The government has its hand in everything these days. Even wild and crazy Harley drivers have to get titles for their hogs in order to stay on the right side of the law. Generally, the certificate of title comes with the bike, and the dealer or the former owner signs it over to a new buyer. But what if you have the motorcycle but you've lost the title somewhere in the recycling pile? Or you find a bike you want to buy, but there's no title to be found? Don't worry. If you've got the bike, you can replace the title.
How to Get a Lost Title for a Motorcycle
You cannot transfer title to a motorcycle unless you have the certificate of title to it. If you've lost or destroyed it, or the owner of a bike you want to buy can't find the title, no worries. All 50 states rarely agree on anything, but most of let a vehicle owner replace a lost title without jumping through excessive hoops. The fast lane to replacing a title opens up before you when you file an application for a replacement title and pay the fees.
Check with you state's motor vehicles office to ascertain the precise forms and signatures required, but generally you'll need to complete an application for a replacement certificate of title. Identify the bike on the application by its license and VIN number. Every owner of record will have to sign the application, and some states require that the signatures be notarized. If the bike has an open lien, the lienholder must sign the application. If you've paid off the lien, get a lien release instead.
Once you've completed the application, turn it in at the Department of Motor Vehicles or your state's equivalent. There's a fee, and it varies among the states. In North Carolina and Michigan, it's $15.
In some states, like Wisconsin, you can replace a certificate of title online and pay the fee with a credit card. You'll get the new title either way, but perhaps not right away. It's typical for states to impose a waiting period before they issue a replacement title. This lets the state make sure that the motorcycle isn't stolen.
Read More: Motorcycle Sidecar Laws
How to Register a Motorcycle Without a Title
In some states, you can register a motorcycle without a title by submitting an application for a new title. This is the case, for example, in California. The California DMV requires that you present a signed-off certificate of title or else a completed, signed, notarized application for a duplicate or paperless title if title is lost. Alternatively, you can locate companies that will get a bonded title for you for a fee if you have sufficient documentation of ownership, like the bill of sale.
You can get a lost title for a motorcycle for a fee by filing an application signed by the lienholder, if any, or all owners, and identifying the bike by license plate and VIN.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.