Can a Missing DMV Title Land You in Legal Trouble After Sale?

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? When you are ready to sell your car, the last thing you want to hear is that the title is somewhere you can’t find. An essential part of selling an automobile is getting the title, which acts as proof of ownership and a sale record. The sale or transfer of car ownership is not permitted in most states unless the title is legitimate. People dealing with missing, damaged, stolen, or nonexistent titles still have choices to help them through this tough time.


Is the Title Necessary to Sell My Vehicle?

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? In most situations, you won’t be able to sell your vehicle without the title. Most states mandate that vehicle owners get a new or duplicate title before they can lawfully sell or give away their vehicle. However, there are a handful of states that make an exemption. Problems with the transfer of ownership, jail time, or even criminal fines may arise from trying to sell a vehicle without the correct title or evidence of ownership. Title jumping, the practice of selling a vehicle without the legal permission to do so, is punishable by law in the majority of states. A bill of sale can indicate ownership when selling a vehicle in some jurisdictions, such as Arkansas and Alabama.


Do I Need a Car Title Before Selling a Car?

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? A vehicle’s title is a legally binding document that proves who owns the car. The data it includes is vital for reducing instances of fraud, automobile theft, and other crimes related to vehicle ownership. Vehicle titles can be classified as clean, rebuilt, salvage, or junk, according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Auto titles usually include the following information: year, color, body style, model, original owner’s name, purchaser details, date of issue, identification number, mileage when purchased, license plate number, and the vehicle’s make, model, body style, color, and model.


Methods of Selling a Car Without a Title

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Several alternatives exist for those who need to sell a vehicle but do not have the title:

 1. Obtain a New Title

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Requesting a new title or a copy of your current title from the website of your state’s DMV is usually all needed to get a replacement title. The replacement copy is usually mailed out within a few weeks; however, an application and charge may be necessary.

 2. Finalize the Ownership Transfer

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Transferring vehicle ownership in several states, even without the title, is possible. Even so, the onus for acquiring the title remains on the purchaser, who must nonetheless formally request a copy of the title.

 3. Obtain a Bill of Sale

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Many states allow the sale of specific historic vehicles or those lacking titles through a bill of sale. It is necessary to include the following details when creating a bill of sale: the sale price, the date of sale, the signatures of both parties, and the vehicle’s make, model, year, and VIN.

 4. Get a Surety Bond or Bonded Title

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? If the vehicle’s ownership is questioned, the state and the prior owners can be assured of a bonded title protected by a surety bond. The bond amount varies by area and the car’s value, but it does allow owners to register, get insurance, and sell a vehicle. Remember that bonded titles could restrict your access to certain types of financing.


Common Scenarios Where Car Owners May Lack Titles

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Numerous circumstances may lead a vehicle owner to find themselves without the title to their car. These include:


Classic or Older Vehicle

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Owners of classic or older vehicles may not possess the title, as some states exempt certain aged cars from title requirements.


Loss or Misplacement

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? The title might be lost or misplaced for various reasons, such as relocation, storage changes, or simple oversight.


Title Incompletion or Damage

Can you go to jail for selling a car without a title? Damage to the title or incomplete documentation may render it unusable, necessitating the acquisition of a replacement.


Lender Holds the Title

If the car is financed, the lender may retain the title until the loan is fully paid off.


Title Theft

Unfortunately, title theft can occur, leaving owners without the crucial document.


Improper Title Transfer

In cases where the title wasn’t signed over correctly during a previous transaction, the current owner may not have a valid title.

Given that most states mandate the presence of a title for completing a sale and transferring vehicle ownership, obtaining a replacement or duplicate title becomes imperative when the original is unavailable.


How to Secure a Replacement or Duplicate Car Title

To navigate the process of acquiring a replacement or duplicate car title, vehicle owners can follow these steps:

 1. Gather Essential Information

Collect pertinent information to prove ownership, including the car’s make, model, year, VIN, odometer reading from the title, license plate number, driver’s license information, and any existing liens or loans.

 2. Contact Relevant Agencies

Contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the equivalent agency in your state to understand the specific procedures and requirements. For those with a financed car, it may be worthwhile to check with the loan company, as they can provide a copy of the vehicle’s title.

 3. Complete and Submit the Application

Fill out the application form for a replacement title. You can get these from your state’s DMV website. Submission can often be done in person, by mail, or online.

 4. Payment of Fees

Owners usually pay a fee when applying for a duplicate title. It’s essential to be aware of the fees associated with this process. If applying by mail, be prepared for a potential wait of up to six weeks for the duplicate copy to be processed.

 5. Check State-Specific Policies

Timeframes and requirements for obtaining a duplicate or replacement title may vary by state. Always consult with state and local agencies to stay updated on the latest policies and procedures.


Do you have an old car that you’d like to finally sell but lack the DMV title for a safe and legal sale? Contact Junk Car Dog today and we’ll help you get rid of that eyesore pronto.