3 Tips For Getting A Duplicate Automotive Title

While you likely need to keep several pieces of documentation for your car, including your registration and insurance information, your title is by far the most important. Like the deed to your home, your title establishes ownership of your vehicle. Without a valid title, you may have limited options for selling, trading, or even gifting your old car.

Unfortunately, your title is still just a single piece of paper. Many people lose track of their titles during moves, remodeling, or just regular spring cleaning. Major disasters such as fires or floods can also destroy this fragile but critical document. Fortunately, getting a duplicate title doesn't need to be difficult, and these three tips will help you smooth over any bumps in the road.

1. Don't Wait

Many people know they no longer have the title for their car but choose to put off getting a replacement. Since you don't need your title for most routine tasks, such as buying insurance or renewing your registration, getting a duplicate title may not seem urgent. However, waiting until you need your title can be needlessly frustrating.

Acquiring a duplicate title requires a title search, which can take some time. Your motor vehicle department will also need to send you the title through regular mail, further increasing your turnaround time. Waiting until the last minute can mean delaying selling or trading in your car, so it's usually good to request a duplicate title as soon as you know you've lost the old one.

2. Know Your State Laws

Most states only allow you to request a duplicate title when you can no longer access the old one. Remember that your title establishes ownership, so having more than one title "in the wild" can lead to potential complications and disputes. Some states may impose fines or penalties if you request a duplicate title while you still have access to the original.

Of course, these restrictions won't apply in most cases, but you should still be aware of your state laws and requirements. If you do happen to find your old title, you should thoroughly shred and discard the old title. Always keep the newer version of your title instead of the older one, even if your state has no specific laws regarding multiple title copies.

3. Prepare Documentation In Advance

The documentation needed to request a duplicate title will vary between states, although most only require an ID, a completed request form, and any necessary fees. Note that the situation may be slightly more complicated if you previously had a loan on your car. In this case, the title will list your lender as a lienholder.

If you haven't previously completed a title transfer for a title with a lienholder, you should check whether you need to file a separate transfer form or if you can make your duplicate request with a lien release letter. Ensure you understand this process since requesting a duplicate title with an active lien may result in your state's DMV sending the new title to your lender instead. 

For more info about car duplicate titles, contact a local professional.