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If you’re trying to buy or sell a used vehicle without a title, you may be wondering how to proceed with the transaction. 

Yes, a no-title car can add some additional steps to the sale, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker. 

However, there are some things we should take care of first:

  • You shouldn’t try to sell vehicles that you don’t own. 
  • You shouldn’t buy a vehicle from someone who doesn’t own it.
  • Always double check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle regulations before proceeding with a private sale of a vehicle without a title. 

Whenever you’re getting ready to buy a used car, you should order a vehicle history report and check whether the vehicle has been reported stolen with the VIN.

Buying & Selling Used Cars without a Title

If the title of a used vehicle for sale is missing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the car cannot be sold. 

However, depending on the state you live in and the circumstances regarding the sale, registering a vehicle in your name without a title to transfer can be a little trickier. 

First, let’s go over the best option here. 

The best option for buying and selling a vehicle without a title is to first apply for a duplicate or replacement title. 

In some states, you can submit a signed Application for a Duplicate Title and Transfer of Title at the same time. For states that offer this process, the appropriate form would need to be completed by both the buyer and the seller and submitted to the DMV. 

Your other options for registering a vehicle without a title include:

  • Obtaining a Surety Bond and Bonded Title. 
  • Using the previous registration documents and the Bill of Sale. 
  • If the vehicle qualifies, you may be eligible to register it in a no-title state and transfer it. 

State Regulations for Vehicle Titles

State laws and processes regarding registering and titling vehicles without a title vary.

In some states, vehicles of a certain age or type are exempt from titling laws. In some states, titles were only issued as of 1975. 

Some of these types of vehicles may not have ever been titled by the DMV in the first place. This is most common for older vehicles and classic cars. 

In these cases, a Bill or Sale, the old registration documents, and any other ownership paperwork should allow you to title and register the vehicle in your name. 

Other states may require you to obtain a Bonded Title. 

In most states, a VIN verification will also typically be required for no-title vehicles. 

What if you have a Bill of Sale, but no title?

A Bill of Sale acts as proof of the transaction. It documents which vehicle was sold, on what date, for how much, and which people were involved. 

A Bill of Sale is an important document for both the buyer and the seller in any private vehicle sale. 

If you have a Bill of Sale, but no title, your next steps to register it will depend on the state you live in and the age of the vehicle. 

In most cases, a Bill of Sale on its own is not enough to transfer ownership after buying a vehicle

How to Get a Title From a Bill of Sale

There are 3 main options for obtaining a title from a Bill of Sale:

  1. Get a surety bond and apply for a bonded title. 
  2. Use the Bill of Sale and old registration papers or other ownership documents to register the vehicle if it qualifies as a title-exempt vehicle. 
  3. Register the vehicle in a no-title state, if it qualifies. 

Again, the best option would be to have the seller obtain a duplicate title before the transaction takes place. 

To get a Bonded Title, you’ll typically need to:

  • Go through the DMV to begin the process of obtaining a surety bond. 
  • Obtaining an appropriate surety bond that confirms that the vehicle is clear of any liens or other issues in the DMV database. 
  • Applying for a title that will carry a bonded title status within the specified time frame. 

With the bonded title in your name, you’ll be able to register the vehicle in your name.

If the vehicle is old enough, you may be able to register in with just the Bill of Sale and previous registration documents. This will depend on your state’s regulations. 

Finally, your last option would be to register the vehicle in a no-title state that accepts out-of-state resident registrations. One example of a state like this would be Vermont, which does not title vehicles that are over 15 model years old. 

In any case, you should always do your due diligence when buying a car from a private seller

If you’re selling the car, your best bet for a quick sale and a higher price would be to get a replacement title first. You can find more tips on selling your car here. 

When you buy a used vehicle, be sure to be prepared to satisfy the other requirements for registration, including: