Complete Guide for Selling a Car without Title

Edgar Moulton.


Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

If you have an old clunker in your drive and can’t find the title, it’s still possible to sell it legally. The same goes for that abandoned carcass in front of your house or the backfield. In this blog, we’ll explain what car title means, how to sell a car without title, and who would buy a car without a title. We’ll also explain how you can sell an old wreck, junker, or models 15 years old without title papers.

Table of Contents

  • What Is a Car Title?
  • Can You Sell a Junk Car Without a Title?
  • How To Sell A Car Without a Title
    • Apply for a replacement copy
    • Who else may have a title copy
    • Be Upfront
    • A Bill-of-Sale
  • Who Buys Cars without a Title?
  • Conclusion

What Is a Car Title?

A car title is a paper document that shows the legal ownership of a vehicle. It may be referred to as the ownership papers, certificate or record of title, or the pink slip due to the color of paper on which it was printed. The car’s title is issued by a State’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and is transferred to the new owner as a part of the sales transaction.

When selling or transferring an automobile, whether new or used, the title also changes hands. Providing the new owner with the title proves you legally have the right to sell the automobile. The new owner requires the title to prove they now own the vehicle, and also to register and license it for use in most States. Selling a car without a title is illegal in most jurisdictions.

There are different types of titles for cars. A clean title comes with new vehicles or those that have never been in a major accident. Automobiles that have been severely damaged in a collision and deemed a total loss by an insurance company often are assigned a salvage title since it isn’t worth repairing. Cars that have been rebuilt or significantly modified carry rebuilt or reconstructed titles. The classification of the title informs the buyer if there has been significant work or repairs completed. If you’re wondering if you can you sell a car without a title legally, check with your DMV or keep reading.

Can You Sell a Junk Car Without a Title?

There are many reasons for selling a used car without title, especially if it’s junk. In most areas, a title is required to sell a car. However, if you’re disposing of it for cash from a salvage company or to someone who wants it for parts or with plans to restore it, it is possible.

If you have the license and registration but no title certificate, many wreckers will accept those as proof of ownership. Check with licensed salvage yards to see what they require if you’re selling a car without a title for cash. Most will want some assurance that you have the right to sell.


If your car or truck isn’t roadworthy and you want to get rid of it, but you can’t find the pink slip, license, or registration, you may have some difficulties. Whether selling it for junk or to someone who hopes to restore it or use it for parts, submit the VIN (vehicle identification number) to the DMV. In most areas, and for a fee, they can search and find the missing title or last owner. If it identifies you as the owner, they will issue a replacement title certificate – for another fee.

In New York, cars sold prior to 1973 only had registration, no title certificate. Cars sold since then should have some kind of title. In some instances in NY, it is the responsibility of the buyer to secure a proper title for their purchase. Cars more than 20 years old in Connecticut only require registration and some paperwork for sale to go through.

The other States have similar practices. California has replacement paper and paperless titles and certificates and allows title transfer with any of them. For automobiles that aren’t deemed roadworthy, you may be able to obtain a salvage title.

Should it prove impossible to find or get a replacement title, it is still possible to sell a junk car. Many junkyards will take wrecks, abandoned vehicles in sheds, yards, or fields without the title. The age and condition often indicate that the car isn’t worthy of repair, but may have value if used for parts. If a title is not possible, junkyards often will pay cash for cars without a title. Depending on the car’s condition, some dealerships may also take it without the title for a trade-in if they can use it for parts.

How To Sell A Car Without a Title?

To sell a car in most States, you need proof of legal ownership, in other words, the car title. If you are selling a car with a lost title or one destroyed in the laundry, here are some suggestions for finding a title copy:

Apply for a replacement copy

Contact your local DMV either in person or online for a replacement before selling. Find out what is needed to get the title replaced. Complete the required documentation and pay the fee. Most States require your ID, the VIN, description of the car, license plate number if it had or has one, and the registration papers.

They may also want the bill-of-sale, odometer reading, a certificate of inspection proving the vehicle is roadworthy, and possibly an affidavit that you are the true owner – it may need to be notarized too. The DMV may also require you to hold the newly issued title for 30 or more days before it can be sold.

Who else may have a title copy

Check with your insurance company if the car was ever insured and with your financial institution if you borrowed money to buy it. Many insurers and money lenders require a copy of the registration or title when providing a service. They also tend to keep the information for a long time and may be able to assist you.

If you’ve never registered the car nor had a title certificate for it – it may have been a gift from a relative. Try to track down the bill-of-sale or anything that identifies how you acquired the vehicle. In some jurisdictions, automobiles older than 15 or 25 years may be title-exempt; however, bill-of-sale proving ownership is required to transfer it.

Be Upfront

If you are selling a vehicle without a title, inform the buyer upfront from the beginning. If the purchaser only wants it for parts or as a restoration project, a bill-of-sale will often suffice.

A Bill-of-Sale

Some States don’t require a title certificate to register a vehicle, just a bill-of-sale, especially for older autos. The bill-of-sale should include the VIN, odometer reading, color, make, year, model, and any special features or modifications. It should also identify the buyer and seller, their contact and email information, phone numbers, and signatures of parties involved. Having the transaction notarized is added protection, and may be required by some States.

Who Buys Cars without a Title?

If you want to sell a car with a lost title, it is not as difficult as many believe. The DMV in most States will be able to issue a clean replacement title or salvage title depending on the condition of the automobile, for a fee of course. Having the title in hand makes it easier for those purchasing to know you have the legal right to sell the car or truck.

There are different recycling companies and even auto dealerships that will buy cars without a title. They use the VIN to obtain a salvage permit, saving you the fee. Some repair shops also purchase cars and trucks for parts or to restore or modify. Wreckers and salvage companies also pay good money for clunkers that are no longer roadworthy and frequently will handle the paperwork getting a salvage title. However, if you have the registration or bill-of-sale, the process is easier.

Selling a car with no title legally is also doable. Whether it’s long-abandoned in your field, shed, or yard, or something a friend or relative gave you as a project, many junkyards will pay you cash and take it away. They’re not planning to put it back on the road since most aren’t in very good condition. They’ll still use the VIN to do a title search; however, they’re purchasing it for parts and scrap metal.


Having a junky car, one that will cost more than you have to repair, or an abandoned vehicle on your property can be an eyesore. If you never had the title for it, or it’s misplaced and long gone, you can still legally sell it.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what title means, and how to sell your car without title. If you have one you’re ready to sell, contact us. We guarantee top dollar, offer free pickup, and have almost 30 years of industry experience!

Edgar Moulton.


Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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