Can You Sell a Car Without the Title & Registration?

license plates from different states across the USA

If you’ve decided to sell your car, you’ll want to make sure that it’s in excellent working order and looking like new. You’ll also need to gather the relevant documentation, such as the title and registration.

But what happens if you don’t have these documents? Can you sell a car without the title and registration? Keep reading to learn more about these documents and whether you always need them to sell your car.

Car Title & Registration: What Are They?

The vehicle title is your legal proof of ownership, similar to a deed for your home. When you buy a new or used car in the US and register it in your home state, the title will be transferred to your name.

Regardless of the state, all titles usually contain the same information. This includes the vehicle identification number (VIN), reported mileage and the legal owner’s name and address.

someone holding license plate

A registration certificate confirms that the vehicle is registered with the state and has been cleared for driving on public roads. It will most likely be a paper document or a card and contains the same information as the title. Your car’s registration will also include an expiration date as many states require registration renewals every one to two years.

Laws on Selling a Car Without the Title & Registration

law magnified through a glass in a book

Not having the title and registration can make selling your car a challenge. But what does the law say?

There are many legitimate reasons why you might not have your car’s title. These include misplaced paperwork or a lender holding a lien on your vehicle. Despite this, prospective buyers will likely consider it suspicious if you don’t have the title on hand.

What’s more, selling a vehicle without proof of ownership is illegal in many states. And, if you’ve let your car registration lapse as well, selling your vehicle could prove tricky even if it is legal to do so where you live.

Having the car title and registration shows that the car is yours to sell and hasn’t been stolen or obtained through dishonest methods. And even in states where selling an untitled vehicle is possible, the new owner won’t be able to register, insure, or drive it on public roads.

Exemptions from Title & Registration Requirements

While selling a car without a title and registration is difficult and even impossible in many states, there are a couple of exceptions:

Transfer of Ownership Agreements

Some states allow sellers to transfer ownership of a car without a title. In these cases, it’s up to the buyer to obtain one. This option helps speed up the sales process and allows the buyer to drive the vehicle with a temporary permit.

That said, the new owner can only do so after requesting a new or duplicate car title. And they may also need a certificate of inspection from a state-approved facility.

transfer of ownership icons of digital documents
old station wagon photo

Selling an Older Vehicle

There are instances when a title might not be necessary due to the age of the vehicle. Again, this depends on the state. Maine, for example, only requires a title for cars made after 1995 while Alabama only issues titles for vehicles less than 35 years old.

If your car is exempt, your state may have a standardized bill of sale form for registering it. If not, you can create your own bill of sale. Getting it notarized is also a good move as it adds validity to the transaction.

Obtaining the Title & Registration

If you have misplaced these documents, it’s much easier to obtain a replacement title and registration than try to sell your car without them. There are various ways to do this depending on your situation and preferences.

If you still owe money and have an active auto loan, for example, you will need to contact your lender. Often, the lienholder will be listed on the title and will only release the physical document once you pay the loan in full.

man and woman reading and signing a contract

For those of you who own your car outright but have lost the title and/or registration, you can apply for replacements through your state. Since processing can take several weeks it’s best to apply for new documentation as soon as possible.

Another option is to skip the trip to the DMV altogether and let Motobyo handle all your documentation needs with our Title and Registration Service. From temporary registrations to title transfers, we handle everything to simplify the process from start to finish.

How to Sell a Car Without the Title & Registration

Hopefully, you know now whether you can sell your car without a title and registration. While the short answer is yes, this is only applies in certain cases and certain states. What’s more, the sale process is always a lot smoother if you have these documents in your possession and ready to transfer.

Here at Motobyo, we’re dedicated to giving the power back to people like you, individuals buying and selling used cars. For more information on how we can help, feel free to get in touch with us today!