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I lost or replaced my car title, what should I do?

December 12, 2019

I lost or replaced my car title, what should I do?

If you own a car that is paid off, you would have been issued a car title by a lienholder, which in most cases, is a financial institution. For some first-time car owners, they might not realize how important it is to keep an official copy of their car title in a safe place. Papers can easily be lost or thrown away, thinking that a car title is just another piece of paper. A piece of paper might not seem so important at first until you need to sell your car. You then find out that you cannot legally transfer ownership of the vehicle to the new owner. A car title is the best document to prove that you legally own the car.

Why cars are issued a title

A car title is a proof that you legally own the vehicle. When you have the title in your legal position, you can sell, trade, or register the car in any state. When you sell a vehicle without transferring the title, the buyer cannot legally take possession of the vehicle and register the property in his or her name. The car is still legally owned by the seller. Losing the title to your vehicle can make selling your vehicle very difficult. However, it is possible to sell or buy a car without a title, but it should be approached with caution if you don’t want to get into a dispute over who legally owns the vehicle.

If a car title is that important, how do I get a replacement?

If you recently lost the original title that was issued to you, you can quickly get a copy from the department of motor vehicles (DMV). However, the process of getting a car title copy can vary between states. Before driving to your local DMV to request a title replacement, you should call and inquire about the proper documents to bring to show that you legally own the vehicle. Typically, the DMV will have you fill out an application to request a duplicate copy and pay a fee.

Here are is a list of documents that the DMV may request from you before issuing a duplicate title.

  1. Vehicle title
  2. Driver’s license
  3. Lien release
  4. Affidavit or facts

What happens if I cannot find documents to prove that I legally own the car?

If you cannot find documents to prove that you own the vehicle, you could consider going back to the dealership or private seller to request them to sign over the title to you. That is if the dealership is still in business or if you can find the individual seller. This makes replacing a title very difficult because you need the title to show that the seller legally transferred the vehicle to you. In such a case, you would need first to get a court order that awards you the title of the car. This does sometimes happen, especially if the owner of the vehicle is a spouse who died, and you might want the vehicle. In other cases, you might need to put up a title surety bond. A title surety bond allows the vehicle owner to claim ownership and register the vehicle when the title has been lost, stolen, or missing. A surety bond guarantees ownership to a state’s DMV, which is used to re-establish a person’s ownership of a car.

If you need your vehicle’s title because you’ve lost or misplaced it, give our Certified Field Agent specialist a call to see how we can help you retrieve a copy. Call us at 714-632-3480 to discuss how we can help you.