Time Needed: <20 minutes in most cases, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: $25-50
Few things in life are more annoying than trying to keep track of all the physical documents today’s adults need. Home-related documents, health-related documents, and yes, auto-related documents. Beyond the simple joys of making noise and annoying the neighbors, owning a car is serious business and will unfortunately require you to keep track of several pieces of paperwork, including its title.
Your insurance and registration information should be kept in your vehicle, and we assume you have a driver’s license somewhere in your life, but your car title is the single most important official record in the bunch. It proves that you own the car and is the quickest and easiest way to show ownership. You’ll also need it to sell a car.
Losing a car title isn’t the end of the world, but you’ll want to request a new one as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at the simple process of getting a replacement car title.
What Is a Vehicle Title?
A car title is a legal document, issued by your state, that proves ownership of a vehicle. Titles typically contain identifying information on the vehicle, such as the VIN, make, and model. It also contains the owner’s information, such as name and address. Depending on the type of vehicle, there may also be a gross vehicle weight rating or other information on the title.
It’s also important to note here that the title status is listed. This is important, because it can tell you if a vehicle is salvage or rebuilt, which are things you’ll want to be aware of, especially if you’re buying the car.
Also remember that there’s technically a difference between a “clean” title and a “clear” title, though you’ll likely hear both used interchangeably. Clean means the car hasn’t been in a wreck that has totaled it. Clear means that there is no debt against the car.
What You’ll Need To Replace a Title
You won’t need any tools or parts to get a replacement title, but you will need a few documents:
- Prior loan documents if you financed the car. This can help you prove ownership, if required
- Your driver’s license and the licenses of any people listed on the title as an owner
- Cash, check, or credit card to pay the replacement title fee
The Task: How To Replace a Lost Car Title
Fortunately, it’s super easy, and barely an inconvenience. Let’s get after it.
1. Gather documents.
While getting a replacement title isn’t the end of the world and it certainly isn’t the most difficult thing you’ll undertake this year, you’ll need to get everything in order before you head out to get a new title. Before your state will issue a new title for your vehicle, you may be required to prove that it’s actually yours, which can involve loan documents from before you paid the car off or other documentation like a bill of sale. It’s best to check with your local DMV to see what they require or accept in order to drop you a new title.
You’ll most likely need the vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number), so be sure you have that handy before starting the request process. States can make their own rules, but in most cases you’ll need the names, dates of birth, and drivers license numbers for all parties listed on the title as an owner of the vehicle.
2. Apply for a new title.
Depending on where you live, the process of applying for a new title might look a little different, but the steps are broadly the same across the board. While some states offer online portals with the ability to request a replacement title, some may require an in-person application. You will probably need to pay a fee, the amount of which varies from state to state, but in many cases it’s around $50 to get a new title.
3. Be aware.
Understand that this process may look drastically different for you if you’re purchasing a car and need to apply for a title up front. You may need to work with the previous owner to obtain documentation, so while it’s possible to buy a car while waiting on a title, it’s best to have everything in-hand before starting. You can do this by having the seller obtain a title and sign it over to you when it arrives, or you may have the ability to use the court system to obtain a new title. However, the easiest and best way to buy a car is to have the title when you pay for it.
It’s also important to remember that older vehicles may not be eligible for online services and may not need a title at all. In Maine where the author lives, for example, the online portal cannot be used for vehicles made before 1994 or for vehicles owned by a company. The local DMV will have the answers.
FAQs About Car Titles
We can’t read your mind, but we want to try to answer any questions you have before you start the job. We’ve selected common points of confusion from our experience, as well as commonly asked questions from popular search results. We answered those questions below.
A. In most cases, you can expect a new title in the mail within a couple of weeks after your application. That said, the world is an uncertain place right now, and short-staffed state offices may take longer than usual.
A. The answer to that question depends on where you live. Some states do not require titles if a vehicle is more than 25 years old or so, but the age differs from state to state.
A. No, you will not be able to transfer ownership to another person without a title in hand. The same goes for buying a car, as you should never agree to buy a car without some sort of solid, verifiable way to get the title.
A. Your lender usually holds the title until the vehicle is paid off, at which point they mail it to you. This is because the lender (bank, credit union, etc.) technically owns the car until you’ve satisfied your obligation.
Watch This Helpful Video Tutorial on Replacement Car Titles
Click the link below to watch an informative video that shows you how to replace your car title. Keep in mind, though, that this tutorial is specifically for Virginia. The process may be different in your state, but many of the steps will likely still apply.
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