your Car
To sell a car without a title, you first need to know what documents are required, if it’s even possible. This information is available on the state’s Department of Revenue website or your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Each state has different requirements but typically wants the following documentation:
- A bill of sale. Many states have templates for this document on their website.
- Lien/loan payoff information, if you owe money on the car.
You will also need to confirm if the DMV requires notarized copies of any documents.
Here’s How to Sell a Car Without a Title
Once you know the documentation needed to sell your vehicle, here are the options for the title.
Get a Duplicate Title
If your car is less than 25 years old, you will need the title. The easiest way is to file for a duplicate or replacement. The cost for a duplicate title varies by state, but it’s usually less than $50. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Many states use Electronic Lien and Title processing. If your DMV’s website has this option, you can request a title online and receive it in a few days.
- Some states require you to submit the request in person, provide identification, and prove you own the vehicle. Acceptable forms of identification and proof of ownership usually include your driver’s license, insurance card with the vehicle identification number, or other vehicle registration.
- Finally, some states require holding periods on sales where a duplicate title is involved. Once you receive your title, you may have to wait up to 30 days before selling the vehicle.
Sell the Car Using Only the Bill of Sale
In some cases, you don’t need a title to sell a car. Many states will let you sell a vehicle using a bill of sale if the car is at least 25 years old. If your car meets that age criteria and you live in a state that doesn’t require a title, you’re off the hook!
Selling a Car With a Lien
A lien is a fancy word for security against money owed on an asset. The most common liens are held against installment car loans. But you could also have a lien on your car if you pawned the title. Or, if you live in a state that allows mechanic’s liens, you could have a lien placed on your car if you failed to pay for repair work.
If your car has a lien on the title, you have three options for selling it:
- Sell the car to a dealer.
Car dealers have lots of experience buying cars and resolving title issues. They will also handle the title paperwork and pay off any money owed against the vehicle.
- Go to the lienholder’s office or branch.
If you have a car loan, the title will contain lien information and is usually held by the lender. Find out what they need to release the lien and see if they have a local office. Then you and the buyer can make an appointment to visit that office, sign the paperwork, and transfer ownership of the car.
- The buyer pays off the lien.
If your lender doesn’t have a local office, the buyer can pay off the lien with a wire transfer or cashier’s check. This method is advantageous because the buyer receives the title paperwork directly from the lender, and you receive a check for the remaining amount.
Register the Car in Vermont
Anyone can register a car in Vermont since you don’t have to be a resident. If the car is over 15 years old, you only need a bill of sale and the registration application. Vermont is a non-titling jurisdiction, meaning they don’t issue titles. However, once you submit the paperwork and pay the registration fees, you will receive a valid vehicle registration. Then you can take that registration to your state DMV and obtain a title.
Get a Bonded Title
A final option is to see if your state will provide a bonded title. Also known as a Certificate of Title Surety Bond or Lost Title Bond, this document establishes ownership, allowing the car to be registered and insured. The surety bond assumes liability against any risk relating to the car’s ownership, like an insurance policy. After a time period specified by the surety bond, you can convert the bonded title to a regular title.
Keep All Documents
Dealing with title issues is a pain that can be managed. You have options based on what’s required by your state and the age of your car. Contact your DMV and find out what’s needed to transfer ownership of the car. Then gather all the necessary paperwork. If you already have a buyer for your car, be upfront about the issues and work with them to find a solution to their satisfaction.
Regardless of how you sell your car, keep a complete copy of all the documents. This will protect you from any issues or liability after the sale.
FAQs About Selling Your Car Without a Title
Car Bibles answers all your burning questions.
Q. How long does it take to get a bonded title?
A: The amount of time it takes the DMV to issue you a bonded title depends on their p
Q. How long is a bill of sale good for?
A: The amount of time it takes the DMV to issue you a bonded title depends on their process and how fast they get your paperwork approved. It could take as little as one week or as long as four weeks.
Q. What is title jumping?
A: Title jumping is the act of buying a vehicle and selling it without registering the vehicle in your name. People title jump for many reasons, but mostly to avoid paying sales tax and to avoid the actual title process. Title jumping is illegal in every state.
Learn More About Titles From This Helpful Video Tutorial
There are lots of videos out there about how to sell a car without a title. Not all are reputable, and many are only advertisements for title services. Some videos are also state-specific. This video from Bumper provides a good general overview, but no matter what, you’ll want to contact your local DMV to confirm what you need to sell a car in your state.
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