Car Title Missing? No Problem!

A car title verifies ownership, making it easy to sell your vehicle when you want. However, in the absence of a verifiable title, making a sale becomes much more difficult, nearly impossible. Fortunately, there are ways to make a deal without a title in hand. The process involves your state’s DMV along with following the rules they have in place.

car title California

What is a Car Title?

A car title is a legal document that proves ownership of a vehicle. It includes important information such as the owner’s name, the vehicle identification number (VIN), and details about the make, model, and year of the vehicle. When a car is bought or sold, the title must be transferred to the new owner to legally document the change in ownership.

How to Sell a Car Without a Title

Without a title, you may not be able to complete the transaction. To make a deal happen, your state’s DMV offers guidance. Because that information may vary from location to location, the following are general guidelines to help you accomplish a transaction.

Request a Duplicate Title

Oftentimes, the easiest way to secure a title is to work with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). When a title is damaged, lost, or stolen, the DMV will issue a new one. There is a cost involved and if no title is present, you’ll still have to prove you own it. The key here is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which should reveal ownership history. Supply that information and the DMV will search its database to confirm who is the legal owner.

Transfer Ownership

In some states, you can avoid getting a title by transferring ownership to someone else. But all this process does is to pass the burden of getting a title to someone else. Thus, the new owner must still secure a car title to remain in good standing with the DMV.

surety bond

Obtain a Surety Bond

A surety bond can be particularly useful when someone needs to dispose of a vehicle without a car title, serving as a legal mechanism to establish ownership in the absence of the title. In such scenarios, a person can purchase a surety bond from a bonding company, which essentially guarantees the rightful ownership of the vehicle to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The bond protects the state or any future owner of the vehicle against any financial loss resulting from a disputed ownership claim. Once the bond is secured, the DMV can issue a bonded title, which allows the current holder to register, sell, or otherwise dispose of the vehicle legally. This process ensures that the vehicle can be transacted safely, without the original title, while still protecting all parties involved.

Write a Bill of Sale

Creating a bill of sale is a practical alternative when transferring vehicle ownership without a car title. This document serves as an official record of the transaction, detailing the agreement between the buyer and the seller. It typically includes critical information such as the make, model, and VIN of the vehicle, along with the sale price and the date of transaction.

While a bill of sale does not replace the legal standing of a car title, it provides essential evidence of the transfer of ownership and the terms of sale. This can be particularly useful in states that allow for this document to be used in obtaining a replacement title from the DMV, or for registering the vehicle when the original title is absent. Essentially, it offers a legitimate pathway for both parties to finalize the sale and legally transfer ownership despite the absence of the title.

junkyard worker

Send Your Clunker to the Scrapyard

If your vehicle is a clunker with many repairs pending, it may not be worth that much. Indeed, a buyer might insist on a lower price due to its condition. And without a car title, you may find finalizing a transaction a hassle.

Some scrapyards or junkyards accept vehicles without a title. Depending on the service, all you need to provide is your personal identification and perhaps the vehicle registration. Most will pick up your vehicle and some will offer you a small cash settlement to close the deal.

Car Title Considerations

No title? No problem! However, navigating the process of disposing of a car without a title can be challenging. By adhering to your DMV’s guidelines, you can successfully complete the process in accordance with state laws.


Threewit, C. (2022, November 30). How to Replace a Lost Car Title. CARFAX.

Research, H. A. (2024). What Is a Car Title? Everything You Need to Know. Car and Driver.

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What is a Rebuilt Title?

Explaining Salvage Title & Total Loss

Images under license from Adobe Stock.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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