Home » Articles » Titles » How To Get A Title For A Motorcycle
Whether you’re buying or selling a motorcycle, or as an individual or business owner with a motorcycle in your possession, you’ll need to get it titled. If you’re trying to figure out the steps to get a motorcycle title, we’re going to cover what the difference is, and how you can get a title for your bike if you need one.
Motorcycles and cars are both types of vehicles, so the only difference between a motorcycle title and a car title is the type of vehicle. A motorcycle title identifies the owner of the motorcycle along with the motorcycle specifications, VIN, and lienholder(s) if applicable. A motorcycle title can be transferred just like a car title.
So if the two titles are the same, why is it more challenging to get a title for a motorcycle rather than a car or truck?
The reason that it’s more challenging to get a title for a motorcycle is because of the VIN placements on the vehicle. The VIN (vehicle identification number) is a 17-character string that identifies the specific vehicle. No two vehicles will have the same VIN. In most cars and trucks, there are about 14-15 different placements where you’ll find the VIN. Oftentimes the VIN can be found on the cowl, door jambs, and in other hidden areas around the vehicle.
However, motorcycles are much smaller vehicles than cars and have less surface area to place the VIN. Many motorcycle VINs can be found on the forks, neck, close to the handlebars, somewhere on the frame, or in older models on the engine. The DMV recognizes that all motorcycles have different VIN placements so the process to verify that VIN is much more scrutinized which can cause the process to take longer than usual. In older Harley Davidson models, the VIN is located on the engine which makes it easier for auto thieves to swap a stolen body with a new engine and VIN.
To get a title for a motorcycle, first, gather all of the ownership documentation you can obtain.
The easiest way to transfer a motorcycle title is to have the prior title signed over to you by the registered owner. At the time of purchase, make sure that the seller signs the back of the certificate of title over to you before you hand them payment. Additionally, make sure that the seller is the registered owner by checking their photo ID and comparing that to the name on the title.
Once you have the certificate of title signed properly by the registered owner, take the title to the DMV along with your state title application and fees to obtain a new motorcycle title in your name.
If you do not have the prior title, you should first make all attempts possible to get it and proceed with the traditional title method. If you aren’t able to obtain the prior title, here are some ways you can still get the motorcycle title you’re looking for:
Prior owner contact
The first method to try is to contact the prior owner and ask them to apply for a duplicate title and then sign it over to you. If you know the prior owner and they’re willing to help, this is a great method to use to be able to have a traditional title transfer. Once a duplicate title is issued, it becomes the only valid certificate of title for the vehicle and can be used in a transfer.
If you don’t know the prior owner, you can submit a DPPA request to your state DMV. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) prevents motor vehicle and driver records from being public information. This means there is no public database for vehicle ownership. Because of the severe privacy standards of the DPPA, not all requests are granted. If you’re having trouble contacting the prior owner of your vehicle, our title experts can help bridge that gap.
Learn more about our prior owner search contact service.
A bonded title can be obtained if you have a car with no title and limited documentation. The bonded title process requires the vehicle owner to purchase a surety bond for the vehicle which typically is under $100. The surety bond allows for protection for the lender if someone else were to prove ownership of the vehicle or otherwise invalidate the bonded title. Once you have your bonded title, you can register the vehicle at your local DMV. Be sure to check your state laws as not all states accept bonded titles.
The Vermont loophole has been used for years as a way for vehicle owners to get a title for a vehicle over 15 years old. Vermont is a non-titling jurisdiction, meaning they do not produce titles for vehicles over a certain year. The loophole is that just about anyone, not just residents of Vermont can use this method if they have a bill of sale and a car over 15 years old. By registering your 15+-year-old car in Vermont, the registration itself is the state’s version of a car title for that age of vehicle. After you register your car in Vermont, you can then transfer the registration to a title in your home state.
Court order title
If all else fails, your county court may be able to help. A court-ordered title is a very valuable method to get a title. It may take some extra steps, but once you have a court order from a judge that declares you the owner of the vehicle, the DMV is required by law to issue you a new title in your name. Use this method as a last resort as the courts will likely require you to attempt to get a title using other methods first.
There are many ways to get a title for a motorcycle, the best way for you will depend on the evidence of ownership you have. Before applying for a title, make sure you have all of the required documents for your title method and your state.
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