The steps required to get a title for a vehicle without one will vary based on where you live, but you'll need to obtain a title before you can register the vehicle. Some states are stricter than others when it comes to obtaining a new title. In California, for example, the last person to have their name on a title must be tracked down before a vehicle can be registered if there is no current title, and the new owner must present a bill of sale for each person who bought the car until it arrived in his possession.
Obtaining a Bonded Title
In many states, if a title cannot be located, a bonded title can be obtained instead. A bonded title is a way of proving that you are invested in owning the car and are willing to take the time and pay the money to obtain a surety bond to prove ownership. To obtain a bonded title, you must first check with the DMV to see if there are any liens against the car.
Next, find a surety bond company to find out what you need to get a lost title bond in your state. Then get a vehicle valuation performed so you and the bond company will know how much the bond should be for. At this point, you will need to purchase the title bond, which you can then use to register the vehicle.
Read More: What is a Bonded Title?
Can You Register a Vehicle That Is Not in Your Name?
If a vehicle title in someone else's name has been signed over to you by the previous owner, then you can register the vehicle at the same time that you transfer ownership. If the title has not been signed over to you, you will need to have a way to get the title in your name, whether that means providing evidence that you inherited the vehicle with paperwork from a probate court or going through the same process for a bonded title. Your situation will be guided by your state's DMV policies, so if the title has not been signed over to you, check with your local DMV or a local AAA office.
Can You Register Your Car Without Insurance?
Whether you can register a vehicle without insurance will depend on what state you live in, but most require proof of insurance before they will register a car. Minimum insurance requirements vary by state and once registered, some states will suspend your registration if your insurance lapses, others will not. New Hampshire is the only state that does not require all drivers to have car insurance, so they do not require proof of insurance when registering a vehicle.
Can You Sell a Car if You Lost the Title?
Depending on your state, you may be able to sell a car if you've lost the title, but doing so will require the buyer to go through the challenges necessary to obtain title. If you ever had a title for the vehicle, you can obtain a replacement title more easily. While the process is a little different in each state, it generally requires filling out a form and paying a processing fee. Taking this step before selling your vehicle will likely increase the sale price, as the buyer will not have any questions about the legitimacy of the sale and will not have to go through the process of obtaining a title.
If the value of the car is so low that obtaining a new title seems like too much effort to go through before selling, or if you live in a state, like Idaho, where it is illegal to sell a car without a title, many auto salvage yards will buy vehicles without titles, which are unnecessary for junking a car.
How to register a vehicle without a title varies by state, but in many cases you will need to find the last person to hold a title for the vehicle first.
- State of California Department of Motor Vehicles: Vehicle Registration and Title Information
- Your Mechanic: How to Buy a Car Without a Title
- Douglas County Kansas: Can I Register a Vehicle Even if my Name is Not on the Title?
- State of Connecticut DMV: Adding, Dropping or Changing a Name on a Registration and Title
- DMV.org: Registration & Insurance
- New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles: Vehicle Registrations
- Nerd Wallet: States Where You Might Not Have to Get Car Insurance
- Infinity: Replacing a Lost Car Title
- Junk Car Medics: How to Sell a Car Without a Title
- Idaho DMV: Top 10 Title & Registration Tips To Avoid Trouble