There are actually quite a few bits of knowledge that benefit a driver who is buying a used car title along with the vehicle. The most basic rule is that every vehicle needs a title, and every title needs a vehicle. Beyond this, beginning car buyers should be aware of these basic guidelines for checking the title on a used car or truck.
Lenders can put a “lien” on a title – a lien on a car or truck title means that someone has a financial investment in the vehicle. Vehicles should not be sold while there is a lien on their title, and if you see one, ask about it.
A “salvage title” means the vehicle has been damaged – when a vehicle is wrecked and then rebuilt or repaired, the owner is required to take a salvage title that shows that this crucial event occurred in the vehicle’s history. A buyer should definitely look to see if a salvage title is indicated before buying the vehicle.
You’ll need a state specific title – the buyer will also want to check that the current title is in the state where the vehicle will be registered. If not, registering will require a state specific title, so the buyer should check what state has issued the original title and make arrangements before buying.
A title must be legitimately notarized in some states – some buyers fall into the trap of not understanding what a notary is for. This can especially be a problem with online deals for used vehicles. Notarizing the title means that both parties must be available and present in front of the notary. Otherwise, alterations to the title are not legitimate.
A defaced title may not be valid – many states have conditions requiring a defaced title to be reprinted by the state. That means if the original title looks like it’s been through the wash, is taped together, or has holes in it, it’s worth asking about before the deal goes through.
Paying attention to these points will help you avoid problems with the title when buying a car used.