by Mike –
When I imported a car from the US East Coast to California I had to drive the car to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that the VIN number could be inspected and compared against the title before I could complete the registration. The California DMV wanted to be sure there was a real car that matched the VIN number on the out of state title.
A friend of mine was able to register a bare chassis in California without a title. It really wasn’t a car, it was only a chassis, and the title had long been lost. The DMV’s records did not go back to when this car was first registered.
If your vehicle is not mobile the California Highway Patrol, or certain city police departments, will send an officer to your location to verity that the VIN number is indeed the number on the chassis. This is a key step in getting a new title when the original title has been lost.
As most of us know dealing with the DMV can be frustrating and that is one reason to understand their process before you begin. And I suggest you always have all of your paperwork prepared and signed by all of the necessary parties before going to the DMV office or you may need to make another trip.
In a guest post below the writer explains other steps in getting a lost automobile title replaced.
by Jason Lancaster
When you decide to restore a classic car, part of the satisfaction comes from the fact that you’ve rescued your vehicle from certain oblivion. Therefore, looking for “barn find cars” – a classic car hidden in a field, a forgotten garage, etc. – is both fun and rewarding. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a gem that you can rescue from neglect.
However, if there’s a problem with hunting for barn find cars, it’s that these forgotten vehicles often don’t have a title. Twenty, thirty, or fifty years later, vehicle titles are often lost or forgotten, and while you can usually pay someone for the right to haul the car away, registration is another matter.
Fortunately, there is a relatively straightforward solution to the “I lost the title” problem. Using your state’s bonded title process, you can secure title for any abandoned or forgotten vehicle you find and get your registration.
What’s a Bonded Title?
If you’ve ever heard the expression “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” then you know that physically possessing a vehicle makes you the owner – at least in the eyes of the law – until someone else can prove that they own the vehicle instead.
Therefore, if you have possession of a vehicle and the rightful owner is unknown, your state has a process that allows you to secure a title.
1. First, you need to make every effort to find the rightful owner.
2. Second, you need to purchase a bond equal to (or in excess of) the value of the vehicle you want to title.
3. Third, you file some paperwork and turn the bond you purchased over to the state.
4. Finally, assuming your paperwork is correct, the state will issue you a title.
You turn the bond you buy over to the state so that they have something to give the vehicle’s original owner should he or she re-appear at some point in the future. Since the state essentially “gives away” someone’s property when they issue you a bonded title, the bond is paid to the original owner as compensation.
You get the car, the original owner gets a check, and the state gets to wash their hands of the whole thing. Make sense? Great. Here’s how you go about it.
The Bonded Title Process
Please note that the process listed below is a little bit different in each state. However, this is a good general guide. Be sure to contact your local DMV for specifics.
1. VIN number search – A VIN number must be searched by law enforcement or DMV offices to determine if the car was stolen and to see what other facts can be discovered.
2. Title search – Using the VIN number, a title search is next. Most states will conduct a title search for a fee.
3. Proof of lien release – If the title search turns up any liens on the vehicle, those liens must be released (paid off). Sometimes this means you’ll need to contact the original lien holder.
4. Vehicle Appraisal – The vehicle must be appraised to determine its value, however small that value may be.
5. Purchase a Surety Bond – A bond must be purchased for at least one and a half times the appraised value, and often twice the appraised value (the amount varies by state, so again you’ll need to check with your local DMV).
6. Vehicle safety inspection – A safety inspection will determine if the vehicle is roadworthy or not, which in turn determines what type of title you can apply for (either a regular title or a salvage title).
7. Complete an Affidavit – Most states require you to fill out an affidavit explaining why you are going through this process and why no title currently exists. You may be asked to explain where you found the car, what you did to try to find the original owner, etc. Some states may require you to run an ad in the newspaper to try and locate the original owner in addition to all of the above.
Once all these steps are completed, you can submit a title application and secure ownership. This allows you to register the car and get on with the real work – the restoration process.
Jason Lancaster is a former dealership sales manager with nearly 10 years of auto industry experience, and he’s even secured a couple of bonded titles. Jason currently writes for the Blue Springs Ford Parts blog.
All photos by Mike Gulett.
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