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Can you sell a car without a title?

There are a lot of reasons you might find yourself wanting to sell a car without a title. Sometimes, the title might be lost, stolen, or damaged. In rare situations, you may be trying to sell a vehicle that was abandoned on your property or an antique vehicle that hasn’t been registered in years.

If you purchased a vehicle from someone using cash and they didn’t provide you with a title, that’s a different story. It’s possible the vehicle was stolen, which means you should report it to authorities as soon as possible.

So, can you sell a car without a title? You can, but you may eventually need a title to make your sale legitimate. In the meantime, you should brush up on why a title is important, the role it plays in the sale of your vehicle, and how you can get one.

Why is a vehicle title important?

A title is a legal document that says a person or business has rights to a piece of property. If you bought your car with a car loan, the company that lent you the money should have your title, which can state that the company has a lien on the vehicle. This means they have certain rights to the property if you fail to make payments on your loan.

To sell your car legally, you could need to release ownership of your vehicle by signing the title. You can then send the title to the buyer or the company that provided them with a loan to buy the car.

Is it illegal to sell a car without a title?

Without a vehicle title, you have no way to prove you’ve obtained the vehicle legally and have a right to sell it. Whenever a vehicle is sold, each buyer must fill out and sign the title properly to prove ownership.

Buying or selling a vehicle without proof of ownership is illegal in most places. It is also illegal to leave a title open — this is known as “title jumping.” It happens if you buy a vehicle, don't put your name on the title, and then sell it to someone else. Legally, there is no trace that you ever had the car in your possession. These laws are in place to make it more difficult for car thieves to steal vehicles and sell them with no paper trail.

Tips for selling a car without a title

Even if you don’t have a title on hand for your vehicle, you may still be able to sell it. You may just have to get a new title for the vehicle first. There are a few ways you can obtain a copy or replacement of your car title. In rare cases, you may be able to have a new title created if one does not exist. If you're trying to sell an old or antique vehicle, you may even be able to sell it using a bill of sale.

Contact your lender

Some car owners believe they don’t have a title for their vehicle, but this is only because they don’t have it on hand. If you took out a loan to buy your car and you’re still paying it off, your lender should have the title to your vehicle.

If you’re ready to sell your vehicle, you can do so even if you don’t have the title at home. You can even sell your car if you haven’t paid off your loan yet.

Contact your lender to ensure they have the title. You can also ask them how much more you owe on your car loan. You may need to sell the car for that amount or more to be free of your debt.

Once you find a buyer for the vehicle, you can sell it and send the remainder of your loan payments to the lender. The lender can then send the title to either the buyer or the buyer’s lender.

Replace the title through the DMV

If you fully repaid your car loan or bought your vehicle using cash, you should have the title at home. That said, accidents do happen.

If your title is simply lost, stolen, or damaged, you can get a new title by contacting your local registry of motor vehicles. This may require a fee, but it is usually affordable.

Once you have your replacement title, you can sign it to release ownership of your vehicle and sell it to whomever you choose.

File for an abandoned vehicle

Some states allow you to obtain an alternate title under rare circumstances. For example, if a vehicle was abandoned on your property, you may technically own it but not have a title.

When this occurs, the registry uses the car’s VIN to attempt to contact the last known owner. If they are unable to, or if the owner refuses to take responsibility for the vehicle, you may be able to obtain the title and sell it yourself.

Sell an older car using a bill of sale

If you find yourself in possession of an antique vehicle or an older vehicle that hasn’t been driven in many years, you may have no way to track down the title. Some states didn’t issue vehicle titles until the late 20th century. In some circumstances, you can sell such a vehicle with a simple bill of sale.

Contact your local vehicle registry first to determine if a title can be located. If not, the registry may be able to provide you with a bill of sale to sell your vehicle.

Manage all your vehicles with Chase Auto

If you're a Chase customer, you can manage all your vehicles directly through the Chase Auto website. You can even get the estimated value of your vehicle before you sell it, which can help you negotiate better on the sale price.

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