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.
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.
- car crash image by dawn from Fotolia.com