Once you decide to sell your car, the transaction requires the transfer of title upon sale. This rule is non-negotiable as only the possession of the car’s title can serve as legal proof of new ownership. But what can you do if the title vanished? If the deal is approaching and you suddenly discover that your title is missing, it’s not a valid reason for the deal’s refusal. The bill of sale can serve as sufficient documentation for the car sale – if you agree that the new owner will get the new title or wait for you to restore yours.
So, you can use a fillable template for your bill of sale and proceed to sell your car; it’s all legal. Here we cover the details and legal intricacies of making such a deal legal and avoiding any possible trouble.
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What Is a Title?
The car’s title is the only legal proof of its legal ownership. It is the document provided by your local DMV with the car’s model, year of manufacture, VIN, and other technical specifications. The title also contains your name on it, proving that you’re the only legal owner of the vehicle. This document serves as a record of vital information about the vehicle’s history, such as its previous owners, a record of suffered damages in car accidents, and ownership change dates.
What Is a Bill of Sale?
A bill of sale is a contractual arrangement between a seller and a buyer completed if the deal is private (i.e., involving no dealers). However, it can only prove the purchase – the transaction performed upon mutual agreement of two parties. If a police officer stops you on the road and asks for documents, the bill of sale won’t serve as sufficient proof of ownership.
The Evils of Title Jumping
As soon as you realize that the title is missing or you come across an advertisement with the seller trying to sell the vehicle without a title, it would be best to consider all legal consequences. First, it is essential to keep in mind that title jumping, i.e., car ownership change without proper title registration, is illegal across the USA. Some unfaithful dealers do this to avoid duplicate taxation or sales fees (especially if they buy a vehicle for a quick resale). Still, you should exercise caution with such instances as you can become an unwilling accomplice in this crime.
The easiest ways to get your title restored include:
- Turning to your DMV for a duplicate title
- Requesting a duplicate from the bank (if your car was bought with a loan)
- Registering the title as “lost” and getting a temporary DMV note about this
But in some cases, restoring the title is simply impossible. This is true for titles of cars over 25 years old, for which many states don’t issue titles at all.
How to Organize the Vehicle Sale Without a Title?
For cases when the deal is underway or you experience trouble with title restoration, you can still organize the transaction without the title at hand.
- If your car is too old, and you want to get rid of it anyway, you can contact a local junk buyer or a salvage yard to negotiate a purchase. Even junk buyers are typically required to accept only cars with titles. But if you can prove ownership in any way other than the title (e.g., proof of registration and license), the deal is possible.
- Selling old cars without a title is also possible if you complete a bill of sale with the buyer. For vehicles older than 1975 (in some states, titles weren’t issued until 1999), the bill of sale can serve as sufficient proof of ownership. Use state-recommended forms and notarize the bill of sale to give it legal force.
- While you’re waiting for the duplicate title, you can organize a legal sale of the vehicle if you complete a Certificate of Title or Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (the names of these documents may vary by state). In most jurisdictions, such temporary documentation can be enough to prove your ownership and transfer it to the buyer.
- In case your title is held by the bank to which you owe money for it (or it may serve as a guarantee for your loan), you will need to contact the bank for the payoff amount first. Once the transaction occurs, you should pay off the loan to the bank, covering the debt and getting your title back for its transfer to the new owner.
Overall, a sale of vehicles without titles is not commonplace, with few buyers ready to undergo the risk of obtaining such a vehicle (even at a super-attractive price). The common suspicion in such cases is that the car is stolen or was involved in some awful car accident with human victims. So, instead of trying to sell your vehicle without a title, you can undertake quick restoration thereof. Turn to a local DMV and file a request for a duplicate title. You can quickly get the duplicate for a small fee, and the procedure of vehicle sale will get much safer and much more transparent for you and the buyer.