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How to Sell a Car Without a Title: Everything You Need to Know

Deciding to sell your car can be very stressful because selling a vehicle is an entire process that contains multiple steps. You need to determine the value of the car, take great pictures of it, deal with various different estimates from both resellers and dealers, and also meet with prospective buyers.

And even though all of this may not sound too bad, it becomes more stressful when you realize the amount of paperwork involved. But at the end of the day, it’s a process you need to go through. And if you know what to do and what documents you need, it isn’t as hard as it seems.

While you do need to have a lot of different documents, the most important one to have is the car title. This piece of paper proves that you own the vehicle you’re trying to sell.

But what happens if you don’t have that title? Read on to find out how to sell a car without a title.

So, What Is a Car Title?

A car title is a legal document that is issued in the name of the person who bought the vehicle and it proves that person is the car’s owner. The title certificate often comes with a watermark and is filled with information about the car.

When you sign off as the original owner of the car, it’s one of the ways you can ensure the car is legally transferred from one person to another.

There are four different types of car titles:

  • Clean title. This title proves that the vehicle in question has never been in an accident that caused the insurance company to declare it as a loss.

  • Clear title. A document that proves that the person on the title owns the vehicle outright.

  • Salvage title. When a vehicle is heavily damaged or was proven to be a loss by the insurance company after an accident, it is a salvage title car.

  • Rebuilt/reconstructed title. After a salvaged car has been rebuilt or reconstructed, it receives a special title.

On each type of title, you will find information about the owner, the vehicle, and its specifications.

Can You Sell Your Car Without a Title?

To sell a car, you will need evidence of ownership. And since in most cases the title is used as evidence of ownership, this begs the question: Can you sell your car without a title? Luckily for you, the answer is yes.

For everyone who wants to know how to sell a car without a title, the simplest solution would be to go to your local DMV. There, you should request a duplicate title. But sometimes not everyone has the option to do that, whether for a lack of time, resources, or any other reason.

If you live in a state that has an Electronic Lien and Title (ELT) Program, you won’t need a title to trade in your car. The dealership you go to will simply access the ELT system to confirm you are the owner of your car, complete the sale, and transfer the ownership.

But if you opt for a private party sale, it will take a bit more time and effort to transfer the ownership. You will have to go through all the steps that are required to sell a car without a title.

How To Sell a Car Without a Title

If you want to sell a car without a title, there are three different methods you can use.

Apply for a new title

It can’t be denied that having a branded car title makes it easy to sell a car. If possible, try to get a replacement title before you negotiate a sale. Keep in mind that in some states you will have to hold your title for at least 30 days before you transfer the ownership.

If you decide to apply for a new title, here’s what you need to do:

  • Gather proof of ownership. If you still have your bill of sale, it will work as adequate proof. If you don’t, check which documents your state accepts as legitimate proof of ownership.

  • Go to the DMV website. Each state has a different process for getting a replacement title, so go to your state’s DMV website and visit their title replacement page. Here, you will find all the procedure-relevant information you need.

  • Check if you need a title to transfer ownership. In certain states, you as the seller can transfer ownership of the car to your buyer. You will still need to get a duplicate title, but the buyer can operate the vehicle until it arrives.

  • See if you have access to express services. Some states offer express services. You can pay to have your title printed immediately instead of waiting for one to two weeks of processing time.

  • Go to the DMV with all the necessary documentation. Before you visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles, check to see what documents you have to bring. This may include your registration, ID, and your vehicle registration number.

  • Pay the fee. You have to pay a duplicate title fee for your title copy which will depend on the type of vehicle and the state you’re in. It can range between $10 and $80.

  • Fill out a bill of sale. If you haven’t already, create a bill of sale with all the necessary information and give it to the buyer. But make sure to make a copy for yourself.

  • Complete the transfer section. Your replacement title will have a transfer section on the back. Make sure to fill it out before giving it to the new owner.

Sell your car with a lien

If you have a car with a lien, you can have the buyer pay off your remaining loan and give the rest of the money to you. If you choose this option, here is what you need to do:

  • Determine how much money you need to pay. Get in touch with your lien holder or lender to see how much money you owe. If you owe more than the value of the car, you will need to cover the difference.

  • Explain the process to the buyer. Not a lot of people have purchased a car with a lien. Your potential buyers might be confused about it, so you can talk them through the process to ease their minds. You might consider selling your car to Orthodox Auto Company as a licensed dealer will be familiar with the process.

  • Set up an escrow account. If the buyer’s worried about how safe the sale is, you can set up an escrow account that will guarantee they’ll get a refund if the sale falls through.

  • Ask the lender to give you documentation. After the sale is complete, ask your lender for a written statement that will prove the loan has been fully paid off.

  • Tell the lender where they can send your title. Your lender will release the vehicle title to you once the loan is paid off, so make sure to give them a mailing address where they can send it. If possible, ask for the title in person. Once you have it, you can send it over to the buyer.

Selling a title-exempt vehicle

Some states don’t issue titles for older vehicles and all that’s needed for the transfer of ownership is a bill of sale. Check if your state is one of those, and do the following:

  • Notarize your bill of sale. While not all states require a bill of sale to be notarized before registering a car, doing this will help add legitimacy to the bill of sale.

  • Fill out the title exempt form. Check your local DMV’s website to see what you need for a title exempt form, fill it out, and pay all the applicable fees.

  • Confirm the buyer can register the car if they live out of state. If your buyer is from a state that requires titles for older cars, see if you need to provide them with any other documentation that they might need.

What To Do If You Lose Your Title

A lost title may seem like a nightmare; but if it happens, it’s not the end of the world.

If you lose the title after the vehicle was already titled to you, it’s a simple process. All you have to do is apply for a replacement of your lost title at your local DVM and go through the steps we already described. Just show the proper documentation, pay the fee, and you’ll have a new title.

However, it becomes more complicated when you lose the title of a vehicle you bought before you transferred it to your name. If that happens, you would lose the title that showed you legally own that car. But there’s no need to panic as this can still be resolved.

The easiest way to replace a lost title in this situation is to contact the previous owner and ask them to get a replacement title. Once they do that, ask them to simply sign it over to you when it arrives.

If the previous owner doesn’t want to do that, you can get a court order. If you get a court order that includes the year, make, and vehicle identification number of the vehicle, it will count as a car title.

Another method you can use is posting a security bond. If you have an older car that still holds value, you can get a security bond from a bonding or insurance company. After keeping the bond in place for three years, the state will issue you a title certificate.

Finally, if you have an old car that isn’t valuable and you simply want to get rid of it, you can still sell it even if it’s an untitled vehicle. Simply look up “cash for junk cars without title near me” and you will find a place that will be willing to buy your car without worrying about your lost title.

The Bottom Line

A car title is an integral part of selling and buying a vehicle as the information on it proves that you as the seller are the rightful owner and can legally transfer ownership of the car. But even though it seems like the title is a necessary part of the process, it doesn’t have to be.

When you decide it’s time to sell your used car, don’t panic if you realize you lost your title. There are many ways you can go about getting a new one, or simply sell the vehicle even without the title. Even though it’s a slightly complicated process, it’s nothing to worry about because it’s a problem that can be solved.


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