If you’re buying a previously owned car, you should be able to get the title from the current owner and have it transferred into your name. However, sometimes these transactions are not that simple, and the owner has a valid reason for not having the title to hand over to you. If this is the case, you will need to prove ownership to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to have the vehicle eventually registered in your name once you’ve legally purchased it. Every state’s DMV may have a different procedure for proving ownership, but generally, there are several steps you’ll need to take and documents you’ll be asked to present to the office so the title can be transferred. Here are a few common steps and documents you can use to prove vehicle ownership, according to the experts at Car-Title.org.
Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin
The Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) is also sometimes referred to as the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO), and usually comes with a brand-new vehicle to prove it was manufactured by the car company. This document is given to you by the dealership when you buy a new car that has never had a previous owner. It’s used to prove your current ownership to the DMV, and the office will generally accept this document as proof that your name should be registered to the vehicle. The experts at Car-Title.org suggest holding on to this document even after the vehicle has been registered to you, just in case you misplace the title or the DMV asks for the MCO again to verify the car’s origin.
Letter of Release From Lienholder
One of the reasons proof of ownership may be required is to show the DMV or another legal party that the vehicle no longer has any liens or bank ownership. This can be achieved without the title by providing a letter of release from the previous lienholder. According to the team at Car-Title.org, a letter of release is sent to you by the bank or the finance company once a car is completely paid off and should be registered solely in your name. You’ll need this paper to show the DMV that you own the vehicle and that the staff can now register the car in the state without listing the bank or the finance company on the registration.
Bill of Sale and the Registration Certificate
If a title cannot be found and ownership needs to be transferred, another option to present to the DMV may be the bill of sale and the registration certificate. The experts at Car-Title.org confirm that the combination of these two documents may be enough to prove your ownership of the car to the DMV if you don’t have a valid title. Showing that a temporary registration certificate was filed and a bill of sale was completed should be proof that a transaction occurred and that the vehicle now belongs to you. Copies of the check or paid invoice used when purchasing the vehicle can also be a helpful way to prove your ownership of the vehicle to the DMV.
DMV Paperwork and Proof of a Certified Letter Sent to the Seller
The DMV may have specific paperwork you’ll be required to fill out if a title cannot be obtained for the vehicle. This paperwork will ask for details about the origin of the vehicle, the mileage, the history and the last transaction that was made between you and the previous owner. According to the experts at Car-Title.org, the DMV may also request that you make several valid and recorded attempts to contact the previous owner and ask for the title of the vehicle. These may need to be certified letters that await a response for a predetermined length of time before the DMV will assist you with vehicle paperwork. Following the procedures of the DMV and presenting this paperwork and letters may allow you to eventually get the vehicle registered in your name, even without the title.