How to Title a Barn Find the Right Way

We’ve all been tempted at times to restore a classic or rescue a vehicle from the local barn. Looking for these barn find cars is part of the fun in the process. You don’t have to actually discover them in the barn, however; any local field will work just fine as well. The trouble comes when you attempt to title a barn find. Many people don’t know where to start.

The reality is that most of these vehicles don’t have a title. They’ve been sitting in that barn for twenty, sometimes fifty years. They’ve been lost and forgotten about, but not anymore. It is possible to learn how to title a barn find, after doing a little homework.

Before we move on, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t find these cars anymore. They are everywhere; you just have to do a little digging. Turn off freeways on your GPS and head out into the country for a little ride. You’ll be amazed at the things you find.

What is a Barn Find?

The first thing we must do is take a minute and define what a barn find actually is. It’s the car you stumble upon that has no title. In addition, you aren’t the legal owner and you might not know how to find them.

The legal owner might be entirely out of the picture with a barn find. Maybe they’ve abandoned the car or they’ve passed away; we don’t know. The point I am getting at is that the person may not be reachable.

If instead, you find a car on someone’s property and they agree to sell it to you, this is also considered a barn find. The truth is, it’s better. As you see in a minute, it’s much easier to title that car than the one that doesn’t have an owner.

Is a Bonded Title the Answer?

This is where everything gets a little tricky. While each state has different laws, some states like Florida require that you bought the car from the legal owner (or you are the legal owner) to file for a lost title. With that said, physically possessing a vehicle technically makes you the owner in the eyes of the law, unless someone has proof that they own it instead.

Therefore, if you possess the vehicle and can’t find the owner, and nobody contests it, your state sees you as the owner and you could get a bonded title.

If you choose to go this route, here are the steps you’ll want to take to secure a bonded title.

1. Attempt to Contact the Owner

Every effort should be made to contact the legal owner first. It is often illegal to skip this step.

2. Purchase a Bond.

First, the DMV will run the VIN to ensure the car isn’t stolen. They will also perform a title search. Then, the vehicle must be appraised for its value.

You need to purchase a bond that is about one and a half times the appraised value.  This number does vary by state, so make sure you follow all local rules.

3. File Paperwork

You’ll have to fill out some paperwork and then turn that bond into the state where you want a title. If that paperwork is correct, you’ll receive a title.

How does this work? Basically, the bond covers the state in the event that the real owner comes back and wants their car. The bond gets paid out to the owner and the state isn’t held liable for giving away their car.

How to Avoid the Hassle Entirely

To title a barn find the easiest way, you’ll want to get in contact with the owner. Having the title or registration from them and a bill of sale makes the entire process much smoother.

If they had the car titled or registered at one time, they could apply for a replacement title which takes far less effort and time than a bonded title.

If the seller states that they will provide you with a title, but you never get it, don’t turn over the money. Wait until the title is produced. This is a common scam on sites such as eBay and Craigslist. One of our writers was even a victim of this scam. Don’t become a victim.

Make sure you get as much paperwork as you can. Get a notarized bill of sale or have the seller register it first if they are in a non-title state. That registration can be used to title your vehicle if needed. At very least, you need to document how, when, and where you came into possession of the car to the best of your abilities.

Title Recovery Services

Of course, if you can’t find the owner but find it impossible to resist that barn find, you always have Title Gods on your side. The first thing we recommend doing is running a title check, so you want to ensure that there isn’t already a title floating around out there. We can do that for you.

Your state isn’t going to issue two active titles, but if the car hasn’t been registered in five to seven years (time frame varies by state), the records have probably been purged.

Why to Title a Barn Find With Title Gods

We know how hard it is to walk away from a hobby that provides hours of adventure and excitement. If that barn find is calling your name and you need help, we are here for you. We’ve completed this process too many times to count.

Our first step would be to ensure that the car isn’t stolen. We would need the VIN from the chassis, not the engine since that might have been swapped out at some point.

Then, we investigate the title and determine if the owner is reachable. If it’s not stolen and doesn’t currently have a title, we can help you get the car registered. You’ll just have to fill out all the required paperwork. Then, it will need an inspection from the state or licensed repair facility as per your DMV regulations.

Once the paperwork is complete, we apply for registration. The DMV runs the VIN again and if everything looks good, you become the proud new owner of a barn find. All you’ll have to do is use that registration to get the title and/or re-register in your state.

Been there, done that? What’s the best barn find you’ve ever owned? Was it worth the effort to get a title? We would love to hear your stories.


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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