Update: We also wrote a post you can read about transferring your car title.
Selling a car without a title can throw a kink in the works of what is typically a straightforward process of selling your car.
If you discover you’ve lost your car’s title, don’t panic! All states have a process for declaring your title lost or stolen and applying for a duplicate title. Some states have a process for selling your vehicle to a private owner without a title. And if you’re hoping to sell your vehicle to a car junker for cash, a title may not be necessary at all. Many car junkers are willing to buy junk cars with no title (although you’ll need to present other documentation to prove that you own the vehicle).
Want the skinny on how to sell a car without a title? Here it is:
- Speak with the person or company you want to sell your car to and ask them their process for buying cars without a title.
- If they tell you their process, follow the steps they outline and you should be all set.
- If they tell you they are unable to buy your car without a title then move on and call the next company until you find someone that lays out a process, which typically includes having a registration and license in lieu of the title.
We have more details about selling a car without a title below. Do you have anything to add? Drop us a line!
What is a car title?
A car title is a legal document that proves you own a vehicle. In some states it is referred to as a pink slip (not to be confused with the things used when people get fired from their job). When you purchase a car, you get the title from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. When you sell a car, you transfer the title to someone else. Titles are issued for all kinds of vehicles, including trucks, RVs, motorcycles and motorized boats.
There are different kinds of titles. A car that’s never been severely damaged has a “clean” title. If the vehicle is totaled (severely damaged in an accident and deemed not worth the price of repairing it), it will receive a “salvage” title. If the vehicle was declared totaled after an accident, but someone chooses to rebuild it, the car receives a “rebuilt” or “reconstructed” title before it is sold. This ensures the new buyer knows the vehicle was once declared undriveable and underwent major repairs.
Can you sell a car without a title?
When you sell a used vehicle, you’ll need to present the title to the new owner. They’ll need it for two reasons. They’ll want to see the title so they know the car really belongs to you (i.e., it wasn’t stolen) and you have the right to sell it. Giving them the title also allows them to transfer the car to their name. That ensures they can show they legally own the car and have the right to do with it as they please.
If you’re planning to sell to a private party or licensed dealer, you will almost certainly need a title. (There are a few states that don’t require a title to sell to a private party, but that’s rare.) If you don’t have the title and are planning to sell your vehicle to a car junker for cash, it’s possible you don’t need a title. Here’s what you need to do to sell your vehicle if you don’t have title in hand.
How to sell a car without a car title
It’s possible you don’t have the title at home because your bank has it. When you take out a car loan, the bank owns that vehicle until you pay them back. As a result, they keep your title until it’s debt-free. If that’s the case, check with your bank and find out their process for transferring the title to the person purchasing your used car.
If you’re planning to sell your vehicle to a car junker for cash, it’s entirely possible you don’t need a title. We pay cash for junk cars with no title upon occasion. Many other car junkers are willing to offer you cash for cars with no title; instead, they’ll take a valid registration and driver’s license. Check with a local or national car junker for more information on their requirements.
If you’re selling your car to a private person or dealer, chances are you’ll need to file for a lost title, get a duplicate title or jump through other hoops before that person takes possession. We have more about that below.
How to file for a lost title or get a duplicate title
The requirements for filing for a lost title and getting a duplicate title vary widely from state to state. It’s a good idea to check with your state’s DMV office to find out how you get a new title.
Here are a few examples to demonstrate the vast differences between states:
- The process for getting a duplicate title in Missouri is straightforward. You fill out a form and mail it in with your payment. In some cases you may need to send in a second notarized form, but that’s it. If you haven’t heard back from the DMV in two weeks, you can file an inquiry to find out where you application is in the process.
- If you need a new title in New York, you first have to figure out if the car was ever issued a title. Cars sold before 1973 may only have a registration. Then you have to fill out the proper form to get a new title. In some cases it is possible to sell a car in New York without a title. In that case, the buyer and not the seller may be responsible for applying for the new title.
- Oregon has an interesting policy that allows you to sell a car and apply for a new title at the same time – but only if the vehicle is not subject to certain odometer requirements and at least one current owner will remain on the title. If neither of these conditions are met, the owner must apply for a replacement title before they sell the car. Oregon also notes that they will not issue a replacement title if you know who stole and currently has possession of your title.