Can I Sell My Motorcycle Without The Title? Read This First!


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The process of selling a motorcycle can be a tedious one, especially if you haven’t really done it before. There are a lot of things to consider during this process, the title being one of the top priorities.

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 places, it is illegal to sell a motorcycle without a title. You will need to obtain a new title if you plan on selling your motorcycle. The title indicates your ownership and if you cannot prove that, any potential buyers will have a difficult time registering the motorcycle in their name.

Having previously owned a motorcycle restoration business, I bought and sold dozens of motorcycles. 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. Keep on reading to see why.

Why You Shouldn’t Sell A Motorcycle Without A Title

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.

A buyer titling a motorcycle that has never been titled in their name is a lot more difficult than it is for you as the original owner to simply get a replacement title. The process of the buyer obtaining a new title will still heavily involve you; you’ll keep getting annoying phone calls and texts saying they need more information or you that need to sign a document.

I have made the mistake of buying a motorcycle without a title (but the deal was soooooo good!). When I went to the DMV to get it registered, there was a slew of paperwork given to me that needed to be signed by the original seller. The seller was totally annoyed with me. It was a maddening process for the both of us.

You may be thinking “So what Kyle, I’ll just ignore their phone calls or texts if the buyer keeps annoying me.” Yeah, you can maybe do that until they start taking some legal action. That, my friend, you cannot ignore. It’s possible for the buyer to take you to small claims court if you do not provide them with the 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.

How To Get A Title Replacement For Your Motorcycle

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. I’ve titled many motorcycles in several different states, here is the general process:

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 $30).

This form usually isn’t longer than two pages worth of information. 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 two weeks. Once this is mailed to you, the original title that was lost is considered 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.

A lot of states in the U.S. require that you get motorcycle insurance while getting an official title. You can click here to see different motorcycle insurance agencies and compare rates that suit you and your needs.

The Exceptions To Selling A Motorcycle Without A Title

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 the remaining balance of the loan (and pay you for anything leftover) and the bank will either transfer the title to the buyer’s bank (if they used a loan) or mail the buyer the title.

The second exception to selling a motorcycle without a title is if you have a barn find. This means 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 residence and they can perform a VIN inspection 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.

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 from you is a bill of sale to title it under their name. You can learn more about how to title a barn find by reading my article “How To Title A Barn Find (From Someone Who’s Done It).”

This happened when I purchased my 1969 TR25W Triumph. It had been sitting in a field for decades before someone discovered it. I saw it on an online platform for $500 and immediately jumped on the opportunity. It didn’t have a title because in Idaho (where I was living at the time), they didn’t issue titles for motorcycles in 1969.

Since this bike was so old, it had a serial number instead of a VIN. Regardless, I will still able to get a serial number inspection before I bought it which came back clear. I was able to title it under my name, it just took a little more paperwork. This was one of my favorite motorcycles, especially after I restored it!

Conclusion

If you plan on selling your motorcycle, make it a priority to have the title available. If you still have a loan amount and the title is currently held by the bank, it is still perfectly fine to sell your motorcycle with a few extra steps. Selling a motorcycle without a title is a huge headache for you and the buyer. Re-titling your motorcycle is easy and I guarantee it is well worth your time!

If you’re trying to sell your motorcycle that doesn’t have a title but don’t know where to start, please feel free to comment or reach out to us. We’re happy to help with any questions!

Related Question

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.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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