How to Put a Lien on an Auto Title

by Julianne Russ
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When you finance a vehicle through a bank, the bank becomes the first secured party. You must add this information when you apply for the title. A car lien will remain on the title until you repay the debt. The lender will issue a lien release after you make your final payment. If purchasing through a dealer, the dealer will file a lien on your behalf. If you already have the title and need to add a lien, you need to follow the lien filing guidelines issued by your state.

Step 1

Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) location or the state authority that issues vehicle titles. You can look up locations online at in the section "DMV Office Finder." Enter your city, state or zip code and press the blue triangle to search. The search will give you a list of nearby office addresses and phone numbers.

Step 2

Obtain a title application. Fill out your personal information, vehicle information and lien holder information (address and lien code). If you don't have a lien code, call the lending institution's customer service and ask for the lien code. Sign the application.

Give the application and the title to the clerk. Pay the appropriate fee to add a lien holder. Fees vary by state. You may need to show the loan documents for verification. The clerk will verify the information and file it. The DMV will issue a new title. Depending on the state you live in, the title may be mailed directly to the lender, as the first secured party. You will receive a copy in the mail. In some states, the vehicle owner receives the title and the lender receives a lien notice.


  • Once you pay off the loan, the lender will mail you a lien release and the title if they kept it per your states regulations. You will need to take the title and the lien release to the DMV office and request a lien-free title issued.
  • An individual can file a mechanic's lien for non-payment of a debt, such as for services or a loan. He will need to present an unpaid bill or contract. Read your state's statutes before filing it at the DMV. In some states, you need to file a mechanic's lien in court.


  • Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to find your state's requirements for filing a lien.

Items you will need

  • Car title
  • Lien holder information
  • Loan documents
  • Title application
  • Fee

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