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If you’re trying to figure out how to get a title for a car with only a bill of sale, don’t panic. Whilst it’s unusual not to receive the title transfer with the exchange of a vehicle it isn’t an impossible process to get your name on the title. You just need the right paperwork.

Having a title to your new vehicle is going to be essential to register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and getting it insured. Yet, it’s not unheard of for car buyers to only receive a bill of sale but no title when making a private sale. However, you will need to go through a couple of extra steps to complete the transfer of the title properly.

In this article, we’ll explain the steps you’ll need to follow in order to get the title for your car if you don’t already have it. You’ll also find out the most important information you need to know about bills of sale and vehicle title certificates to complete the process without a hitch.

4 Quick Steps to Getting a Title for a Car with Only a Bill of Sale

The simplest trick to getting your name on the title certificate of your car when it isn’t transferred with the bill of sale is to buy a surety bond and get a bonded title. This process can be a little bureaucratic but it is sometimes the most straightforward way to make sure that your new vehicle is titled in your name.

In order to get a bonded title, you’ll need to follow 4 key steps.

1) Assess What State Rules You Will Need to Follow

Every state is different and will have its own rules on how you will be able to register for a bonded title or make the title transfer on your new vehicle. In some areas, it will be necessary for example to have a vehicle value appraisal. The vehicle may also require a physical inspection to check that it’s VIN is the same as stated on the bill of sale.

2) Visit the DMV in Your State

Only the DMV has the authority to confirm whether you are eligible for a bonded title or not. To clarify that you are the legal owner of the car, you will need to visit your local state branch.

The staff at the DMV will normally first help you explore options to see if there are other alternatives to allow you to transfer the title. If however, there are no such choices available they will then make sure that your bill of sale is legitimate and that you haven’t acquired an abandoned or stolen vehicle. If this is satisfactory you will be able to continue with the process.

3) Get a Surety Bond

In the next step to getting a bonded title, you will need a surety bond. The cost of this will vary depending on what state you’re living in.

To get the bond itself you will need your signed bill of sale and some ID to the DMV. They will inform you of the price you will need to pay and which insurance providers are approved by the state to issue these bonds in this case.

Once you’ve bought the bond you will need to wait until it is mailed to you (usually within 5 days). Once it’s been received you will be able to move on to the final step.

4) Apply for a Bonded Title

With your surety bond approved and paid, you will now be able to apply for a bonded title at the DMV. This must be done within a specific amount of time after taking out your surety bond or it will lapse.

To apply for the bonded title and complete this final step, you will need the accepted surety bond form and a completed and authorized DMV application or letter of approval. In some states, the DMV will be able to grant approval themselves, whilst in others, the local Secretary of State may need to authorize the title.

What is the Car Title?

Having a car title in your name is essential. This proves that it is officially owned by you and guarantees that you have not purchased it illegally or stolen it.

Each state will keep this information on record to prevent theft and fraud. The certificate of the title itself will contain key information about the car such as:

  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The odometer reading
  • The date of purchase
  • The name and address of the owner
  • Any liens or claims against the vehicle
  • Whether the car is new or used

What Information is Included on a Car Bill of Sale?

A car bill of sale will very often contain a number of essential details about the car you’re buying (or have just purchased). In order for it to be considered legally valid, it will usually include:

  • The details of the buyer and the seller
  • The car’s make, model and registration number
  • The car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The price of the car’s purchase
  • The date and location of the sale
  • The car’s odometer reading

Whilst some of the details included on a bill of sale are the same as on the title, the bill of sale only records the financial exchange on the asset itself and doesn’t officially transfer title ownership.

Once you hold the title for your new car, you’ll be able to make the full use of it without any worries. You will be able to register the car and get it insured as you normally would and get the maximum enjoyment from your new vehicle.

If you want to buy or sell a car with a bill of sale, try out our customizable bill of sale form now to trade a vehicle. Take advantage of methodical step-by-step instructions and easy to follow instructions and tips to help you along the way to a fully valid legal document.


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Read more: How to Transfer a Car Title