Is it possible to buy a Vehicle without a Title?

Tags: Project Cars · Shop Management

Be Sociable, Share! and time again I see relatively nice cars up for sale that do not come with a Title. The most disappointing thing is that these cars are often sold for much less then a similar vehicle that has a title.

So, the question is… Can you buy a Vehicle without a Title?

Lets be honest up front.. something that many of these sellers are not being with potential customers an state strictly by the law .. NO

You can not legally transfer ownership of any vehicle in almost every instance without a state issued certificate of title being transferred from the original owner to the buyer.

With that said there are exceptions that we will cover later but it is not a pretty process.

Now it is important to note that there are different regulations for different types of vehicles in many States but most follow this rule.

What about a Bill of Sale isn’t that just as good as a Title?

Many people offer to sell a vehicle with a bill of sale because they lost the title or never obtained one when they purchased the vehicle from the original owner.

The Bill of Sale is only a Statement that covers the conditions of the sale and describes the method of transfer.

Bills of sale will list the vehicle VIN number, Sale Price, Owner and Buyer information and whether the vehicle is sold ASIS or with some type of warranty.

If a Seller does offer a Bill of Sale without a title and you decide to try to Title the vehicle yourself you MUST have a condition that if the vehicle can not be titled in your name and even if the State takes the car that the seller is liable to you for your full purchase price.

Some States never gave titles for very old antique or classic cars

This is true in a handful of states that tied the ownership of the license plate to the vehicle and the owner’s drivers license.

In some states a driver was not issued a license card they were required to carry their license plate between vehicles. As you can assume this was a long long time ago and if ownership of that vehicle had changed back in the 1950’s or later you can expect that most vehicles were then issued a Title that showed proof of ownership.

Why Are Titles Used to Prove Ownership

Titles are one piece of paperwork that shows ownership of a large value item that many of us will own in our lives. Just like a Deed to a home or land or a gold mine this paperwork is registered with the State to reduce instances of fraud and theft.

If you could simply steal a car and offer a Bill of Sale think how easy it would be to get away with it.

What can I do if I really want the vehicle but there is no Title?

The first thing you should insist on is having the current owner go through all of the hassle of obtaining a title.

If they registered the vehicle and obtained a title then the paperwork is very easy and only requires re-issuance of a copy title. The cost for this is minimal and is usually under $100. You can even offer to pay the fee and drive the owner to the DMV if that helps because if you have to do it on your own without a title you are in for a nightmare.

If you decide you want to buy a vehicle without a title, without having the owner get a copy title because they never obtained one before you will have to go through a detailed inspection of the vehicle by your State Police and then have a new title issued in your name.

Normally this type of inspection is not easy and it is not quick. The VIN number will be investigated for historic ownership. And the vehicle will go through a manual inspection that looks for any alteration to the VIN Number Plates. There are more then a few VIN Plates on your vehicle that are hidden and the Police will be able to check these numbers to make sure the visible dash VIN matches all the other VINs.

What about these title companies in other states that do it for money?


There are a few businesses on the internet that use loopholes in State Laws to register vehicles from out of state within their state then send the title to the vehicle owner to be used for registration of a title in their state.

The first thing is everyone at your local DMV knows who these companies are. Many of them .. actually NONE of them investigate the true ownership of the vehicle but they get a title with unscrupulous methods.

In most cases you will actually have to sell your vehicle on paper to this company to allow them to reissue the title in their state in their name then have it transferred to you.

In some cases this may work for you.. but honestly .. its not honest.

How screwed canĀ  I get if I buy a Vehicle without a Title?

Well at the most you could probably get arrested for receiving a stolen vehicle and if you do something unscrupulous to try to get it titled you could face a number of other charges that could land you in jail for a long time.

If the police are understanding you will forfeit the vehicle and everything you paid for it .. and any money or parts or labor you put into it to get it inspectable.

For example lets just see how sad this is .. In one instance there was a guy about 25 miles from my home that wanted to sell a motorcycle with no title. When I contacted him he said it was left there by someone and he had to get rid of it.. ok so would you want someone looking for you to get his bike back after he gets out of jail?

In another instance a family member was trying to sell a classic car that was owned by someone in the military who was serving overseas. So how can you explain this when the guy gets back from risking his life for the country that you bought his baby from his mother who was screwing him over.. you can’t..

It is really a bad idea considering there are a lot of vehicles out there that do have titles and although you may pay 15% more you know the piece of garbage you paid for is now all yours.

Just don’t do this.. it is not worth the time to even think about.

Exceptions to this rule

If you purchase a home or even a storage locker with an abandoned vehicle you can get it titled in your name as an abandoned vehicle. You want the seller to state the vehicle in the sale to you and you want to contact your DMV prior to the purchase.

Garages that have people skip out on cars and walk away from them can often obtain this type of Title.

This is not an easy process and it could openĀ  you to liability to any family or others connected to the vehicle.

Best to not do this unless like I said the vehicle was abandoned on your property and you go through all of the paperwork which may also include the requirement of placing public notices in newspapers for weeks.


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