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How to Register a Vehicle Without a Title

how to register a vehicle without a title

A vehicle title is a critical piece of paperwork proving ownership of the vehicle. Titles are required when registering your vehicle with your state, which in turn allows you to drive it legally. Usually, purchase of a vehicle includes transfer of the title to your name, similar to the deed during a house purchase. If you’ve acquired a vehicle but for some reason don’t have the title, you have options.

Before we get into the details, know that the best place to start is by visiting your state’s motor vehicles website for registering vehicles as it may quickly answer your questions about obtaining a replacement title or registering your vehicle. If you’re trying to figure out how to register a vehicle without a title, explore these options first.

Contact the Seller

If you purchased your vehicle from a private seller or dealership, contact them to make sure they didn’t inadvertently forget to give you the title. If they have the title, your problems are solved. However, it should be in your name once you purchase your vehicle. Your seller should have a title in their name that they transfer to you once the purchase is complete.

Get a Replacement Title

If contacting the seller doesn’t yield a vehicle title, you may be able to apply for a replacement. You will need to have some sort of proof of purchase of the vehicle such as a bill of sale or a registration card listing you as the buyer. Again, start by visiting the website of your state’s DMV. However, you’ll likely obtain a car title from the clerk of your county of residence.

Look at your state’s requirements when researching how to register a vehicle without a title. Generally, you will need:

  • Proof of your identity
  • Proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale
  • Proof of paid property taxes
  • Proof of inspection
  • No active liens or loans on the vehicle, unless the lender approves the loan

Additionally, most states require the owner on the title record to sign the title application and present identification. But, if the owner can’t appear (for example, they’re incapacitated), they must complete and sign an Appointment of Agent (Power of Attorney) form designating another individual to sign on their behalf. If they can’t sign the form, then their acting agent must sign it for them.

Usually, replacing your vehicle title is around $50-200, depending on your state. It takes about four to eight weeks to process your replacement title, but some states (Michigan, for example) have instant replacement title transactions.

You will also need to provide proof of insurance and may need to have the car inspected. Once you have all of the necessary paperwork, you can take it to your local DMV office and they will help you complete the registration process.

Get a Bonded Title

If you don’t have a bill of sale or other proof of purchase, or you didn’t purchase your vehicle from a seller, you may need to apply for what is known as a “bonded” title. A bonded title serves to protect states against residents titling vehicles under dishonest pretenses and typically remain in place for three years.

Contact your state’s DMV office or search online to inquire about the bonded title application process. You can expect the following general process:

  1. Complete a sworn statement about how you acquired your vehicle
  2. Send the sworn statement and bonded title application to the appropriate office
  3. The state will perform a search to ensure the vehicle is not stolen
  4. The state will figure out the bond amount based on the estimated value of your vehicle
  5. You will be required to purchase a surety bond for the appropriate amount
  6. Finish your application with the surety bond information
  7. Turn all your paperwork into the appropriate office and pay applicable fees

There are a few miscellaneous pieces of information to remember when researching how to register a vehicle without a title. First, you can’t make changes to an existing title — you just have to re-title the car or reassign it. Second, there can’t be an outstanding loan on the vehicle when transferring the title unless the lender approves the transfer. Third, your vehicle’s stats (like odometer and VIN numbers) must match those on the title.

How to Register a Vehicle Without a Title

Once you’ve successfully completed one of these options, you’re ready to register your vehicle. Again, check with your state for specific requirements (New York, for example), but you will generally follow these steps:

  1. Purchase insurance for your vehicle
  2. Fill out a registration application and pay the applicable fee to the DMV, using cash, credit, check, or money order
  3. Receive your documents from the DMV
  4. Get your vehicle inspected (in applicable states)

Need More Information on How to Register a Vehicle Without a Title?

If you’ve run into trouble because of a missing title or registration, or simply have driving-related questions, get connected today with an experienced legal professional.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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