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Can You Drive a Car While Waiting for Title?


A car title is proof of ownership and its absence raises questions as to the validity of ownership. A car title is important in passing ownership of a car. However, is it possible that you can drive a car while waiting for the title?

It’s possible to drive a car while waiting for the title. However, this will depend on the law of the state you reside in.

This article highlights the importance of a car title, the situation where a car might not have a title. Lastly, the ways to register a car without a title.

Why Is A Car Title Important?

The primary function of a car title is to prove the ownership of the vehicle. A car title can be a personal or a business vehicle.

The car title is issued by the department of motor vehicles (DMV). The types of titles that are issued by the DMV include:

  • Clean Title: this is for cars in fine condition and which meet all the legal status.
  • Salvaged Title: this is for cars with mechanical issues.
  • Flood Title: cars whose engine parts have been damaged by floodwaters are issued a flood title.

A clean title is the only car title worth something. So you should ensure you get a clean title when buying a car.

Reasons Why A Car Might Not Have A Title

Sometimes, a car might not have a title due to the multiple reasons that include the following.

The Title Has Been Misplaced

Titles despite being so valuable can be misplaced. This will not affect the usage of the car but it will make it difficult to sell the car or mortgage it.

If you misplace your car title, you can get a duplicate from the DMV by providing alternative proof of ownership such as a payment receipt. The DMV will require a government-issued ID and you will pay a replacement fee to get a new title.

Title Is In Possession Of A Lien Holder

The car owner may have used the car to obtain a loan hence the car title is with the lender. During the duration of the loan, the car owner will not have the car title.

The Title Is Yet To Be Signed or Delivered by the Seller

If the arrangement for purchase between the buyer and the seller is inconclusive, the car title will remain in the possession of the seller. Sometimes, the buyer might have made a part payment but the title will remain with the seller until the full cost is paid.

Ongoing Transfer Process

After purchasing a car, the process of transferring the title from the seller to the buyer can take weeks. During the process, the buyer owns the car but the buyer does not have the title.

Should You Buy A Car Without A Title?

While it’s possible to buy a car without a title, it’s not advisable to do so. The absence of a lack of title can lead to different issues.

The absence of a title will make it difficult to register the car in your name. Inability to register the car will make it impossible to insure and drive the car.

It’s also illegal in all states in the United States to drive a car without proof of ownership. If caught driving without a title, you will have to pay a fine and in some cases, your car can be impounded.

How To Legally Own A Car You Purchased Without A Title

When a car doesn’t have a title, ownership can’t pass from seller to buyer. So in such a situation, what can you do?

man stand front of his won car

These are the options you can consider.

The Seller Can Request For A Duplicate Title

The seller can request a duplicate title from the DMV after submitting alternative proof of ownership. The information the seller requires to obtain a duplicate title includes:

Obtain A Bill Of Sale

A bill of sale can serve as a viable alternative to a car title. When paying for the car, ask for a bill of sales. The bill of sales should contain details such as the price, VIN, car odometer reading, etc.

Additionally, you should try to make the payment in a manner that you can prove. You can issue a cheque or make a wire transfer and keep a record of the payment. The record will be proof that you own the car should the situation demands.

Get A Surety Bond Title

Some states grant surety bonds as alternatives to car titles. To get a surety bond, you will need to provide proof of ownership such as a receipt. You will also need evidence that the car is in good condition.

The bond company will evaluate your car to determine the bond amount. After the determination, you can then pay a specific percentage of the bond amount.

The bond amount varies according to the state of residence. However, it doesn’t go beyond 1.5 multiplied by your car’s cost.

After three to five years, you can remove the bond as long as the car is in fine condition. During the duration of the surety bond, ensure you have other documents relating to the car.

Register The Car In Your Name

After paying for the car, it’s time to register a new title in your name. Some states may not let you register without a title while other States permit it.

When you’re allowed to register a car without a title you will be given a non-transferable registration by the state. This type of title is only for personal use and it’s not transferable.

You should contact your local DMV office to know the requirements and cost of registering a car without title.


A car title is an important proof of ownership that’s why you should have it. If you don’t have one, you can approach the appropriate agency for a replacement.

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