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What To Do If A Motorcycle Has No Title

motorcycle in garage

Are you thinking of buying a motorcycle without a title? Perhaps you’ve found a great old bike in a local garage, but the owner hasn’t seen hide nor hair of a title.

In either case, purchasing a motorcycle that doesn’t have a title can be a little tricky. However, it’s not impossible.

There are quite a few reasons why a motorcycle might be titleless, and you must investigate these potential causes before investing your hard-earned cash.

Naturally, once you’ve purchased a titleless bike, you’ll need to acquire a new title for it.

Don’t worry. We’ll walk you through buying a motorcycle without a title in a matter of minutes!

Reasons Why You Might Buy a Titleless Motorcycle

It’s crucial to recognize the reasons why you might end up buying a titleless motorcycle.

Not only could doing so help prevent unwanted or unsatisfying purchases, but it could also help you understand your priorities and motives a little more clearly.

For example, an individual may want to purchase a motorcycle that doesn’t have a title if:

  • The motorcycle is being sold for far less than it’s worth
  • It’s a vintage cycle with a ton of history and value
  • The owner has lost the title but is willing to order a replacement

Some of these situations are far more beneficial than others.

If you find a motorcycle that’s made of expensive parts and is in excellent condition being sold for less than half of what it’s worth, there’s a good chance that it’s a stolen bike.

It’s easy to get lured into a dicey situation with stolen goods when low prices are involved.

However, you may end up losing several hundred dollars or thousands of dollars when police confiscate the property.

After all, criminals that steal vehicles and sell them for cheap aren’t likely to compensate you for your losses unless you take them to court.

And that’s another financial and emotional rigamarole. So, if you see a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

But older motorcycles may not have a title or a VIN, and that can also cause some red flags to rise.

However, some of the most sought-after vintage bikes were manufactured during a period where titles and VINs weren’t enforced or particularly common among motorcycles.

If you find a sweet deal on an Indian or Brough Superior, spend your money, take your bill of sale, and get out of there before the previous owner changes their mind!

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Conversely, if you encounter a seller who confides that they’ve lost or misplaced the for-sale motorcycle’s title, you might want to work with them to order a replacement.

Once the duplicate has arrived, you can finalize the sale, transfer the title, and be on your way.

Of course, this option isn’t so simple if the seller or previous owner never received a motorcycle title. Still, buying a motorcycle without a title is possible!

Why Doesn’t My New Motorcycle Have a Title?

If you’ve recently purchased a motorcycle without a title, or you’re thinking of doing so, you may have some questions.

One of the most pressing is often, “Why doesn’t my motorcycle have a title?” The answer to this pondering varies from simple, foolish mistakes to criminal matters.

Generally, a motorcycle might lack a title if:

  • It has been stolen
  • The owner misplaced the title
  • The title was lost in a fire, flood, or another type of natural disaster
  • The current owner purchased the bike without a title and never applied for one
  • It is a vintage piece dating back to (or before) the 1950s

When you schedule an appointment and see your prospective motorcycle, you’ll want to ask the current owner plenty of questions.

If they admit that there’s no title, try politely inquiring as to why that is. You may also want to ask:

  • Did they lose the title?
  • Do they simply need to order a duplicate?
  • Did they ever have the title for the motorcycle?
  • Who did they purchase the bike from initially? Can they remember?
  • Do they have any documentation to prove that the sale transpired?

These are only a few of the questions you’ll want to ask when investigating the precise cause of your titleless motorcycle.

Be sure to browse a more comprehensive list for inspiration. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad that you took the time to ask the right questions.

While you might miss out on a sweet bike from time to time, by being cautious and thorough, you’ll also avoid accidental jail time!

Buying a motorcycle without a title can be risky but not if you take the proper precautions.

Can I Get a Title For My Motorcycle?

In most cases, it’s possible to get a title for a motorcycle that doesn’t currently have one. Of course, to get a title, you may need to work with the previous owner.

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If there’s no registered documentation to prove that the bike belongs to you, it can be nearly impossible to order a replacement title in your name.

Significantly, motorcycles without a vehicle identification number (VIN) can be challenging to register.

Custom builds with plenty of documentation are a straightforward affair, but a bike that’s had its VIN scratched away or mysteriously vanished may be stolen.

To keep yourself safe from potential scams and illegal purchases, only invest in motorcycles with identifiable VINs.

Otherwise, you could end up losing your new motorcycle and receiving zero compensation. The only exception to this broad rule would be vintage motorcycles.

Bikes manufactured and sold before the 1950s may lack any form of identifying brand, logo, or number.

So long as you can verify that the vehicle is a genuine vintage piece, you’ll be able to apply for special licensure and titles for it.

If your chosen motorcycle has a VIN but lacks a title, you can take steps to acquire a new title or a duplicate title.

But buyer beware, a titleless bike that isn’t backed by at least one form of official documentation could be a hassle!

Before you sign any checks or hand over a wad of cash, be sure to check the bike’s VIN and have a few words with the previous owner.

How to Get a Title for a Used Bike

Getting a new title or a duplicate title for a used motorcycle might be far more straightforward than you think!

In most cases, you’ll only need a few essential documents and a form of payment. However, if the previous owner is willing to assist you, then you may be able to expedite the whole process.

For example, suppose you’ve got your eye on a motorcycle that doesn’t have a title (but does have a VIN).

In that case, you can ask the current owner if they’d be willing to request a replacement title through the mail or update the title to your name electronically via the state’s DMV website.

While both options may incur a small fee, you’ll at least have a title to work with when it’s all said and done.

Of course, you may not be in contact with the previous owner, or they may be unwilling to help. When this happens, the path toward title-dom gets a little trickier.

Generally, getting a title for a used motorcycle comes down to two options:

  • Enlist the help of the previous owner
  • Get a bill of sale
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Both of these options require at least a moderate amount of compliance on the part of the seller or previous owner.

If they’re not willing to sign a bill of sale or work with you to receive a valid title, it might be better to move along.

Sellers who can’t provide a VIN, vehicle history, or motorcycle title are more than a little suspicious.

Still, if the bike you’ve got your heart set on has a VIN (especially one visible on the frame), you’re halfway home.

Before you negotiate on a price, you can input the motorcycle’s VIN into an identification database.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a fantastic selection of VIN tools and search applications.

Check to see if the vehicle’s written description matches its current look before moving along to the bartering stage.

During your VIN lookup, you may also be able to see a brief vehicle history report, as well as a list of previous owners.

This information could be beneficial in guiding your purchasing decision.

If things seem to be going well and you’ve struck an acceptable bargain with the seller, you can attempt to enlist their help in getting a title for the bike.

This might be as simple as going online together and researching your state’s motorcycle title transfer and replacement regulations.

Should the previous owner seem resistant to helping you acquire a new title, you might want to insist on a bill of sale before letting any money change hands.

While a bill of sale may not satisfy title requirements in all US states, it is accepted in some DMV offices in place of other documentation.

At the very least, it’s proof that you attempted to go about things lawfully.

Final Thoughts

You might buy a titleless motorcycle if it’s a great deal or a vintage find. Sometimes, a bike might not have a title because the owner lost it.

In rare cases, the current owner might lack a title because they never got one from the previous owner!

Should you find yourself owning a titleless motorcycle, you’ll need to check to see if the vehicle has a VIN. If not, it might be a custom-built bike. It may also be stolen.

Either way, you’ll need a VIN to get a new title or a duplicate title. Bikes without a VIN are a liability.

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