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Vehicle Titles

StreetWise Auto Buying Resources

Autobuying
  • Summary
  • Article

Your Vehicle Title

Learn...

  1. What a vehicle title is
  2. What information it should have
  3. How titles differ from registrations
  4. Issues between different states
  5. What a lienholder is
  6. If you want to sell a car when DCU is the lienholder
  7. What to do if you can't find your title
  8. What to do if your car has no title

Your Vehicle Title

What is a vehicle title?

A vehicle title denotes ownership. If the vehicle is paid for you should have the title in your possession, with your correct name, address and state. Do not put this in your glove compartment. If your car was stolen and the vehicle title found in the glove compartment, the thieves could forge your signature to the back. They can now transfer the title to their name and you would have a hard time proving the vehicle was stolen. Place your vehicle title in a safe place, even a safe deposit box.

What information must be correct on your vehicle title?

If you buy a new car or a used car from a dealership, they usually will file the vehicle title with your state's Motor Vehicle Department. If you have financed the vehicle with DCU, or another institution, it is very important that the dealer have the correct lien holder name and address so that the institution holding the loan is listed as lien holder. If it's correct from the start you won't have to incur an added fee to correct it later.

Your address has to be correct, for several important reasons. When you pay off your vehicle, depending on your state, the state department of Motor Vehicles or your financial institution will mail you your title or a lien release. They will use the address they have on file. If you have moved and not informed them it will go to your old address. If anyone opens it, they can forge your signature on the back and transfer the vehicle to their name with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This has happened.

If you are in an accident and are filing a claim, your insurance company needs to have access to the title. If your address is not correct or the title is not accurate, they could deny your claim. You could even be responsible for paying more insurance since they billed for insurance using an incorrect address.

Make sure these are correct on your title

When you receive your copy of the title after buying a car, be sure to check these for accuracy

  1. Your name and address

  2. If there is a lien holder

  3. Your vehicle VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

  4. The state in which the title was issued

How does a vehicle title differ from your vehicle registration?

Your vehicle registration is proof you can operate this vehicle. This is renewed every year or two (depending on individual state regulations) and it is advised that you keep this in the glove compartment of your vehicle. If your vehicle is ever stopped by police, they will ask to see your license and registration.

Your vehicle title is proof that you own the vehicle and should be kept in a safe place such as a home safe – not in your vehicle.

Every state is different in how it deals with titles

If you are moving out of state, contact your new state's department of motor vehicle registration and find out what their policies are. Then inform DCU that you have moved and request your title if you have your loan with us. This will allow you to transfer the title and register your car in your new state. It is important to notify your financial institution and your state's department of motor vehicles as well as your insurance company even for in-state moves. Many states will allow you to do much of this online. You can update your address with DCU online, by phone, or in writing.

What is a lienholder?

A lienholder is any party that has financed your vehicle, has a security interest in it, and, if you stop payments, can repossess your vehicle. If you financed your car with an advance from your home equity loan, there is no lienholder. The lien is on your home and won't appear on your vehicle title.

What if you want to sell a car that has DCU as a lienholder?

You cannot complete the sale or trade-in of a vehicle until all liens have been satisfied. That means any loans secured by the vehicle are paid off and you have either received your title or a lien release form.

Once you pay off your loan at DCU, we will send you the title or release it from your state's department of motor vehicles so you can provide it to the new owner. However, if you have not correctly provided DCU with the title, you may have to file for a duplicate with your state.

What do you do if you do not know where your title is?

If you know you own the car and have no financing, you can get in contact with your state's department of motor vehicles to request a duplicate. Cost and time frames for this differ state to state. Most states can accommodate these requests online.

What if there never was a title before?

Contact your state's department of motor vehicles to find out their requirements. Getting a title replaced takes time and additional money.

 

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