Buying a car is almost always not as simple as walking into a showroom, finding a car and signing some papers. It is recommended that you seek out a dealership or private seller first to ensure your experience is a smooth one. If you’re dealing with a private seller, you can also research the car’s VIN before deciding to buy it.
Did you know that you can also buy a car even if it has no title? This is not always a cause for concern, as long as you get a bill of sale and bond. Untitled cars are often offered at cheaper prices, but are they worth the extra money?
Why are car titles so important?
A transfer of title is essential for complete ownership of the vehicle, and it is often a simple process. According to Nexstar NewsNation, the seller will fill in the appropriate sections of the headline and put your information on the back. After that, you and the seller will draft a bill of sale together.
This typed or handwritten contract should include your name, date of sale, and some information about the vehicle itself. Some states require more information on this bill of sale than others, so contact your DMV for guidance.
You also need a new title application, which can be found on the DOT website for your state. Once you’re done, bring it along with your bill of sale to the DMV and pay the required fee. Allow a few weeks for your new title to arrive in the mail.
In some cases, title transfers can be a bit more complicated. For example, you’ll need permission from a lender when you’re trying to sell a car that you haven’t fully paid off yet. Some states, such as West Virginia and Maryland, also require the bill of sale to be officially notarized.
Can a car be registered without a title?
Your local DMV won’t allow you to register a car without a title, so be prepared to do some extra legwork. First, get the car’s VIN and confirm that it has a clean vehicle history report. If everything checks out, you can ask the seller to request a duplicate title from the DMV.
Only a handful of states do not require a title to register your car, and only under specific criteria. For example, vehicle titles are optional in Vermont if the car is 15 years old or older.
The risks of buying a vehicle without a title
Unfortunately, it is later discovered that many untitled cars have been stolen. Before buying an untitled car, run its VIN in the NICB database. Never work with a seller who refuses to provide a VIN or hides it in photos.
Car titles also indicate whether a vehicle has a current lien. In some states, such as New York, a lien release document must be attached to the title before the owner can resell the car. Without the presence of these documents, you risk having your vehicle repossessed in the future.
Any vehicle that has extensive flood damage will likely receive a salvage title. A private seller may claim that he has lost title to avoid disclosing this knowledge to the buyer.
Be careful if the seller sells the car for much less than the vehicle’s current value. Flooding can cause serious damage to a car’s electronic and mechanical components. Even if the seller cleans it first, the car will usually have a lingering smell or signs of rust.
Also be aware that buying a car without a title is illegal in some states. Even though the purchase itself is not explicitly illegal, it is illegal to drive without registered license plates (which can only be issued by the DMV). If you absolutely must have an untitled car, find out about your local laws and proceed with caution.
RELATED: How to Sell a Car Without a Title