How to Get a Title on a Car With Only a Bill of Sale

by Nancy Wagner

Buying a vehicle with a bill of sale but no title is a bit tricky when it comes to registering the vehicle, but it can be done. You just need to complete a few steps, including obtaining a bonded title, and then you can claim the car as your own.

What a Bill of Sale Means

A bill of sale is proof that you bought the car. It acts as a contract to transfer the vehicle to you as the new and rightful owner, says Nolo, an online legal resource. The bill of sale should show the seller's name and address as well as the date the sale was concluded.

Meet Your State's Requirements

Each state has different requirements for using a bill of sale to start the process of obtaining a title. For instance, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles says you must be a resident of the state or be stationed with the military in Texas to use your bill of sale to get a title. In addition, the vehicle must have been titled in Texas before you bought it. The car cannot have been junked, stolen or included in a pending lawsuit. Most states, including Texas and Wyoming, also require a vehicle appraisal to determine the value of the car and a physical inspection to verify the vehicle identification number.

Buy a Surety Bond

Once you take your bill of sale and other required documentation to your state's DMV, the agency will send you a letter stating the amount of the vehicle surety bond you need to buy from an approved insurance provider. A surety bond ensures that the car is free and clear of all liens and other problems so you can be listed as the new owner. Each state varies on the amount dictated for the surety bond. For instance, Texas DMV requires a bond equivalent to 1.5 times the value of your car, while Wyoming and Florida both require a bond worth two times the value of your vehicle. You can buy a surety bond from a local agency or get one from online companies, such as All State Bonds or Surety Solutions, LLC. Plan to pay about $15 for each $1,000 of bond value, says Surety Solutions, LLC.

Obtain a Bonded Title

Once you buy a surety bond, you have a limited amount of time to apply for a bonded title that lists you as the legal owner of the car. A bonded title is a document the secretary of state provides once that office reviews your surety bond and compares it to the letter you received from the DMV. Most states also require you to fill out an application and pay a fee for the bonded title. Once the state sends you the bonded title, you can register the vehicle, buy car insurance and sell the car.

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