How to Get Car Titles Free of Liens

by Eliana Kalsky

Purchasing a car that has liens on the title can be quite difficult to clear up. A claim of lien is a claim against a piece of property, such as a car, by a debtor. This includes banks and mechanics, if the previous owner neglected to pay for a repair on the car. If the title isn't lien-free you may be responsible for paying it off and it will be very difficult to register the vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Determining the car's history and closely examining the car's registration and title, however, can save you both time and money.


Examine registration of the car that you want to buy. Check for liens in the paperwork and make sure that the name on the registration matches that of the seller's identification.


If you notice that there is a lien on the title then ask the owner or seller to confirm the specific status of the lien. If he or she states that it has been paid in full, ask for proof in writing.


Ensure that the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, matches the number listed on the car's registration. This will insure that the registration that you're being shown is the registration for the actual car.


Request a Carfax report from the dealer or order one yourself online. This will give you the full history of the vehicle, including information about previous owners, whether it was used as a fleet or rental vehicle or whether the car has ever been in a serious accident. The Carfax report will also provide you with details about the title of the car, specifically if there are any outstanding liens on the vehicle.


Take down the VIN and visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV should be able to give you a detailed history of the vehicle and check for any unpaid liens.


  • check Purchase your car from a reputable dealer rather than buying from someone who has placed an ad online or in a newspaper. Doing so will cut down on the risk of it having liens on the title.


  • close If there is a lien on the vehicle's title, contact the lien-holder directly to make sure that the lien has been paid.

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About the Author

Eliana Kalsky is a freelance writer currently living in Manhattan. After earning her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in London, England, she began writing as a career after moving to Miami in 2001. She has published a number of travel articles for both American and British publications.