Damaged Car Title: What Should You Do Now?

Life is full of unexpected moments. Maybe you are working on that sweet muscle car you just bought. You haven’t transferred the title yet, but you have every intention. Then, disaster strikes! You leave the car title inside the vehicle and find out there’s a nasty leak. Guess where it leaked? Yup – right on your title. Now what? Thankfully, there are ways to deal with a damaged car title. Here’s how.


What Should You Do With a Ripped Car Title?

Your car title is merely a piece of paper. It’s not bulletproof. In fact, one mishap can easily cause a tear right through it. That’s why it’s not unusual for people to end up with a ripped car title. If this happens to you, don’t panic.

Don’t grab the tape just yet! If you have a torn car title, take the title to your local DMV office and show it to them. Most of the time, if they can see that the title fits together and is what it says it is, they will issue a duplicate title straight away.

Here’s the tricky part. If you haven’t transferred the title into your name yet, you have a bigger problem. You will need to convince the previous owner to file for a duplicate title and then sign it over to you again. Sounds simple, right? Not usually. Most people don’t want to be bothered with your problems, so they aren’t going to volunteer their time. Of course, you could offer them a little something to make it worth their while.

If all else fails, you’ll have to look into getting a bonded title. This can be a complicated process but it might be your only option.

Car Titles and Wite-Out

You might not think that fixing a few errors on your car title with Wite-Out would be a big deal, but it is. This official document is not to be tampered with in any way. If you make a mistake while filling out your title during a sale, you cannot use white-out to fix the mistake or you will void your title.

If you already used Wite-Out on your car title, you will need to request a duplicate title through your local DMV. What if the title wasn’t in your name? You’ll need to track down the previous owner and ask them to file for a lost title, or go about getting a bonded title.

What Should You Do When a Car Title Gets Wet?

Leaving your car title out in the open is asking for trouble. Whether you spilled your Pepsi on it or it got soaked in the rain, the first thing you want to do is let it dry. Some people suggest putting it in the microwave with a paper towel, but we think that’s opening the door to more problems.

Instead, allow it to dry as much as possible. Then, proceed to the DMV and request a duplicate title. If the car title wasn’t in your name, you would need to enlist the help of the previous owner or look into getting a bonded title.

General Rule of Thumb with a Damaged Car Title

Some people assume they only need the car title when they go to sell the vehicle, but that’s not a good way of handling this. You want to replace your title as soon as something happens. After all, it is the legal proof of vehicle ownership.

In most states, the steps aren’t that painful. You will need to go to your local DMV. There, you’ll fill out some type of Replacement Car Title form. Most times, you can download this on the DMV website before you make the trip. Some states also require you to get this paperwork notarized.

Then, you are going to submit those forms along with your lost title fee. If you are in a jam and need the car title fast, most states offer a rushed processing fee.

The biggest thing to remember is that your duplicate title voids the original. If that old title is kept, you will want to destroy it in a shredder once you receive the new title.

Should I Keep My Car Title in the Car?

When you own a car, you have plenty of paperwork to take care of. Between the registration, insurance cards, owner’s manual and car loans, you have a lot to think about. Many people assume that it’s okay to store the car title in the glove box, but this is the worst place you could keep it.

Remember, your car title proves ownership. Your car’s certificate of title is a legal document. If this gets into the wrong hands, it could be easily signed over to another person. That’s why you need to carefully consider where you keep your car title.

The bottom line is you don’t ever want to keep the car title in your vehicle. This makes stealing your car even easier!

Instead, consider the places you could keep it safe. You want somewhere that it won’t get stolen, lost or damaged. Yes, we’ve outlined the ways to get a duplicate title, but you don’t want to take that course if you don’t need to. We don’t know too many people that enjoy waiting in those lines at the DMV.

Taking care of the original title is the best way to handle its safe-keeping. We suggest you find a safe deposit box or fireproof/waterproof safe to store it in. It should be treated the same way you treat your passport, birth certificate and other essential documents.

Some people think it’s wise to make a copy of the car title. Of course, this is good for your own record-keeping, if you want it. However, it’s not going to help you prove legal ownership of that car. Plus, you can’t sell your vehicle with a copy of the title. Otherwise, you could make 20 copies and sell the car 20 times.


Final Thoughts

Whether your car title made its way through your paper shredder or you spilled oil on it, rest assured knowing it’s possible to get a duplicate title. Sure, it might take some effort and a lot of waiting, but it’s not the hardest thing you’ll do today. Obviously, the best thing you can do is protect the car title from getting damaged in the first place. But accidents happen – we’ve had plenty of them ourselves.


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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