Selling a Car Without a Title in Four Steps

Selling a Car Without a Title in Four Steps

There are many details to have in order when it comes time to sell your car, truck, or SUV. 

First, you'll want to take care of any needed repairs and give it a good wash and vacuum. 

Next, you'll want to determine a fair price by using various research tools like Kelley Blue Book or the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), which both offer guidance. 

Then, traditionally, you have to take photos, post advertisements, and field phone calls from prospective buyers. Lastly, there's plenty of documentation you'll need to sift through, like the title, registration, and providing a bill of sale to the new owner. 

But what about an untitled vehicle? Can you sell a car without a title? That seems like a steep hill to climb when you're trying to convince someone to spend their hard-earned money. 

Let's explore the various ways you can sell a car without a title across the country. 

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Step 1: Understanding car titles

Though titles vary from state to state, the information they provide is broadly similar. There are four types of car titles: clean, clear, salvage, and rebuilt or reconstituted. 

A clean title indicates a particular vehicle has never suffered an accident that resulted in an insurance company declaring it a total loss. 

A clear title signifies that the seller owns the car outright, and a lienholder or lender holds no liens. 

Vehicles with a salvage title have been determined to be a total loss in an accident or heavily damaged. 

A salvage-titled car rebuilt into roadworthy condition receives a rebuilt or reconstituted title. 

Every title provides the following information: vehicle, specifications, and owner.

The vehicle field lists essential information like the make and model, VIN, and color.

The specifications listed on a vehicle's title are the ever-important mileage on the odometer and the license plate number. The owner information is self-explanatory, with the current owner's name and address printed.

Given the importance of the data that a title provides, it's easy to understand why they're required to sell a vehicle in many states. However, if you live in certain states, several methods are available to sell your car without the title.

Step 2: If possible, get a duplicate title

If your vehicle title was lost or damaged, the best option is to obtain a new one. If you own your vehicle outright, you can contact your local DMV and apply for a replacement title. But if you're still making payments to a lender, they'll need to be contacted to provide a copy. 

When applying for a new title with your state's department of motor vehicles, be sure to consider processing time. If you live in a state that uses Electronic Lien and Title processing, or ELT, you can have your car on the market within days. Using ELT on a DMV's website, you can request a digital copy via the internet, print it out, and be good to go. 

However, if the state you reside in uses traditional methods, such as mailing out a new physical title, you could be waiting weeks before receiving it. Additionally, some states require holding a title for 30 days before selling a car.

Whichever method you use, your new title will replace and cancel out the previous one. If you happen upon the old one, it's best to dispose of it because you can no longer use it. 

Though selling a used car takes a lot of time and energy, Shift makes it smooth and uncomplicated. You can complete the process online, entering the year, make and model, and mileage, and instantly receive a purchase offer that's valid for seven days. Whether you're selling an SUV or an electric car, Shift makes it easy.

Step 3: Find local exemptions

If you're having trouble obtaining a title, several states have additional methods and exemptions. 

One example is Virginia, where abandoned vehicles can be titled. 

The state's DMV will contact the last owner using the vehicle identification number – or VIN – and give them the first chance to claim it. The DMV permits the applicant to title or sell it if they don't claim the vehicle after a specific timeframe. 

When it comes to older cars, say 15 or older, various states won't issue a new title, such as Vermont. Instead, these states use a bill of sale form which allows the new buyer to register the car. 

If your state doesn't utilize bills of sale, you can find templates online or even draft your own. A bill of sale has similar information to a car's title and gives the new buyer security in knowing the details of their new purchase. Though not always a requirement, it's good to use a notary. Notarizing a bill of sale will further affirm its correctness.

Another way to sell your used car to a new buyer is to transfer ownership, which is available in certain states. There are some caveats, though. Keep in mind that you must apply for a title to transfer ownership. And in some jurisdictions, a valid inspection is required as well. 

When you sell a used vehicle, how can you know you're getting a good price? Shift assures you you're getting a fair offer. Shift bases its offers on powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data, beating out dealerships in the process. So whether you're selling a compact or an SUV, you can trust Shift to give you a good price.

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Step 4: Explore selling options

If there's simply no way to sell your used vehicle due to title issues, consider doing business with a salvage yard. The owner of a salvage yard should be familiar with local rules and regulations and may purchase your vehicle if you provide adequate proof of ownership.

Using this method, you don't have to take pictures, post advertisements or deal with buyers over the phone. If you're out of options, selling to a salvage yard isn't a bad idea.

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Selling a vehicle without a title: Summing it up

A title is an integral part of car buying and selling. The information it provides serves as proof of ownership and helps ensure the accuracy of the vehicle's odometer. 

But as necessary as a car title is when you sell a car, it is possible to do so without one. It just depends on which state you live in, the age of the vehicle, and whether you're willing to do the legwork to obtain the necessary documentation.

When it’s time to sell your used vehicle, Shift goes above and beyond to give you the best service. If you live in one of Shift’s many service areas, a concierge will travel to your door, inspect your used vehicle, and if everything's in order, will make an offer on the spot. This is just another way Shift makes selling your used car easy.

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Author
Shift Editorial Team