Everything You Need To Know About Car Titles

Published on
May 18, 2023

Are you about to buy your first car, or maybe you’re thinking about selling your old one? While you’re in the middle of either process, you're likely going to need an essential document–a car title. This piece of paper plays a key role when it comes to doing anything with a vehicle, from the moment you buy it to the day you pass it on.

Let's break down everything about car titles—what they are, the different types, how to get one, and how they can be transferred.

The Basics: What is a Car Title?

Think of a car title, or Certificate of Title, as your vehicle's birth certificate. Issued by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), it officially names you or your business as the proud legal owner of the vehicle. This document is extremely important and you’ll need it whenever you make big changes to your vehicle (i.e., you move from one state to another and you need to change your license plates).

What Information is on a Car Title?

A car title isn't just a fancy piece of paper. It contains vital information about your car, including the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the year, make and model of the vehicle, the license plate number, and your name and address as the legal owner. Some titles might also include any information related to lienholders (loans) on the vehicle.

Types of Car Titles (Title Brands) and How They Work

Here's where it gets interesting. Not all car titles tell the same story. They come in various types, each narrating a different tale about the car’s past:

  1. Clean Title: This is the best type of car title to have. It shows that the vehicle has never been in a severe accident, has not experienced damages or repairs, and is not considered a lemon or a junk vehicle.
  2. Salvage Title: This type of title is given to cars that have been involved in serious accidents or natural disasters and are deemed a total loss by your car insurance company. While these vehicles can be sold, they are often used for parts.
  3. Rebuilt/Reconstructed Title: If a salvage vehicle is repaired to roadworthy condition, it may receive a rebuilt or reconstructed title. These vehicles have been extensively repaired and have passed state inspections.
  4. Junk Title: This title is similar to a salvage title, but is usually reserved for vehicles that are only valuable for their parts and cannot be safely returned to the road.
  5. Bonded Title: This title may be issued if the vehicle's ownership history is unclear or if there's a dispute over the ownership. A bonded title is guaranteed by a surety bond.
  6. Lemon Title: In some states, if a new car has significant issues that aren't fixed after several attempts while under warranty, it might be declared a "lemon" and the title will reflect this.
  7. Flood Title: Vehicles that have been damaged by flooding often receive a flood title, indicating water damage.
  8. Hail Damage Title: Some states issue this title for vehicles damaged by hail.

It's important to know the type of title a vehicle holds, as it can significantly affect the car’s value and safety. Always consider this when buying a used car. When

How to Get, Update, Transfer or Replace a Car Title

You usually receive your car title when you purchase a car at a dealership (it can also be sent via the mail if you buy a car online). You’ll need to go to the DMV to update your title if you move to a new state, change your name, or sell the vehicle. Misplaced your title? No worries. You can apply for a duplicate title through your state's DMV (more on this later).

Transferring a Car Title

Transferring a car title is a rite of passage that takes place when ownership of the vehicle is passed on. Be it selling your car or gifting it to a family member, the process generally involves completing a title transfer form, paying a fee, and submitting the paperwork to your local DMV.

Storing Your Car Title

It’s important to remember that the glove compartment of your car isn't a safe place to keep your car title. Stowing it there is never a good idea. A fireproof safe or safety deposit box would serve as better storage.

Lost Car Title: What Are the Options?

Even the most organized people can lose things. If you find yourself in this situation, there's no need to hit the panic button. Your local DMV is there to help you get a duplicate title.

You'll need to provide certain information, possibly including the VIN, proof of identity, and a small fee. If you've lost your car title or it's been stolen, you'll typically need to provide the following documentation to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV):

  1. Application for a Duplicate Title: This form varies by state but generally requires detailed information about the vehicle and the owner.
  2. Proof of Identity: This could be a driver's license, state ID, passport, or another form of government-issued identification.
  3. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): The VIN is typically found on the driver's side dashboard or inside the driver's side door.
  4. Odometer Disclosure Statement: Some states may require this document, which declares the vehicle's mileage at the time of the application.
  5. Lien Release: If there was a lien on the vehicle and it's been paid off, some states require proof in the form of a lien release.
  6. Payment for Replacement Fee: There is typically a fee for replacing a title. The amount varies by state.

Please note that these are general guidelines and the exact requirements can vary depending on where you live.

Can You Sell a Car Without a Title?

Selling a car without a title can be as challenging as trying to sell a house without a deed. After all, the title is proof that you're the legal owner. However, depending on local regulations and circumstances, it might not be impossible. It's always best to contact your local DMV or a legal professional first before trying to navigate these waters.

Giving Your Car to Your Child

When the time comes to pass on the wheels to your child, you might choose to gift them a car that you already own. This process involves transferring the title to your child, requiring a completed title transfer form, a bill of sale or a gift affidavit, and a trip to the DMV.

Can I Give a Car to My Child Without Transferring the Title?

It's not illegal to give a car to someone without transferring the title, but it can be a minefield of potential problems. If the title isn't transferred, you could still be held liable for any future‌ claims.

Remember, this guide provides a general overview of car titles, but laws can vary by state. Always consult with your local DMV or a legal professional for advice tailored to your situation.

We hope this comprehensive guide to understanding car titles has been helpful. With this knowledge, you're now well-equipped to navigate the difficulties of car ownership, be it buying, selling, or gifting a vehicle. Happy driving!

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What's The Difference Between A Car Title, Registration, And Proof Of Insurance?

The car title is a legal document that establishes ownership of the vehicle. On the other hand, the registration is the process of listing your vehicle with the state for legal operation on the roadways. Lastly, proof of insurance is documentation that verifies you have the necessary insurance coverage for your car.

Can I Get A Copy Of My Car Title Online?

The availability of this service depends on your specific state. Some states do allow you to apply for a duplicate title online. Check with your local DMV or its website for accurate information.

Can You Sell A Car Without A Title?

Selling a car without a title is usually challenging, as the title serves as proof of ownership. However, there may be exceptions depending on your state's regulations. Consult your local DMV or a legal professional to understand your options.

Which States Are Title-Holding?

Title-holding states are those where the lender retains the title until the car loan is fully paid off. Title-holding states include Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan, Montana, and Wyoming.

About the Author: This article was crafted by the LOOP Marketing Team. Comprising of seasoned professionals with expertise in the insurance industry, our team is dedicated to providing readers with accurate, up-to-date, and valuable information. At LOOP, we're passionate about helping families navigate the world of car insurance, ensuring they get the best coverage at the most affordable rates. Learn more about our mission and values here.

For more insights on auto insurance and other related topics, visit our blog.

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