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How to Get Replacement Title for Your Car

Replacement Car Title

Replacing a lost certificate of title for a car is generally an easy process, but there are a few scenarios that can make it more difficult.

By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney) | Published on March 23rd, 2021 | Last Updated on
By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney)
Published on March 23rd, 2021. Last Updated on .

The title for your vehicle is one of the most important documents you will need for your car. Throughout the years of ownership, many car owners lose their titles, leaving them questioning what they can do to get a replacement. The process of getting a replacement Certificate of Title on a vehicle that you currently have titled in your name is quite simple. If you have lost a title you have gotten from the seller of a vehicle before transferring it into your own name, the process can be a little tricky. While the process will be quite similar for most states, the state you live in may have a different process. In order to find out your state’s guidelines, check out your state’s website or give the DMV a call.

To start, we will look at the easiest process, getting a replacement copy of the Certificate of Title of a car that you own and has your name on the title. A majority of states will simply require you to apply for a replacement title through the DMV or secretary of state. You will need to provide documents that show that the car is in fact titled to you, pay the required fee, and then you can get your new title. The replacement title may look a little different than the original title as some will have a stamp with wording indicating that this title is a replacement title. This will not affect the resell value of the car, it is just to show that it is not the original title.

If you are in a situation where you have lost the title that a seller signed over to you after purchasing a car, the process is a little more difficult. This usually happens when you purchase a vehicle, the seller signs over the title to you, and you misplace it before applying to have the car titled to you. In these instances, you have the car, but no title, meaning there is no official record of you owning the vehicle.

One of the first solutions that people try is contacting the seller to have the order a replacement title and then have them sign it over to you. Depending on who the seller was and how cooperative they are, this is not always the easiest option.

In Michigan, you can choose between three different ways to title a car in your name without having to have the seller get involved. For those in other states, we recommend checking with your local DMV for the correct procedure.

Your first option is a court order. As long as the court order includes the Vehicle Identification Number, the year, and the make of the vehicle, you should have no problem getting a new title. This process is not as popular as you will have to go to court to resolve this issue. While this is not everyone’s first choice, it sometimes is the only choice in cases where vehicles must be disposed of legally following the owner’s death.

If you are wanting to do without the litigation, you can try getting a surety bond. For those who have a late model vehicle with value, getting a surety bond through insurance or a bonding company for twice the fair market value is an option. These bonds will have to be kept in place for a minimum of 3 years. After the 3 year period, your state will issue a Certificate of Title to you. During this 3 year period, the state will monitor if anyone comes forward stating the vehicle legally belongs to them. A surety bond is used to satisfy the claim of the vehicle’s true owner. This is your state’s process of verifying that the vehicle you have posted a bond for is in fact yours.

The third and last method is used on vehicles that are older or have lesser value. Michigan refers to this method as the “Last Resort” method. On vehicles that are 10 years or older, valued at less than $2,500, and was previously titled in Michigan, you can “Self-Certify” your vehicle if you are a Michigan resident. You will need to fill out the form TR-205 and explain how you came into possession of the vehicle and confirm the low value of the car. To find the value of your vehicle, you can have it appraised by a local licensed dealer, or for convenience sake, you can use an online valuation service. A printed out copy of your online valuation will suffice for Michigan standards. This allows you to get various valuations so that you can find one under the $2,500 mark without having to go through multiple licensed dealers.

The above methods are going to be for Michigan residents, but many states will follow the same methods or variations of those above. To get the most accurate guidelines for your state, check with your state’s DMV or Secretary of State to see which methods are available to you.


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