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How to sell your SUV or truck without a title

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If you want to sell your SUV or truck, but can’t find the title, don’t worry. You don’t have to be stuck with that outdated piece of 1990s engineering for the long haul.

Granted, it isn’t legal to sell a vehicle in most states without proof of ownership, which is the primary purpose of a vehicle title. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to sell your SUV if its title is MIA. With the following steps being the most widely utilized.

1. Trade the vehicle in for something else

If you live in a state that participates in an Electronic Lien and Titling (ELT) system, you won’t need a title to trade in your SUV or truck. In these states, car dealerships can access the ELT system on their end to verify ownership and then transfer everything over.

ELT “equipped” states make for a far more convenient selling environment, as they do not require you to replace your title. This is particularly useful when selling to a private party. Just note that if you plan to sell your SUV or truck to a private party, you will need to take steps to get a duplicate title, or apply for a bonded title.

2. Check whether you’re required to even have a title

In certain states, vehicles that are older than 15 to 25 years won’t be issued a title. For example, Vermont doesn’t issue titles for vehicles that are older than 15 years.

If you live in a state in which your SUV or truck is considered exempt from titling, you will only need to create a notarized bill of sale to transfer ownership of the vehicle. However, this is only true in a select few states, so you should check your local laws to see whether it exempts older cars from titling requirements.

3. Apply for a duplicate title

If you’ve misplaced the title to your SUV or truck, you can apply for a duplicate title at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. The DMV office will provide you with information about the required steps for applying for a duplicate title. If the vehicle was stolen, you will need to bring a bill of sale to show your proof of ownership to the DMV at the time of for a duplicate title application.

If you apply for a duplicate title, you will need to gather the following documents to take down to the DMV:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Bill of sale
  • Year, make, and model of the vehicle
  • Financing info (if any)
  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of current address

4. Ask for a lien release

If you don’t have a title because you are still paying on your auto loan, you will need to contact the lender. Explain that you want to sell your SUV or truck, and ask for a lien release along with the title to the vehicle.

5. Apply for a new title if necessary

If you plan to change the status of the title, you’ll need to submit documents to ask for a transfer of ownership. To apply for a new title, you will need the original bill of sale showing that you purchased the vehicle, along with a new bill of sale proving that you are selling it. If the vehicle was abandoned, the DMV will try to find the most recent owner of the SUV or truck and confirm your sale prior to issuing a new title.

6. Apply for a bonded title

If you haven’t been successful at obtaining a duplicate or replacement title, you might apply for a bonded title. To get a bonded title, you will need to post a cash bond equal to your SUV’s fair market value through a bond company. The rules for bonded titles vary from state to state, so you check with the DMV in your state to learn what applicable laws apply.

A bonded title guarantees that you are the rightful owner of your vehicle. If a former owner comes forward later and claims to still own the SUV, they can file a claim against the title bond. The bond company will investigate and pay the claimant in full if it determines their claim is valid, and you will then need to repay the bond company. To get a bonded title, go to your DMV and request the appropriate paperwork and instructions.

7. Create a bill of sale

When you prepare to sell your SUV, you will need to create a bill of sale. Check your state’s DMV website to see if it includes a template you can download and print, and if not, you can always create your own.

On a bill of sale, you will need to include the following information:

  • Your SUV or truck’s year, make, and model
  • Your SUV or truck’s odometer reading
  • Vehicle identification number
  • Your current address
  • The name and address of the buyer
  • Notarized signature

8. Sell your SUV

To sell your SUV, you will need to fill out the information on your title correctly. If both you and a co-owner are listed as registered owners, you’ll both need to sign.

However, if your title uses “or” instead of “and” between the names of the registered owners, only one of you will be required to sign to release your ownership interest in the SUV or truck. You’ll need to write in the odometer reading as of the date you sell the SUV, and get both you and the buyer to sign to verify the mileage. The buyer’s name, address, and license number will need to be included as well prior to their signing.

Finally, you will need to accurately write the date of the sale and the sales price of the SUV or truck in question.

Final thoughts

It can be frustrating to discover that the title to your SUV or truck has been lost or damaged. Especially when it comes time to sell.

However, it’s not impossible to get a duplicate, new, or bonded title so that you can place the vehicle for sale. Just know that the process can take several weeks, therefore it is a good idea to move quickly and plan ahead so  that you can get your title in time prior to the sale.

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