If you are ready to sell your car, but are freaking out a little on the inside because you’ve torn apart your house and can’t find the title anywhere– take a deep breath. I am going to explain how you can still get your car sold even if you can’t find your title, or if your dog really did eat it. You can sell your car without a title, whether you’ve got a gently used car or a junk car.

Oftentimes, your vehicle’s title is a necessity when trying to sell your car. It’s the most legitimate way to show potential buyers that you own the vehicle and didn’t acquire it illegally.

Laws surrounding car titles vary from state to state, but they all cover similar regulations. The bottom line is this: in 99% of cases, it’s going to be tough to sell a car without a title. There are a few options for you which I’ve explained below. If you’re not interested in reading on, I can tell you right now that your best choice is going to be giving me, Big Tane, a call at (801) 485-5111.

What is a car title?

A car title is a legal document issued in your name that verifies you are the owner of the car. Signing off as the owner/seller is how one person (or business) can transfer the ownership of the vehicle to someone else.

Many people mistake their vehicle registration or the bill of sale from when they bought the car as the title, however, they are not the same. The title to your car typically comes on fancy watermark edged paper like this:

Auto Titles - How To Sell A Car Without A Title by Tane Wanlass of Car Sold For Cash in SLC, UT

Is there a reason I don’t have my title?

There are a few different reasons you may not have your car title, some of which have nothing to do with it being misplaced. 

  • Reason (1): There is a lienholder on the title. 

If when you purchased the car you financed the vehicle, the title is sent to the financial institute you got the loan through. The same thing happens if you take out a title loan, the bank uses the vehicle as collateral to secure the loan. Once the loan is paid off the bank is supposed to mail you the title, however, if they send it to a wrong address or if it just slips between the cracks and it never gets mailed, the reason you may not have your title is that the bank may still have it.

  • Reason (2): Pending Registration:

The second reason you may not be able to find your title when you are ready to sell your car is it may be hung up at the DMV with a pending registration. If the title was turned into the state to transfer ownership from one person to another and the paperwork that was turned in with the title to register the car in the new person’s name was incomplete, the state may be holding the title because of a pending registration.

  • Reason (3): Alien Abduction, Dog Delicacy, Accidentally sent to the landfill

Obviously a third option as to why you can’t find your title is that it got misplaced somewhere along the way.

There are a few reasons you might not have your car’s title. You might have lost it in the hustle and bustle of paperwork as a lot of car owners do. You might not even be aware that you’ve lost your car’s title until you plan to sell it. Lucky for you, losing a vehicle title isn’t the end of the world as long as the title is on record. 

If you do have your vehicle’s title, there are three types of vehicle titles to be aware of–clear, clean, and salvage. 

A clear title indicates the seller owns the vehicle outright and there’s no lien on the car. A clean title indicates that the vehicle on sale was not involved in any form of accident in its lifetime and it wasn’t ever declared by insurance as a total loss. A salvage title is given to cars that weren’t in roadworthy condition, but were rebuilt or reconstructed to be roadworthy. 

Your car’s title contains important information like vehicle details and owner information. The vehicle section will list make, model, year, VIN, and color, and the owner section will include the owner’s name and address. 

Get a Duplicate Title

As previously mentioned, if the vehicle title is on record, you can order a duplicate title. All you have to do is to apply for the duplicate title from your local DMV. Your car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is engraved onto your vehicle, and you’ll need that number to get the duplicate title. 

Your local DMV will provide you a list of information you’ll need in order to claim your vehicle, like a bill of sale. Keep in mind that there is a turnaround time of a few days to a month when requesting a duplicate title, and this can affect the sale of the vehicle.

Apply for a Local Exemption

Most states require a car’s title for its sale, but in the few states that don’t, you can apply for local exemption. If you aren’t the original owner of the vehicle, this process will also involve the DMV and will consist of them contacting the original owner of the vehicle through its VIN and giving them a chance to claim the vehicle.

If they don’t claim the vehicle after a specified duration, then you can apply for the title. There are states that will not issue a title for vehicles that are 15 years or older. Instead, a bill of sale will be given to its supposed new owner, giving them a chance to register it under their name. 

Look on your state DMV sites for details for your particular situation.

Inquire at a Salvage Yard

Another option to get rid of your car without a title is to take it to a salvage yard. They mostly use cars for scraps and parts, and might pay you a tiny amount for your vehicle. 

While salvage yards will accept your car without a title, you probably won’t get a good deal out of it money-wise because you are at a disadvantage.

So how do I sell my car without the title?

Now that we understand what a title is, and the reasons you may not have it, let’s talk about how you can still sell your car even if you can’t find the title. 

We have a backend connection that allows us to check with the DMV database to see whose name the title to the vehicle is issued under, with the different states across the country.

If we are able to verify that the title is: (1) In your name [or the name of a person that you know that is able to sign for it], (2) free of any liens. We can simply fill out two easy DMV issued forms that will work in place of the title to legally transfer the ownership of the vehicle and allow you to sell your car for cash, even if you can’t find the title.

The process for each state is different. Some of them can take 6-8 weeks and can come with a sizable fee, however, that is not always the case. if your title was issued from the great state of Utah, and it’s either in your name or in the name of a person that is available to sign for it and provide their driver’s license to confirm their identity; we can complete the process of buying your car in 5 minutes, and even better we can do it FREE OF CHARGE!!!

What if there is a lienholder on the title?

If a lienholder does show up when we do our lost title research with the DMV database, you still don’t need to panic. If the vehicle is indeed paid off all we need is a letter from the financial institution on their company letterhead with the year, make, model, and VIN for the vehicle that states that the loan in question has been paid in full and that the financial institution is releasing all interest in the car. With that letter and the same DMV issued forms even if you don’t have the title to your car, you can still sell it for cash.

Occasionally the lienholder that is on the title has gone out of business. If that happens the DMV will accept a certified letter that has been returned undeliverable as sufficient to release the lien.

If there is still money owing on the vehicle, that must be paid in full or a settlement must be made with the financial institution so that they can release the lien on the vehicle before you are able to sell it.

What do I do if the title is not in my name?

If the person whose name the title was issued in has passed away, and you are the executor of the estate, we can still help you sell or get rid of your car using a tool called the, “Survivorship Affidavit.”

Otherwise, if the car you are trying to get rid of has a title issued in the name of someone else that you are not able to get a hold of to sign away the ownership of the car, or if you had a car abandoned on your property You have two options:

  1. File for an abandoned vehicle title with the state
  2. Request a private property impound

There are pros and cons to both options. If you file for an abandoned vehicle title there is typically a fee, and it is a much more involved process. You will have to fill out forms, send in pictures, and 60-90 days for the DMV to do their research and due diligence. It is not a guarantee at the end of this process they will be able to issue you an abandoned title for the vehicle, so there is some risk that it could all be for not as well. The benefit to this option, however, is if you are able to obtain an abandoned title, you can sell the car for cash rather than just having it removed from your property.

The private property impound route on the other hand is fast and painless but typically doesn’t allow for you to receive any money for the vehicle. With a private property impound, the vehicle can be removed immediately and the towing company can impound the vehicle and wait for the owner to claim it and pay the impound fees, or if the owner does not appear in a certain number of days, the tow truck company can file for a tower abandoned title and dispose of the vehicle. The private property impound route is certainly a much faster and painless option if your main objective is just to have the car go away rather than getting money for it.

If you have questions give us a call!!!


I hope this information has been helpful, and will help you navigate the process of selling or getting rid of your car even if you can find the title. If you have any questions give us a call and we are happy to help. 

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