How to Trade in a Car Without the Title

When it's time to trade in your car, you'll be expected to provide a title for that vehicle before the deal can be finalized. But in some cases, you may not have access to the title. It could still be in the bank's hands, or perhaps you've lost it over the years. Whatever the reason, a reputable dealership or private buyer will always demand the title before agreeing to a deal. For that reason, you'll need to take measures to get the title before you can trade in your car.

How to Trade in a Car Without the Title
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Bank Is in Possession of Title

How you get the title depends on the reason you don't have it in the first place. If you still owe money on the car, the easiest course of action is to pay off the remainder. However, you'll likely want to use the money you'll get from the buyer to pay off the bank. If you're selling to a private buyer, simply have that person meet you at the bank that holds the title. The buyer can write a check to the bank to pay off the loan, then write another check to you for any remaining balance. For a trade-in, car dealerships are accustomed to this process and will contact the lien holder directly to determine the necessary steps to get the title transferred.

Title Is Lost

If your name is on the title, but you can't locate it, you'll have a slightly easier time getting it. The procedure can vary from one state to the next, but generally, all you have to do is fill out an application, pay a small fee and submit documentation proving that you are the owner of the vehicle. You can usually complete this process in a matter of minutes at your local DMV.

Death or Divorce

If the car isn't in your name, things can get a little more complicated. In the event of a divorce or a person's death, you may find yourself in ownership of a car that has someone else's name on the title. If it isn't too late, make sure your attorney has title transferred to you as part of the divorce proceedings. Otherwise, try to get the person whose name is on the title to sign the title over to you. Then take the title and a copy of the divorce decree to your local DMV.

In the event of a death, title to a vehicle could automatically transfer to you if your name was on it originally. You'll need to show a death certificate, provide an affidavit as the surviving owner and a copy of the will, if there is one. If your name isn't on the title, the executor of the estate must assign the title to you.

Trading in a vehicle when you don't have the title may seem complicated, but it usually involves only a few extra steps. Once you have the title in hand, you'll be able to sell the vehicle to a private owner or trade it in at a dealership and drive away with a new vehicle.