Car Loans

Can You Sell a Car without a Title?

By TheCarzingTeam May 17, 2022 | Car Loans

Car Loans

A car owner can sell a car to a dealership or to another individual via a private sale, although selling privately may be a much different experience than simply selling to a dealership. Yet, there’s one important piece of paper that’s involved in both of these automobile sales transactions: the car title.

The car title is often referred to as a car’s birth certificate or passport. Like these important identification documents are tied to an individual, the car title must follow the car with every sale. Can you sell a car without a title? Why is this document so important?

A car title holds the following information about a vehicle:

  • The owner
  • VIN number
  • Make/Model
  • Year
  • The date of purchase
  • Mileage (at the time of purchase)
  • Weight
  • Lien information

The importance of the car title is that it provides all the basic information about the vehicle; this document identifies the vehicle, and the title is passed from owner to owner. Titles also include the names of any lender that might hold a lien on the vehicle. If a car buyer finances their vehicle, their bank or financial institution who holds the loan will be on the title.

Lien information is included to show a lender’s financial interest in the vehicle. The car cannot be sold or legally change ownership until the lien holder is made whole.

Can You Sell a Car without a Title

Why Would a Car Owner Not Have the Title?

There are a number of reasons why a car owner might not be in possession of a car title. The title could have been misplaced, the lien holder might have the original copy or the title could have been stolen.

If a title was stolen, though, this must be reported to the authorities. Since a car title holds the identity of the car, the individual who has the title could use the document nefariously.

After filing a police report for the stolen title, the car owner will need to notify the DMV that the title was stolen. Car owners can present the police report for documentation. The car owner can get a replacement title, and, according to DirtLegal, this voids the stolen title.

While a lost or misplaced title is a concern, car owners might be able to apply for a duplicate car title from their DMV. A car title also could have been destroyed in a fire or flood; the car owner should visit the DMV to inquire about applying for a duplicate title. However, some states explain that “mutilated titles” must be presented and returned.

In the past, the lien holder might have had the original vehicle title. When a loan was paid in full, the title was then sent to the car owner. Some car owners might need to contact an old lender if they believe that they never received the title.

Car titles also weren’t always the norm. Some states didn’t begin to issue titles until the 1970s. These vehicles might not have titles, but car owners need to research what the selling procedure requires for older untitled vehicles. Each state might have different guidelines.

Can You Sell a Car without a Title?

There are a number of reasons why a car owner might be without a title. Can you sell a car without a title? Typically, the answer is no because a title is often required for a legal sale.

If a car owner cannot find the title or if the title has been destroyed or stolen, they need to go through the proper channels to either secure a duplicate title or a new title. While a missing title can be frustrating, most DMVs will provide guidance on what to do. In the case of stolen titles, the first step should be to contact the police, file a report and then visit the DMV for next steps.

An older car that was purchased before titles were issued might lack a title. Before selling older vehicles, car owners need to find out how to legally sell their vehicle. Each state might have different guidelines for older vehicles. However, it is very important that car owners do not engage in selling their vehicle until they know and abide by the correct proceedings for a legal sale.

Vehicles that have been abandoned, however, might require other procedures to procure a title. Again, every state is different. Car owners will need to research what documents are necessary in their state to legally sell the vehicle.

Can You Sell a Car without a Title

Re-Titling a Vehicle

When a car changes ownership, the seller will sign the title, enter the current odometer reading and date the document as part of the sale. This shows that the title is switching hands and ownership. The new owner will then take the title to the DMV to re-title the vehicle in their name.

The back of the car title will have instructions on what to do when signing over a title. Sellers and buyers should follow these guidelines.

When a car owner is providing their car to a dealership as a trade-in, they typically just need to sign the car’s title, enter the current odometer reading and date the document. This allows the dealership to take legal possession of the vehicle.

Titling a new car can be a bit more cumbersome. The dealership will provide the necessary paperwork to the buyer. However, each state might differ in what is needed to title a vehicle. Before heading to the DMV, car buyers should make sure to review any checklist to ensure that they have all the documents they need to title the vehicle.

Some cars also are donated to charity. Regarding the title, the procedure to donate the car to charity is the same as selling the vehicle.

Using Carzing and Titling a Vehicle

Car buyers can use Carzing to find their perfect car. How does shopping for a car online affect the titling process? Is it more complicated?

With Carzing, buyers can search for a vehicle and can use the site to find financing, too. However, shopping online doesn’t and shouldn’t affect the titling process. When a car buyer finds their favorite car (and the best financing for their needs) on Carzing, they can visit a participating dealership to finalize the deal.

At the dealership, when the buyer agrees to the deal and signs all the necessary paperwork, the dealership will provide all the proper documentation the buyer needs to title (or re-title) their vehicle. Buyers need to be sure to keep all these documents together, so they have all the paperwork they need to title at the DMV.

When titling the vehicle, buyers also will need to register it. In some states, registering the vehicle requires the car owner to pay sales tax in full. Sometimes sales tax can be included in car financing, but not always. Buyers need to understand any tax obligations and be prepared to pay these taxes if necessary. In states where sales tax is included in vehicle sales, buyers can talk to the dealership about their options.

Car buyers can rest assured, though, that looking for a car online won’t make their trip to the DMV more complicated when they need to title their car. Car buyers who are concerned about how the process works in their state can visit their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles online to better understand the titling process.

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