The owner of an old car may have misplaced or damage the title. If the car is in roadworthy condition, however, it probably has good title. If it is not in roadworthy condition, it may have been issued a salvage title, which means that it cannot be driven on public roads unless clean title is restored. As long as the car has good title, however, replacing the title document is a relatively simple matter.
Inspect the surface of the car for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This is a 17-digit identification number that is engraved somewhere on the car, depending on the car's make, model and year. It could be anywhere on the car, from the steering column to the motor.
Conduct an online check of the VIN (see Resources section) to confirm that it has not been issued a salvage title. An online VIN check will also tell you if the car has been reported stolen and if anyone holds a lien on it.
Read More: How to Get Titles for Old Cars
Navigate to the website of your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and download an application for a replacement title. You will be required to provide identification information about the car, including the VIN. You will also have to obtain the signature of a representative of any party, such as a bank, that holds a lien on the car. Some states issue a separate release form that a lien holder must complete.
Locate the damaged title certificate (unless the title has been lost). This should be returned to the state DMV office.
Make out a check or money order for the replacement title fee.
Take the damaged title (if it exists), the application for replacement title, the lien holder's release form and the required filing fee to the state DMV. A replacement title will be issued in the name of the current titleholder. You may also mail in these documents, and some states allow online applications for cars that are not subject to a lien.
Have the current owner transfer the title to your name, if you are not the owner of the car.
- Don't drive the car before you obtain a replacement title, because some states will fine you for doing so even if you can prove that the car has good title.
- If the car has been issued a salvage title, check your state's DMV website for procedures on issuing a rebuilt title. You will be required to prove that the car has been restored to roadworthy condition.
David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.