Get Consultation

(256) 448-4853

Car Title Types Explained

  • 5 min read

There are many different types of car titles. A car title is a legal document that proves ownership of a vehicle. While most vehicles require a title, obtaining a vehicle title isn’t necessarily a cookie-cutter process. There are several types of titles for different types of vehicles and for different situations. These titles come with their own set of requirements from the owner or new buyer and are used for different reasons. The reason that there are many different types of car titles is that the title will alert the owner or new buyer about the history of the vehicle.

Clear title

A clear title means no liens or other claims against the vehicle. If you have a clear title in your name, you are the legal owner and can do as you please with the vehicle.

Lien title

A vehicle that has a lien or a title loan may have the title issued directly to the lienholder since the owner is indebted to the lienholder. The purchaser will be listed as the owner, but the title will list the lienholder. Once the lien or loan has been paid in full, the owner may send a letter to the lienholder requesting a title transfer. 

Bonded title

To obtain a title for your vehicle without ownership documents, you can purchase a surety bond to ensure that if someone else claims ownership of the vehicle in the future, the surety bond will cover any costs associated with that claim. The bonded title is stamped “bonded” for a period of 3-5 years before it will come off of the title and the owner may apply for a clear title. 

Duplicate title

If you are the legally titled owner of your vehicle and you have lost or misplaced the title document, you may apply for a duplicate title. Only the last titled owner in the DMV database can receive a duplicate title. Duplicate titles can only be issued in the state they were originally issued and only to the last titled owner of record. 

Lemon title

Each state has different regulations regarding whether a defective vehicle should be branded as a lemon. Before this branding can occur, the vehicle must have several malfunctions that render it unsafe to drive. If the malfunctions with the vehicle cannot be resolved, it will be assigned a lemon title.

Parts-only title

A parts-only designation is shown on a bill of sale or transfer form, but not on a title. However, if a parts-only bill of sale is submitted for vehicle title processing, the title may be issued with a salvage or nonrepairable brand.

Salvage title/nonrepairable title

When a vehicle incurs major damage, the title may be designated as a salvage or nonrepairable title. This is done typically when the cost of repairs is greater than 60 percent of the vehicle’s value. It may also be marked as salvage if a vehicle is stolen or totaled in an accident. A salvage title cannot be removed under federal law.

Junk title

Vehicles for which the title has been sold to a junkyard may be designated junk titles if it is intended to be scrapped or sold for parts. A vehicle’s VIN in the NMVTIS database means that it can no longer be titled after receiving a junk title brand.

Certificate of destruction

When insurance companies pay claims for vehicles and take ownership, they are eligible to process the title as a certificate of destruction. This title is affixed to vehicles that are intended to be destroyed or never driven again.

Certificate of origin

This is the very first document that is issued by the manufacturer to the dealer. This document is intended to be used to transfer the vehicle title to the first owner and obtain a title.

Manufacturer’s statement of origin 

Similar to the certificate of origin, but involving brand new imported and domestic vehicles.

Rebuilt title/reconstructed title

Rebuilt vehicles may have a rebuilt or reconstructed title, issued by an insurance company, body shop, collision center, or licensed rebuilder. Such a vehicle can usually be used for road use but will require additional inspections to verify its safety.

Court-ordered title

A title may be issued under an affidavit in lieu of missing documentation. This title method is often a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

Import title

To import a vehicle to the United States, you must have legal title. If the vehicle was previously titled in the United States, you may be able to clear customs by getting a state-issued title with restrictions. If the vehicle was not originally manufactured for the US market, there are specific requirements for certifying that the vehicle meets emission, bumper height, and other standards before entering the country.

Export title

If a vehicle is being exported, title documentation will be required for customs clearance. If the vehicle is not declared at the exit point, a clear title may not be possible in the destination country. Start the title process early so that storage fees do not accumulate while waiting for the title.