How to Sell a Car Without a Title
So you're trying to sell a vehicle, but don't have a title. Normally, this would be cause for alarm, but sometimes, there's a perfectly logical explanation: the title is lost, stolen or damaged; the vehicle was abandoned on your property, or bills are owed on it; a lender holds a lien on the vehicle; you never titled the vehicle when you first purchased it. Or the car could be stolen, in which case you should report it/turn yourself in to the police as soon as possible.
Even though buying or selling a vehicle without proof of ownership is illegal in most jurisdictions, there are ways to sell a vehicle you don't have the title for. How you go about it depends upon your particular set of circumstances, as well as the state in which you're doing business. Here are a few tips to help you sell a vehicle without a title.
1. Replace the title
Contact your local department of motor vehicles – or the DMV where you purchased the vehicle – and ask how you can get a replacement for a lost, damaged or stolen title. You can also look up the DMV website for details, including the cost of replacement/duplication fees (they usually don't cost a whole lot in the grand scheme of things). Keep in mind that if the odometer reading number or any other part of a title has been altered, the document will not be considered valid by most DMVs and will need to be replaced.
2. Explore alternate titling options
Again, every state is different, but some have ways in which you can title a vehicle that has been abandoned, or that has outstanding repair bills stacked against it. In Virginia, for example, you can file a mechanic's lien for unpaid bills if you provide the proper documentation. You can also file for an abandoned vehicle title – a process in which the state uses the vehicle's VIN to attempt contacting the vehicle's last known owner to give them a sort of right of first refusal.
3. Write up a bill of sale
Some states did not issue titles until as recently as 1975, so a bill of sale may be adequate proof of ownership. If this is the case, check your state's regulations regarding bill of sale presentation. Some states require that sellers use a state form as a bill of sale. Most states have one that you can print out or pick up at a DMV branch, and these are usually preferable to a hand-written bill of sale.
4. Be upfront with your buyer
If you don't have a title and can't get one – this is sometimes the case with older project or parts vehicles – make sure the buyer knows from the get-go that you don't have all the documentation required to make a legitimate sale. If you owe money on the car, most lenders will require that you pay off the note before they will release the title. However, you may be able to arrange a transfer through the lender if the buyer is willing to pay off or pick up your payments.
5. Get a notary
Some states require that a bill of sale be notarized, but it's not a bad idea in general. Having a state official witness the signing over of a vehicle's ownership can legitimize the transaction. Again, regulations vary from county to county and state to state. Make sure you know which laws apply to you.
6. Keep copies of everything
Even after you have sold the vehicle and it's long gone, make sure you keep copies of all paperwork associated with ownership. You can't be sure that the new owner will title the vehicle, and you don't want to be held liable for anything that might happen involving that vehicle in the future. Also, if there are ownership questions later on (if you're contacted by someone making an abandoned vehicle claim, for example), you'll have your bases covered.
7. Notify your state of the sale
Make sure the state in which the vehicle was titled knows that you've sold it. Notify the DMV as soon as you've signed the bill of sale. This way, you will avoid assessment of further taxation and fees.
8. Register your vehicle in Vermont
This is a secret weapon for the title-less, but only for vehicles that are 15 years or older. Vermont wants (no, needs) your money, so if you provide a bill of sale and the fees and taxes the state requires for registration, you can get your vehicle registered there. Since Vermont requires only registration as proof of ownership for vehicles older than 15 years, that document will work as proof of ownership in the other 49 states. The bill of sale can be typed or handwritten and it doesn't need to be notarized. All you need is the vehicle identification number, purchase price and date, and buyer and seller details. If your car is newer than 15 years old, this won't work. But you should probably have a title for it anyway.
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