Your car’s title is a legal document issued by the state that shows proof of ownership of the car. The title is signed over from the previous owner of the vehicle whether it be the dealership or a third party seller. The owner of the vehicle will be in possession of the document itself unless the car was financed, in which case the title will reside with the finance company until the vehicle is paid off entirely.
When buying or selling a car, the title of the vehicle is signed by the selling and purchasing party declaring a change of ownership of the vehicle. The new owner of the vehicle will then take the title to the Department Of Motor Vehicles and have the car legally registered in their name. The DMV will issue a new title which they will keep electronically in their system.
Information that a car title will show includes:
- The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Manufacture date
- License plate number
- Personal information of the owner including name and address
- The title number
What Your Title Number Is For
The title number is really only good for one thing, getting a new title. It is also useful to have if you are getting a lien on a car. Other than that the title number isn’t going to tell you much about the vehicle, and it isn’t a fixed number like the VIN of a car is. A title number is issued when the car is bought by a new owner and will continue to change whenever ownership of the vehicle changes hands.
How To Find Your Title Number
The title number is an 8 digit code that identifies your title. It can be found several ways:
- On the title document itself
- On the vehicle registration car
- On the registration renewal invitation
If you can’t find any of these you can:
- Call or visit your local DMV
On The Title Document
To find your title number is actually incredibly simple, it is located on the title of your vehicle. Huh who would have thought?! You will find it located with the vehicle information above the VIN. The title number is 8 digits long.
On Your Vehicle Registration
Most states list the title number directly on the vehicle registration which you should keep in the car with you at all times. The title number will be located in the same place as the make and model of the car.
On The Registration Renewal Invitation
If your registration happens to be up for renewal, or you still have your renewal paperwork hanging around, you may find your vehicle title number written within the paperwork. This is a bit of a longshot so most of you will likely not have this information on hand.
You Can Also
Contact The DMV Over The Phone
Surprise. surprise, did you know the DMV will have a copy of your title as well as the other information about you as a driver and your vehicle stored on file? If you don’t have a copy of your registration, or the copy of your title on hand, you can call the DMV and ask them to give you your title number over the phone. If you don’t have a copy of your registration, this would be the perfect time to order a replacement and even obtain a copy of your title if you own your car outright! You’re going to likely sit on hold for at least an hour which is a bummer, but you can at the very least do something useful for your future self while you’re at it.
Go Into The DMV
In some states, you will have to go into the DMV online if you want this information. Unfortunately for sensitive information, some states won’t give you authorization over the phone. If you do happen to have to go into the DMV, be sure to bring your license plate or some form of legal identification like a passport. Also bring your wallet because it probably is going to cost you some dollars.
Asking the Financer
If your car is not owned outright, then you can call your lienholder who will be in possession of the title of your car (because they technically own it, not you) and ask them for the title number. It might be easier to track them down than going to the DMV. If you have completed payments for the vehicle and you still aren’t in possession of the title, then you need to give them a call anyways and track that vital document down. They should have mailed it to you.
Getting a New Car Title If You Lost Yours
If you lose your title, all you need to do is contact your state motor vehicle agency in your county/ state to get a duplicate. You may be able to start the the process online depending on what state you live in. In other cases you will likely have to go in person to a state or county office. If you can’t find information regarding the processes for this on the state’s website, give your local DMV or tax collectors office a call to get more info
Where Do You Get The Title Of The Vehicle From?
Where you get the title of the vehicle from depends on where you purchase the car. If you buy from a third party seller they should (if they don’t then do not buy the car) give you the title along with a bill of sale with their name signed on the back of the title. You then take the title of the vehicle to the DMV when you are ready to register the car and they will transfer the title into your name and create an online copy of your new title for their records.
When you buy a car from a dealership they will take care of the title transfer for you and register the vehicle as well. They don’t do it for free obviously but the cost of this service is built into the dealership fees and the cost of the vehicle.
Types of Car Titles
There are various types of titles and the most common is a clean title. This means the vehicle has never had a substantial enough issue to be declared a total loss. You may see five adjectives applied to a car title: clean, clear, salvage, lemon and rebuilt. There are several titles to stay away from when buying a car they are salvage, lemon, and rebuilt.
- Clean: The vehicle was never considered totaled by an insurance company. Totaling can come from flood damage, falling trees, accidents etc. The title will reflect if it has been considered a total loss where it would cost more money to fix the vehicle.
- Clear: A clear title is given to a vehicle that is owned outright by the owner. So vehicle’s that have liens on them (were bought using financing options) will not have a clear title.
- Salvage Titles: A salvage title is indicative of the car being declared totaled by an insurance company. This may be because the car was involved in a natural disaster that flooded the car, it could also mean the vehicle was in a bad car accident. Regardless of why the vehicle was given a salvage title, you should generally avoid these cars. A salvage title will be shown on the title document and can also be seen when looking up the VIN using a tool such as Carfax.
- Lemon/ Factory Buy Back: A lemon is a car that was riddled with problems from the start. There laws on what is declared a lemon will vary from state to state, but in most cases it involves the vehicle which has a lot of issues that stemmed from its manufacturing which affect the safety and value of the vehicle. In the case of titles, a car that has been deemed a lemon will carry that in their title. It is inadvisable to buy one of these vehicles as it will likely be a money pit.
- Rebuilt: A vehicle with a rebuilt title will be exactly what it sounds, the vehicle will have been rebuilt after being declared a total loss by an insurance company. While rebuilt vehicles can be great and reliable cars, more often than not they have more issues than the same car that was not rebuilt. If you intend on buying a rebuilt car, know that it should not command the same price as the
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