Buying a Car Without a Title: What You Need to Know | (2024)

You can buy a car without a title, but it should be approached with extreme caution. It involves researching the car’s history, talking to the seller, getting a bill of sale, (potentially) getting a lost title bond, and registering the car in your name.

A title proves legal ownership of a vehicle and is required to register it and purchase

car insurance

. There are legitimate reasons a seller may not have a title—but a missing title is a strong indication that the car might be stolen.

If the vehicle you’re looking at is missing a title, worry not. The car insurance comparison app and licensed broker


is breaking down everything you need to know about buying a car without a title. Here’s what you need to know to make the process as pain-free as possible.


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Can you buy a car without a title?

Buying or selling a car without a title is illegal in most states. And while you’re unlikely to face major consequences for doing so, you’ll encounter a lot of challenges.

Without a title, you can’t register your car, get license plates, or buy

car insurance

—which means you’ll be driving the car illegally.

A missing title could also indicate something illegal in the car’s history:

  • The car could be stolen

  • The seller could be title jumping—meaning the seller’s name isn’t on the title and they’re trying to avoid sales taxes

  • It could be a scam

  • The

    car could be a lemon


  • The car could have sustained water damage and be branded a flood car

Without a title, you’re also unable to take out a traditional

car loan

. Instead, you’ll need to take out a personal loan, which could be a costly endeavor

Key Takeaway Buying a car without a title comes with a host of problems, not the least of which is the car’s legal status.


Does a vehicle’s registered owner need to have car insurance?

Research the car’s history

If you’re still interested in buying a car without a title, you’ll need to do your own research on the car to understand the vehicle history. Here’s where you should start.

Get a vehicle history report

Run the vehicle identification number (VIN) through a reputable site like


or an

NMVTIS-approved data provider

to get a vehicle history report.

This report will tell you the legal title status of the car, as well as any history regarding previous incidents or

insurance claims

. You can use the report to confirm the information from the seller.


What is a CARFAX report?

Check with the DMV

Ask your local DMV to run a search on the VIN to confirm the status of the car. They will not be able to give you confidential information, like the name and address of the owner, but they can verify some vehicle history.

The DMV can also

check if there is a lien

on the vehicle. If you purchase a car with an active lien, you’ll be on the hook for the remainder of the loan agreement. It’s a good idea to contact the seller or financial institution to sort this out before continuing with the sale.

Make sure the vehicle isn’t stolen

Your local police department can run the VIN to confirm that the car isn’t stolen and hasn’t been involved in any illegal activities.

If you want to do this check yourself, run the above NMVTIS report and check the

National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)

. The NICB will verify whether the vehicle has been reported stolen and not recovered or whether it’s been deemed a salvage or junk car by an insurance company.

Key Takeaway If there’s nothing worrisome in the car’s history and you still want to go ahead with the purchase, it will take about 8 to 12 weeks to complete the process.


How to buy a car from a private seller

Communicate with the seller

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller what happened to the title; it’s possible that it was lost or damaged. In this case, the seller can request a duplicate title from the DMV.

To get a replacement title, the seller will need to provide the name and address of the titleholder, the VIN, the car’s mileage, and proof of ownership.

It’s also smart to ask the seller about the car’s history. NMVTIS has a

useful checklist

to review with the seller before you move forward with the purchase.

If the seller doesn’t have the title, they may know how to contact the previous owner. You could also use the DMV to track down the last titled owner of the car. That person may be able to help obtain a duplicate title.

Key Takeaway The seller may be able to obtain a replacement title for the vehicle, which will save you a headache in the long run.


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Get a bill of sale

It’s crucial to have a written record of your purchase, so you will need an ironclad bill of sale. While it doesn’t hold the same legal weight as a title, it will offer some protection.

The bill of sale should include the following:

  • The terms of the agreement

  • VIN

  • Name of the last title owner

  • Contact information for all involved parties

In addition to the bill of sale, you’ll want a clear record of payment that can be proven later, if need be. A check or a bank draft would be a smart choice since these are written records of the purchase.


How to get car insurance before buying a car

Purchase a surety bond title

While they’re not available in all states, you may need to buy a surety bond or lost title bond before you can get a new title. A surety bond proves your ownership and ensures your responsibility for the car, protecting the DMV from loss of the vehicle or potential damages.

To obtain one, find a bond company and ask about their requirements for a lost title bond. The company will confirm the value of the vehicle to determine the amount of the bond, then, you pay a percentage of it. Once you’ve paid for the bond, you can register your vehicle.

Register your vehicle in your name

Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, you can return to the DMV to register the vehicle in your name. You will need to complete the necessary paperwork to ensure that the vehicle is properly registered, and only then will you be able to purchase insurance and drive the vehicle legally.


How to replace a lost or missing car title

Finding cheap car insurance

Now that you have purchased and registered your car, you’ll need car insurance to legally drive and be protected on the road.

An intelligent AI-based tool like


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But don’t take it from us, see what Jerry’s customers are saying!

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Can I sell my car to CarMax without a title?

No. CarMax requires that you have a valid title to sell your car to them.

What to do with a car that has no title

If you are the owner of the vehicle, contact your local DMV to get a replacement title. Apply for a Duplication of Title and provide the DMV with all pertinent information, including VIN, mileage, and proof of ownership.


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Buying a Car Without a Title: What You Need to Know | (2024)


Can you register a car with a bill of sale and no title in North Carolina? ›

Residents who are new to North Carolina or non-residents who have recently acquired a vehicle, must get the vehicle titled in North Carolina before registering it.

Can you register a car with a bill of sale and no title in Illinois? ›

When you register a vehicle in Illinois, you'll need the following documentation: Original title signed by seller. Valid identification. Proof of insurance.

Can I get a title with a bill of sale in Florida? ›

The new buyer can then use the 'Bill of Sale' for transferring title to his or her name and then register the car in Florida. First the seller fills out the Notice of Sale form and signs it. Then, the buyer reviews the form and signs it.

What happens if a buyer does not transfer a car title in California? ›

If the buyer does not sign the title and mail or give it to DVS, then the seller's name stays on the title of the car. If the buyer doesn't transfer the title within 10 days, the car's registration is suspended. What should I do if I sold a car but didn't report the sale? You should report the sale to DVS immediately.

Can you get a title in NC with a bill of sale? ›

North Carolina Car (Vehicle) Bill of Sale

The bill of sale doesn't constitute ownership on its own — only the title can do that. It does, however, provide proof of transfer of the title. This proof is helpful for your records, important for resolving tax issues, and vital for resolving ownership disputes.

How do I get a title with just a bill of sale in NC? ›

Here's how to get a car title:
  1. Go to your DMV with your bill of sale and any other required identification documentation. ...
  2. Buy a surety bond, which ensures your vehicle is clear of any problems, allowing you to be listed as the new owner. ...
  3. Secure a bonded title. ...
  4. Register your vehicle.

How do I register a car without a title in Illinois? ›

How to Get Your Illinois Bonded Title – Bond for Registration without Certificate of Title
  1. Complete an online application. ...
  2. One of our surety experts will contact you with a firm quote and an agreement to sign.
  3. Provide payment and your signed agreement, and then you will receive your Surety Bond!

Can I get a title with just a bill of sale in Illinois? ›

Evidence of your right to acquire a title, such as a bill of sale, receipt or canceled check. If evidence of your ownership is not available, a notarized statement explaining how you came into possession of the vehicle is needed.

How do I transfer a car without a title in Illinois? ›

How to Transfer Ownership of a Vehicle Without a Title in Illinois? If you have lost your vehicle's title, or it has been stolen or damaged, you must request a duplicate vehicle title by completing an Application for Vehicle Transaction. This form is available at your local Illinois SOS office.

Is selling a car without a title illegal in Florida? ›

Before the Sale

Additionally, for a sale to be legal in Florida, the seller must transfer the title to the buyer. If the title was paper, and it has been lost or misplaced, the seller must apply for a duplicate title before selling the vehicle.

Is a handwritten bill of sale legal in Florida? ›

Florida Bill of Sale Requirements

A sample bill of sale is available from the State of Florida, but you are also free to create your own document as long as it includes the required information.

What is the no title law in Florida? ›

A certificate of title in either electronic or paper form is the proof of ownership of a vehicle, mobile home, or vessel in the state of Florida. Most vehicles, mobile homes, or vessels are required to be titled, with the exception of mopeds, motorized bicycles, and trailers weighing less than 2,000 pounds.

What you can do if you sold a car but the buyer didn t transfer the title in Texas? ›

Texas Sellers

liability for the vehicle in the event the buyer does not transfer the title. You only have 30 days to file the Vehicle Transfer Notification to receive this state- guaranteed removal of liability.

Does California DMV require Bill of Sale for title transfer? ›

To take over ownership of a vehicle, you will need:

If the seller is not the owner whose name is on the title, you will need a Bill of Sale signed by both the seller and the person whose name appears on the title. A record of the odometer mileage (if the vehicle is less than 10 years old).

How many days do you have to notify the DMV when you sell your car in California? ›

You are required by law to notify DMV within five calendar days from the date you sell or transfer title or interest in and deliver possession of a vehicle to another owner (Vehicle Code Section 5900).

Can you sell a car without a title in North Carolina? ›

In order to transfer ownership of a vehicle without a vehicle title in North Carolina, you are required to apply for a duplicate vehicle title (Form MVR-4). You are required to have the vehicle's title in order to transfer the vehicle's title.

What is required to register a vehicle in North Carolina? ›

Required Documentation for Registering New Cars in NC
  • Valid photo ID or NC driver's license.
  • Vehicle title that is notarized and signed.
  • Proof of a valid car insurance policy.
  • Completed title application (Form MVR-1)
  • Completed Damage Disclosure Statement (Form MVR-180) if the car is less than 10 years old.
Jun 15, 2021

Is a bill of sale required to register a car in North Carolina? ›

A Bill of Sale is not legally required for selling a vehicle in North Carolina, but it's a good idea to create one for both you and the buyer. The Bill of Sale can be helpful if problems arise when the buyer goes to transfer the title or register the vehicle in their name.

Can you get a temporary tag in N.C. without a title? ›

To obtain a North Carolina Temporary Tag, you typically need proof of insurance, a valid driver's license, and the vehicle's title or bill of sale. Also, keep in mind that North Carolina requires inspection before registration or licensing.

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