10 Top Tips to Avoid Car Title Trouble

Your car title is an important legal document that establishes ownership over your vehicle. It’s issued by your state and is required for registration. It must be stored appropriately for safekeeping, but there are many other unexpected things that could happen with a car title. We’ve gathered this list of ten title tips that will keep you out of car title trouble and help keep everything running smoothly.


1. Get a Title When You Buy a Vehicle

We can’t stress enough how important it is to buy a car that has a title. If you don’t receive one, you’ll have to jump through a lot of hoops to get one. Until then, there’s no guarantee that the car is legally yours.

Before you turn over the money, make sure you look at the title. If they don’t have it, it’s possible the seller has a loan on the vehicle which hasn’t been paid off yet.

2. Avoid Title Jumping

If you buy a car with the purpose of reselling it, you might be tempted to forgo signing the title in the interim. This is called title jumping, and it’s dangerous and illegal. Many states will fine you or imprison you for this activity. It’s just not worth it, and it’s the quickest way to land yourself in a heap of car title trouble.

3. Update Your Address

If you move, it’s vital that you report your new address to your state’s DMV. Many states have laws regarding the time frame you have to do this, so be sure to figure out what that timeframe is.

You will likely have to pay some fees when changing the address on a car title, but it’s important that you keep this information up-to-date. Without your proper address on file at your DMV, you won’t receive important notices like registration renewal requests.

4. Selling Your Car? Keep The Plates

It might be easier to leave the plates on a car you sell, but doing so could cost you. Imagine what might happen if that car got a ticket down the road. That’s right: you would be liable for the fine.

Make sure you remove your car’s license plates at the time of sale. Then, you can put them on your next vehicle and save yourself some money. Furthermore, it will motivate the new owner to get registration right away.

5. Don’t Lie about the Selling Price

When you list the selling price on the title and bill of sale, don’t lie. You may want to save on taxes and fees, but it’s a felony to provide a false selling price on either of these documents. We don’t think that saving a few bucks is worth time in the slammer.

6. File a Release of Liability After the Sale

After you sell a car, most states require that you file a Release of Liability within a few days. Doing this protects you from any injury, property damage, or lawsuits resulting from the new owner’s use of the vehicle. It also helps to protect you from impounding, parking tickets or any other liability which would formerly have been yours to bear.

With a ROL, you aren’t subject to waiting for the new owner to title the vehicle; you’ve already made it clear to the state that the car is no longer yours, giving you an extra layer of legal protection against car title trouble.

7. Take Proper ID to the DMV

After waiting forever in your local DMV office, the last thing you want to find out is that you don’t have the right ID. Check online before you go and find out what’s required of you. It’s guaranteed that you’ll need your driver’s license, but sometimes they want you to prove residency as well. That’s why it’s helpful to keep a copy of a utility bill or similar mail with you when you go.

If a second person’s name appears on the title, you will want to take them along as well with proper identification. Some states allow you to provide their information without them in attendance, but not all states do. Check your local guidelines first.

8. If a Duplicate Title Has Been Issued, Use It

Remember my horror story about the van I bought? Had I known there was a duplicate title out there, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Any time an original title is illegible, destroyed or lost, it becomes void. Then, a duplicate title is issued. If you end up finding the original after the duplicate has been issued, you MUST destroy it. Don’t try to use it or you will cause a lot of title trouble for yourself.

9. Get Your Ducks in a Row

If you plan to sign a title for someone else, you better have the right paperwork that authorizes you to do so. This may include power of attorney paperwork, probate court documents, or an inheritance affidavit.

If you don’t submit a certified or verified copy of the required documents, you can assume the title will not be processed. Save yourself some time and make sure everything is in order before attempting to get the title signed over.

10. Sign Your Documents

How many times have you submitted paperwork or a check and forgotten to sign it? It happens to the best of us. Before you attempt to transfer a car title, you’ll want to make sure that your signatures are in the right places.

If you attempt to turn in a title that wasn’t properly signed, you might find yourself in a jam. You only want to sign the title in blue or black ink and make sure the signature matches exactly what’s on your documentation. If you’ve recently gotten married, double check that you used your most recent legal name.

Use These Title Tips to Save Time and Money

Some of these title tips might seem like common sense, but it’s vital to follow them anytime you are dealing with buying, selling, or transferring a car title. The smallest mistakes often lead to hassles you don’t want to deal with. At Title Gods, we are equipped with the tools to handle any title issue, but we would rather know that you don’t need our services for things you can do yourself. Take your time to ensure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed to avoid headaches in the future.

If you have any questions, lost the title to your car, or are facing any other title-related issue, give us a call.


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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