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What’s The Difference Between A Lost Title & Title Recovery?

  • 4 min read

To get a new vehicle title, you will need to file for a lost title or use a method of title recovery. The vehicle title is the most important document for a vehicle and provides legal proof of ownership. Depending on your situation, this article will help you understand how to get a new title.

What is a lost title?

A lost title is also more commonly known as a duplicate title or a replacement title. A lost title is a vehicle title that was previously titled in your name, but the certificate has been lost, damaged, destroyed, or stolen. A lost title or duplicate title process requires that the individual applying for the title must be the registered owner in the DMV database. If you were not the last titled owner, you are not eligible for a duplicate or replacement title.

How to file for a lost title

If you were the last titled owner, you can apply for a lost title or duplicate title with the DMV in your state. Most state duplicate title fees range from $2-$20 for a new certificate of title. Complete an application for a duplicate title in your state, pay the applicable fees, and provide the proper identification documents.

Duplicate titles can only be issued in the state where the vehicle was last titled. For example, if you last titled your vehicle in Oregon, but now live in Colorado, you must contact the DMV location in the Oregon county in which the vehicle was last titled to obtain a duplicate title.

What is title recovery?

Title recovery is necessary when you have come into possession of a vehicle and did not receive a vehicle title at the time of purchase or lost the title before it could be transferred to your name. Title recovery uses legal methods allowed by the DMV in your state to get a new title for you in your name when you are lacking sufficient evidence of ownership. Each state determines the title recovery methods that are allowed by law.

How to determine the best title recovery method

There are over 22 different title recovery methods available. The title recovery method that is best for your vehicle situation will depend on the following factors:

  1. Vehicle model year
  2. State of residence
  3. The evidence of ownership you currently have (bill of sale, court order, etc.)

What are the most common title recovery methods?

Vermont Title Loophole

The Vermont title loophole is a popular title recovery method used by out-of-state residents to obtain a vehicle title for vehicles model 15 years old or older using a bill of sale. Vermont is a non-titling jurisdiction, meaning the state does not produce titles for vehicle models older than 15 years old. However, these vehicles will receive a vehicle registration which in Vermont is equivalent to a vehicle certificate of title. After receiving this title equivalent, out-of-state residents can use the registration as evidence of ownership to transfer to a title in their state.

Bonded Title

A bonded title is a method of title recovery that requires you to obtain a surety bond, also known as a vehicle title bond, to secure ownership of the vehicle. The surety bond serves as collateral in the event that there is a discrepancy in the claim of ownership. Not every state allows for bonded titles. If your state does not accept bonded titles, you may be eligible for a bonded title through Vermont.

Prior Owner Contact

If you are able to contact the prior owner of your vehicle, you can request they apply for a duplicate title and transfer it to you. If you know the prior owner, this would be a direct way to obtain a new title, as long as they’re willing to cooperate. The prior owner is not required to obtain a duplicate title and signs it over to you, but it would be a good idea for them if they did. By not signing over the vehicle title, the prior owner is still on the hook for any legalities that happen to the vehicle.

If you are unable to locate or contact the prior owner, you may have to proceed with a different method of title recovery.

Deceased Owner Title Transfer

If the last titled owner of your vehicle is now deceased, each state has a process to transfer the title from a deceased owner. However, in most cases, the applicant will need to prove a familial relationship to the vehicle owner or have affidavits signed by living heirs to the estate.

Before using this title recovery method, get legal advice from a qualified legal resource or lawyer.