How to Get Titles for Old Cars

A VIN, a car
••• car crash image by dawn from

If you've misplaced your old car's title when you need to sell it, or if you need to know if a car you're buying has a salvage title or junk title on it, you can resolve both issues easily enough. If you're selling and the car has one of these brandings, also known as "damaged title," there are steps you can take to clear the title again.

Look through the lower right corner of the windshield to read off the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number that's bolted to the dashboard.

Conduct an online check of the VIN (see Resources) for any outstanding liens, a salvage title or junk title. Insurers and law enforcement officials can brand a car a "salvage title" if it's considered a total loss, for example, after a wreck. A junk title is when a body shop or similar business reports to the DMV that the car has been dismantled or reassembled from different parts.

Read More: How to Get the Title for an Old Car

Pull up your local Dept. of Motor Vehicles site if you lost your title. Download an application for a replacement title. You'll need your VIN for this. You'll also need the signature of any lien holders, like the lender of your auto loan.

Deliver the application to the DMV in the manner instructed on the form. Some states allow online applications if there's no lien.

Eliminate a salvage title on a car you already own by providing documentation to the DMV that you've restored your car to roadworthy condition.


  • The title information on a car you're buying will also help you avoid "curb stoning." This is when a car is too inferior to be sold on a used car lot. (The better cars on the lot make the inferior car too unappealing for the price.) The owner has a salesman advertise it privately, as his own car. The title will still be in the used car dealership's name.

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