5 Big Risks You Take by Buying a Car Without a TitleJanuary 15, 2021 Justin Dake
There are a lot of risks involved in buying a car without a title. Not only might doing so be illegal in your state, youre leaving the door wide open to any number of ever-changing scams and schemes. In this article were going to get a broad overview of the things you should consider before entering into an agreement with a seller who doesnt have a title, all pooled from our staffs collective experiences as gearheads and title recovery experts alike.
If you have questions on how to replace a lost car title, check out the article linked here. But Ill just tell you, all that paperwork and time spent at the DMV isnt for everyone. Dirt Legals services will save you time, effort, and stress when replacing a lost car title click the button to learn more.
5. Buying a Car Without a Title is Usually Illegal
Throughout most of the United States it is illegal to buy, sell, or drive a car without a title. Like coasting a stop sign or not using a blinker, people get away with it all the time, but its still illegal. Whats more, the whole thing causes a Catch 22 scenario. Like needing experience to get a job, a person who lost a car title would be unable to sell the car without replacing the title first. Which is exactly what should happen, but as well see later, people choose to do it the hard way for a variety of often shady or suspicious reasons.
Its much easier to replace a title when your name is the one that was printed on the lost title. Replacing a title lost by someone else is possible, but it adds a lot of complexity to an already stressful situation.See this gallery in the original post
Why is it illegal?
Since a cars title is what assigns legal ownership, if an officer ever questions whether you are the cars rightful owner, you wont have any proof. Your story of buying the car might be true, but the officer who pulls you over isnt going to care the law deals in facts, not stories. And you cant just show them your bill of sale because it doesnt have the power of a car title. A bill of sale alone cannot legally prove that you own a car. For all the law knows, that paper is a forgery.
Even if youre a smart car buyer who created an ironclad bill of sale, one that details the exact reasons why the title is missing and how you came into possession of the car, chances are high that an officer will write you a ticket anyway. That could result in a lengthy legal battle if the replacement title isnt already on its way. And since title replacement can take months, odds are it wont arrive in the mail soon enough.
4. No Title Means No Plates, No Loans, and No Insurance
Not only does a replacement car title take months to arrive, but many states also wont issue new license plates based off anything short of an actual title. That means that until the new title has been sent to you, you wont be able to put license plates on your car.
You also cant get a traditional car loan to purchase a car without a title since car loans are issued using the cars title as collateral, meaning you would need to take out a personal loan or find some other means of getting the money.
Whats more, your insurance company may refuse to insure a car that doesnt have a title. Since a cars title is the only legal document capable of assigning ownership, a car sold on just a bill of sale doesnt technically belong to you in the eyes of the law (unless your state doesnt issue titles or you have a special exception for your car).
Why cant I use the plates that came with the car?
If you bought a car without a title, the license plates that came with it arent registered to you. In a traffic stop you would most likely get a ticket for invalid registration. Any parking tickets or toll fees would be sent directly to the last registered owner who could then track you down and hold you accountable for them at a later date.
3. The Cars History is a Mystery
Any number of things could be hiding on that lost title. There could be an active lien that the owner didnt want to pay off, so they misplaced the title and sold the car without one. It could carry a flood or salvage status that they didnt want to tell you about. It could even be in someone elses name because of an inheritance, auction, or previous sale where the paperwork was never completed.
Theres no telling how often that car changed hands without a title, something a VIN Check and even a Vehicle History Report wont reveal. If the car did change hands, those people were committing a criminal offense called title jumping, and while it might seem innocent enough to sell a car without a title it can cause major issues for everyone involved.See this gallery in the original post
2. The Car Could Be Stolen
Maybe the seller is offloading their ex-wifes car without her permission. Maybe theyre selling a car they pulled out of a parking lot using a wrecker and got a key made just a couple days ago. Or maybe they bought a stolen car themselves and are looking to offload it to someone else.
To make sure that isnt the case, run a VIN Check to sure the car isnt stolen. Do this as early as possible before buying the car, and if the seller wont give you the VIN number over the phone or internet, take that as a major red flag.
1. The Seller Could Be a Scammer
I rated this scenario as worse than buying a stolen car for a reason this one sneaks up on you years later.
Whether you buy a car from a dealership, a private party, on eBay, or even as is, no warranty, there are laws in place to protect you from getting scammed. You can often find legal protection from things like:
- Hidden liens or outstanding loans
- Obvious imminent damage (i.e., an engine thats about to blow)
- Dishonesty about the title status (clean, salvage, etc.)
Buying a car without a title is already questionable in terms of legality, and on top of that youre trusting a complete stranger to not scam you. The seller could give you false information about themselves or the car, they could lie to you about damages and repairs, or they could pass off a major issue (like a prior salvage title) by saying they will get you the new title once it comes in the mail or worse yet, letting you do all the hard work for them.
Then days, weeks, months, or even years later, you discover that crack in the frame, the flood damage brand on the title, or a lien attached to the cars ownership and suddenly the seller is nowhere to be found. Shoot, they might even file for a new title only to hold it for ransom when it arrives! Ask me how I know.
How do I avoid getting scammed?
Anytime you buy a car, bring a friend and meet the seller in a public place. I know it sounds desperate to say that your personal safety might be at risk, but trust me, all it takes is one bad apple and a typically normal scenario could turn into something sinister. Scammers know whos most likely to fall for their schemes, they know what those people usually drive, and they know the words those people want to hear.
Its a cold and calculated existence for scammers, but thankfully you dont have to get caught up in it. There are ways to avoid this situation from the very start.
Should You Buy a Car Without a Title?
The average car buyer should never buy a car without a title. Additionally, it is never the buyers responsibility to replace a lost title. If the seller claims to have lost the title, ask them to replace it before you buy the car.
Extenuating circumstances often force the quick sale of things we would otherwise keep, so its understandable that some cars would be sold without a title for plausible reasons. But a quick glance at the sheer number of ads for cars without titles and it becomes clear that many of them are simply too good to be true.
There are some exceptions. An experienced car buyer might accept the risks outlined in this article. Someone buying a barn find classic or a non-running project car might not mind the inconveniences. But there is probably a valid reason why that car parked in the field with a tree growing through it is missing its title. If this is you, proceed with caution and make sure to check your states laws about buying a car without a title and replacing lost car titles before you commit to anything.
What Can a Title Specialist Do to Help?
Dirt Legals in-house title specialists are well versed on title fraud. In addition to quick VIN Checks and detailed Vehicle History Reports, we can get you a new title and fresh license plates for your car and save you all the hassle and legwork of the DMV. Our process is quick, easy, and transparent. Buy now or bookmark for later:
Contact us with any questions. If youre considering buying a car without a title and you need help, please dont hesitate to contact us for a no-obligation chat.See this content in the original post
We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice. Cover image source
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