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Bought A Car Without A Title? Here’s What You Need To Know

If you bought a car without a title, or you’re unsure if your vehicle has a title, it’s important to get this resolved immediately. In most states, like Texas, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle without a certificate of title. Additionally, some vehicles that were repaired are not eligible for a title. Vehicles that have parts from a nonrepairable or floor damaged vehicle are not ever eligible for a title, even if the vehicle runs just fine. What is a vehicle title and why is it needed?

What is a vehicle title?

A vehicle title is a document produced by a government agency that assigned ownership of a motor vehicle. The certificate of title is only produced by a government agency and cannot be obtained from other sources. Obtaining a certificate of title in your name doesn’t just protect your vehicle, but it protects you from someone fraudulently applying for your vehicle’s title. If it’s your vehicle, your name should be on the title. When a vehicle is sold, the seller is responsible for signing over the title. If the seller cannot produce the title at the time of purchase, this should be a red flag. Sellers that are not willing to at least show you the physical title at the time of purchase may have something to hide about the vehicle. While this isn’t always the case, it’s possible that the seller is trying to sell you a vehicle that they know is ineligible for a title.

Why are some vehicles ineligible for a title?

Some vehicles are simply ineligible for a title. Vehicles that are ineligible for a title are those that have been recorded in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) as junk, parts-only, or non-repairable. This doesn’t just include whole vehicles, but parts that are from a junk or non-repairable vehicle have serial numbers that are also found in the NMVTIS. Each state has slightly different rules that dictate which vehicles are eligible for a title, here are some common scenarios where your vehicle may be ineligible for a title:

  • The VIN is entered into the NMVTIS as junk, parts-only, or non-repairable.
  • The vehicle is missing or stripped of its motor, body, or frame (disassembled vehicles).
  • If the vehicle is unsafe for on-road operation.
  • If the vehicle is assembled, built, or constructed from the body of a non-repairable vehicle or flood-damaged vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is assembled using electrical components from a flood-damaged vehicle.
  • If the vehicle was built with non-standard parts.

What to do if you have a vehicle without a title?

If your vehicle doesn’t have a title, the first step is to check your VIN against the NMVTIS database. If your VIN is found in the database, your vehicle is ineligible for a title. Depending on your situation and the vehicle condition, you may be eligible to reassign a VIN to the vehicle after inspection. Websites like specialize in helping vehicle owners reassign a VIN to ineligible vehicles.

If your vehicle is not found in the NMVTIS database and all of the parts are eligible for a title, the first step would be to contact the seller for them to transfer the title to your name. If the prior owner is not located or willing, there are additional methods to obtain a legal title. Your vehicle will likely require an inspection by a government agency like the DMV or state police, but it’s not impossible to get a title in this situation. Depending on the paperwork you have for your vehicle already, you may be able to obtain a bonded title with a surety bond or use an out-of-state title method like the Vermont title loophole. When purchasing a vehicle, a best practice is to always get the title signed over at the time of purchase. Make sure to do your due diligence when purchasing a vehicle to avoid being left with a pile of metal and no vehicle title.

Have Title Questions? Talk to a Car Title Expert.

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Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. If it’s your car, you deserve a title.

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