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Car Title Guide: Understanding Car Titles and Everything You Need to Know!

Car Title Guide: Understanding Car Titles and Everything You Need to Know!

When you buy a new car, you will have to deal with a lot of paperwork and one of the documents you need to sign is the car title. It shows who owns the car and without it, you can’t really prove that you own the car legally. This car title guide can help you understand what it is and everything you need to know about it. If you bought the car outright, the seller will give you the certificate of title or the pink slip. But if you took out a loan or have it financed by a bank or dealer, the lender will keep the title until the loan is paid off.

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As for the other things you should know from this car title guide, a car title will be issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV at the time the car is sold. It comes from the state where you buy the car. If you live in another state, you need to take it to your local DMV when you register the car in your home state. Although it can vary from state to state, the car title usually include the same information such as the name of the owner, vehicle identification number, weight class, odometer reading at the time of purchase, lienholder information if financed, and the title assignment section that has the buyer and seller’s names, addresses, purchase date, and signatures.


Car Title Guide: Is a Registration and a Title the Same Thing?

To continue with our car title guide, let us know the difference between a car title and a registration. There are a lot of people who are confused and think they are interchangeable. They are not, a car title and a registration are very different but both of them are very important.


  • What is a car title?


A car title is a legal document that establishes that a person or a lien holder is the legal owner of a registered car. If you are buying the car outright, then you will be the new owner and the title holder. But if your new car is being financed by a bank, the bank will be the owner until the loan is fully paid.

The car title will be issued by your local DMV. The car title has all the information about the vehicle such as its make, model, year, its vehicle identification number as well as the information of who owns the vehicle.

When you buy a car, the seller will have to transfer ownership of the car to you. You may need to fill out a transfer of ownership or you, the buyer, might need to bring the signed title to the local DMV to get a new registration and car title, depending on the state. Or when the car loan or financing has already been fully paid, you will become the owner of the car and you will receive a car title that lists you as the owner and not the lienholder.

  • What is a registration?


A car registration is a documentation by your state’s tax office that proves that your car is registered in your state, that you have paid any applicable taxes and fees, and that your car is determined as roadworthy. Your car will have to pass a vehicle safety and emissions inspection within a week of registering it in some states. The vehicle registering requirements may vary from state to state but you will have to complete the registration process so the car can be legally driven.

When a vehicle is registered for the first time, you will usually get a license plate, a registration document, or a sticker that you can put on your  car’s windshield as proof. After that, you will need to return every 1 to 2 years to renew your car registration, depending on your local rules and the vehicle you own. If for some reason you have moved to another state, you will have to register your car with your new state as well as transfer your out of state driver’s license.

Car Title Guide: Types of Car Titles

The car title is considered as the birth certificate of a car and it is very important. You need to make sure that whatever information you put in there is accurate since it provides proof of ownership. To continue with our car title guide, let us go through each of the different types of car titles that are commonly used.

  • Clean title

A clean title means that the car has no reported accidents or has not not received any major damage which can deem it a total loss.

  • Clear title

This is not similar to a clean title and should not be confused with it. A clear title means that the car has one, undisputed owner. It means that there is no financial lien that will keep the car from being sold. It is basically a car owned by a seller and is not tied to any financing or banks that can claim ownership.

  • Salvage title

A salvage title is issued to a car that has a major value decrease due to an accident, theft, or damage and has been deemed a total loss. A car will get a salvage title if it has lost more than 75 percent of its original value. It usually means that it can't be driven or insured until the car is restored. It also means that the car will no longer be suitable for financing.

  • Junk title

This title is considered the same as a salvage title in several states. Vehicles that are sold to junkyards will be given a junk title. The vehicle will either be disassembled and sold for parts or be sold for scrap metal.

  • Rebuilt title


A rebuilt title will be given to cars that have been restored or rebuilt after getting significant damage. This title will be issued by the insurance company or the place where the car is rebuilt like the body shop, collision center, or licensed vehicle rebuilder. If the car passes the safety inspection, it can be driven on public roads legally. If you have a car with a rebuilt title, you may still be able to have liability insurance, but it won’t be likely that the car itself will get insured.

Car Title Guide: How Do You Get a Title for a Car?

Next in line for our car title guide is how to get a title for your car. When you purchase a new car or if you want to transfer your car to another state, or you want to apply for a title in your name, you will have to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. You need to bring with you these following documents.

  • Any proof of identity like your passport or driver’s license.
  • Bill of sale or anything that can be used as proof of ownership.
  • Proof of insurance coverage. You need to make sure that your insurance coverage meets the state minimum requirements.
  • Car title application.
  • Any applicable fees such as sales tax, registration fees, or state title fees.

What should the car title look like? With this car title guide, you should be able to get an idea what you should see in your car title. A car title will have the seal of the issuing state and will usually have the following information.

  • Car’s make and model. You will see your car’s make and model year information or any details such as the trim upgrades or engine options.


  • Vehicle identification number. The car’s VIN will remain consistent regardless of who owns it. This vehicle identification number can be used to track the car’s ownership, accidents it got involved with, and maintenance and repair records.


  • Title number. This title number can be used for administrative tracking.


  • Date of issue. This is considered important information since it can be used to track the exact date when the vehicle is sold or bought.


  • The reading of the odometer when issued. This information found in your car title can be very useful and is considered important. The odometer reading can be used as a way to confirm when the vehicle you bought or sold is in question. Confirming who owns the vehicle is very important when a crime has been committed with the vehicle. Like whether it was used in crime before you bought it or after you sell it. Through this information, you can clear your name. The odometer reading will also be needed if ever your car gets stolen.


  • Weight class. A vehicle with a higher weight class is usually more costly to renew its registration.


  • Owner or lender’s information. You will find the information of the car’s owner or the lender, if the car is being financed such as full names and address.


If you want to transfer the ownership of the car to someone else, you (if you are the original owner) will have to sign the transfer section of the car title. The new owner will then bring the car title to their local DMV. The new car title will be issued there. However, many states will require that the transfer form should be notarized as well as a signed bill of sale and odometer disclosure statement.

Car Title Guide: How Do I Replace a Lost Title to My Car?

A car title verifies that you are the owner of the car. But what if it is lost or stolen? How do I replace a lost title to my car? Fortunately, this car title guide can help you with that. Always remember that if you have lost your title due to theft, fire, accident, or whatever reason, you need to have it replaced immediately. More so if you think that your car title was stolen.

A stolen car title is something that you can’t just ignore. It is serious. Titles are known to be a valuable item on the black market of car thieves and title forgers. When someone sells a stolen car, thieves could use a stolen title, with a little revision of course, as their own. If the unsuspecting buyer registers the stolen title in their name, the DMV will consider that your car has a new owner. Of course, you can fight for the legalities and have it corrected but it can be a hassle. It will take many months to correct it. To prevent this from happening, you can request for a title replacement that will void the stolen title. You can also report to the police about it.


How do you replace a lost car title?


The requirements for replacing a lost car title can vary from state to state and the vehicle you own. To make sure that you have the right requirements, you can visit your state’s DMV website or inquire via phone call. But, the process usually involves:


  • You will have to complete or fill out a lost title application. You can find it on your local DMV website and have it printed.


  • You can then mail the form after filling it out with accurate information. You need to include all the required documents and fees.


  • You can also visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You just need to bring all the needed documents and fill out the application.


You will have to fill out your complete name, address, your driver’s license number, and your  car’s information such as license plate, VIN, make, model, and year. You need to bring all the required documents including proof of paid property taxes, photocopy of your ID and insurance card, or a passing inspection slip. If the car is still being financed, you may need to do some additional paperworks. The replacement title will be given to you for around six to eight weeks or even longer when you live in a big city.

Hopefully this car title guide has given you all the information you need about car titles. A car title is an important document and you may need it one day so you have to make sure that you keep it safe and away from damage. But if you have a junk car without a title and you want to get rid of it, you can opt to sell it.