The process of selling a motorcycle can be a tedious one, especially if you haven’t done it many times before. There is a lot of things to think about when selling a motorcycle and the title should be one of those things.
The title of a motorcycle is considered an important document. If you don’t have the title to your motorcycle or if you simply lost it, you may be wondering if selling your motorcycle without it is a possibility.
Can I sell my motorcycle without a title? In most states, it is illegal to sell a motorcycle without a title. While there are some states that don’t require the seller to provide the title upfront, they are still obligated to eventually provide the title to the buyer. It is difficult for the buyer to get a new title without obtaining the title from the seller.
I have bought and sold over twelve motorcycles in the last few years. I have seen first-hand the importance of obtaining a title when buying as well as having a title in-hand when selling. Understanding the importance of having a title ready for a buyer will make your transaction run much smoother.
Why You Shouldn’t Sell Without A Title
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of special documents such as the title to a motorcycle. I’ve had my fair share of lost titles and understand that not always having the title readily available when selling is a common occurrence.
There are a million legitimate reasons why someone may not have the title to their motorcycle. But the truth is, it’s actually illegal to sell a motorcycle without giving the buyer the title, even if the buyer didn’t ask for it or seemed lax about the situation.
Though there are some states that do not require the seller to immediately give the buyer the title during the transaction, the seller is still legally obligated to eventually give the seller the title.
For example, the state of Mississippi states that though a seller can technically sell a motorcycle without a title, the seller has to at least apply for a duplicate title at the time of the transaction with the intention of the buyer getting the title. The buyer should get the title in no less than 10-14 days.
When you sell a motorcycle without a title, you’ll still get annoying calls from the buyer because they need more information and/or your signature on documents to get a new title under their name. A buyer titling a motorcycle that has never titled it under their name before is a lot more difficult than it is for you as the original owner to simply get a replacement title.
You’ll also likely have a hard time selling your motorcycle in the first place without a title. A lot of people are wary of untitled motorcycles because they suspect it is either stolen or it has a lien on it that they don’t know about. And they have good reason to suspect this. If they were to buy a motorcycle in a stolen or lien-holding condition, it would be a huge headache and therefore they only look at motorcycles whose owners have the title.
Lastly, if you are to sell a motorcycle without a title, you run the risk of the buyer taking you to small claims court. It’s possible for a lawyer to get involved if there were any issues with the title that you were unaware of and it ultimately falls down on you because you sold a motorcycle with title issues (even if you didn’t know about it).
How To Get A Title Replacement
If you are thinking about selling your motorcycle but don’t have a title to it, there are a few simple steps you can take to guarantee your legal safety and have a smooth transaction.
First, you may attempt to find your title. Sometimes titles are placed in the most obvious of places that you don’t think to look such as desk drawers or the top of the fridge. Also remember that if you bought the motorcycle with a loan from a bank, the bank will have the title.
If you have lost the title to the motorcycle with zero hope of finding it, the process of getting a new title is actually pretty simple. You’ll need to go to your local DMV and report that the title to your motorcycle has been lost. They will give you a “Lost or Stolen Title” form that you’ll fill out and pay a small fee (usually about $10-$20) to get the new title.
The form you fill out usually isn’t longer than two pages worth of information (this depends on the state you live in). The application is then sent off to the Department of Revenue who will check the information and make sure it matches up with their records.
If your application is a match to their records (meaning they see in their computer system the motorcycle was, in fact, titled under your name) they will generate a new one and mail it to you within about two weeks. Once this is mailed to you, the original title that was lost is considered to be void.
As I stated before, it’s a lot easier for you as the original owner to generate a new title than it is for a buyer to generate a title that the seller lost. A buyer simply can’t go in and fill out a lost title form because the Department of Revenue will see that the information doesn’t match up.
This requires a whole slew of paperwork the buyer has to do that includes you and your signature. It’s much easier for everyone for you to just get the title of the motorcycle before selling.
What About Barn Finds?
There are a few exceptions to selling a motorcycle without a title. The first one being if you currently have a loan and the bank holds the title. It is still entirely possible to sell a motorcycle with a loan on it, you will just need to notify your bank about the transaction. The buyer will then go with you to the bank to pay them the remaining balance of the loan and the bank will then either transfer the title to the buyer’s bank or mail them the title.
The second exception to selling a motorcycle without a title is if you have a barn find. The term “barn find” is a pretty common phrase heard in the motorcycle world. Essentially what it means is that there is an older motorcycle that has been abandoned and the owner is nowhere in sight and is completely unknown and/or unreachable.
In this case, it may be permissible to sell this motorcycle without a title. There are several states that do not require a title on a motorcycle that is older than a certain year.
If you stumble upon a barn find and plan on selling it, do a VIN inspection before posting it for sale. You can either do this by having a police officer come to your place of residence and they can check the VIN there or you may need to take it to your local DMV and have one of their employees inspect it. They will be able to clear that the motorcycle is neither stolen nor has a lien on it.
When you post it for sale, be sure to be extremely detailed about how you found it, that it doesn’t have a title, and that you performed a VIN inspection which came out clean. Report that you would be willing to have the VIN re-inspected with any interested buyers to ease their minds.
All you will need to give the buyer is a bill of sale. And if you’re in a state that didn’t title motorcycles before a certain year (and the motorcycle was made before that mark), all the buyer needs to get a new title is the bill of sale.
How To Get Rid Of A Motorcycle Without A Title
I’ve heard of situations some people have been in where their motorcycle isn’t worth much and it would take a lot of money to get it running. They want to get rid of it but don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a new title that they lost.
There’s still an option for this. If you’re willing, there are several junk yards that will accept motorcycles and other vehicles as scrap metal. Some of them do require a title to accept the motorcycle, but there are some that only require your last registration as well as your driver’s license to confirm your ownership.
Junk yards will usually pay up a few hundred dollars for the motorcycles you give as scrap metal. Though I don’t love suggesting to give up a motorcycle as scrap metal, some people are left with no choice when it isn’t worth the work required to get it functioning.
What should you do if your motorcycle is stolen? If your motorcycle is stolen, there are several steps you should take such as reporting it stolen to the police as well as your insurance company. You’ll also want to post pictures of it on social media and check online selling platforms. Click here to see my article for more information.
What does the term “title jumping” mean? Title jumping is when someone buys a vehicle but does not register it in their name before they sell the vehicle to avoid paying taxes on it. Though they have a title to give the buyer, this is considered illegal.