How to Fix a Vehicle Title

by Jeff Zhorne

Every U.S. state issues titles with unique numbers to provide vehicle owners with proof of ownership. Laws prevent individuals from selling cars, trucks or other vehicles without a clear title. Before attempting to repair or clear up the title to your vehicle, check with your local department of motor vehicles to determine the specific problem. Title designations, called "branding," include salvage, rebuilt, flood damage, hail damage, bonded, dismantled, junk title and not actual mileage title. The vehicle also may have outstanding liens against it.

Check to see exactly what designation (known as "branding") your vehicle has. If the vehicle is owned outright, this designation will be evident on the title (certificate or "pink slip"). If the vehicle is not yet paid off, this designation will be evident on the registration. Contact your local department of motor vehicles, if you are unsure about the status of your vehicle.

Write to your Motor Vehicles department for a detailed history of your vehicle, but once a title designation is made, no change is permitted. After a vehicle is 10 years old or older (depending on the state), however, the not-actual-mileage title can be cleared as the Department of Motor Vehicles waives concerns about mileage after 10 years.

Determine if there is a loan against the vehicle. A clear title has nothing to do with salvage; it means there are no lienholders (loan companies, banks or debtors) listed on the title. If you make car payments to a bank or other lender, you do not have a clear title. A clear title is also called a "pink slip," meaning the vehicle is owned outright.


  • check Check whether a vehicle has title issues by referring to (see "References").
  • check Salvage or rebuilt is when a vehicle is declared a total loss by an insurance company. Once a car has that designation, it cannot be changed but can be repaired, bought and sold.


  • close If you are attempting to sell a vehicle with a title issue, most state laws require disclosure before sale.

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About the Author

By age 10, Jeff Zhorne was writing for the local newspaper in East Texas. He earned scholarships in journalism, worked on college newspapers and was editor of various publications in Los Angeles beginning in 1982. In 2000 he wrote "The Everything Guide to Fly-Fishing" (Adams Media, New York). He is published in "San Marino Tribune," "Pasadena Living," "Santa Clarita Living" and "LA Daily News."

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