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Should you walk away from a used motorcycle with no title?
Some of the best motorcycle restoration projects start with an old bike with a lost title.
We’ll answer all your questions about whether or not you should walk away from a no-title bike, plus we’ll walk you through getting it titled and registered in your name.
Can you buy a motorcycle without a title?
While registering and titling a bike in your name is going to be more difficult when you buy it without a title, there are still some options.
The bottom line is, yes, you can buy a motorcycle without a title if you want.
Common Reasons a Used Motorcycle Doesn’t Have a Title
It’s really not all that uncommon for a used motorcycle to be missing the title.
Obviously, it will make everything easier when the title is available and clear, but if you’re interested in restoring old bikes, that won’t always be a luxury you’ll have.
There are plenty of reasons why a bike is missing its title, some of the common ones we’ve encountered include:
- The title has simply been misplaced over the years.
- The previous owner has died and the title is nowhere to be found.
- The bike had been abandoned on someone’s property.
- The bike was owned before the state started issuing titles.
If you’ve found a motorcycle for sale without a title, check out the steps below to help you decide if it’s a good deal and learn how to get it back on the road.
Steps to Take When Buying a Motorcycle without a Title
Buying a motorcycled without a title does come with a few extra steps and challenges, but isn’t a total deal breaker.
Motorcycles without a title are often cheaper than bikes with titles. Getting them titled and registered is not impossible, and if you can’t, you can always use it as a parts bike.
The main thing you’ll need to consider when buying a no-title motorcycle is whether or not it’s stolen.
Check if the Motorcycle is Stolen
You can check if the motorcycle has been reported stolen by contacting local law enforcement or running a VIN check.
Common sense goes a long way here too.
If something seems fishy or something about the bike/seller seems off, trust your gut.
If the VIN comes back clean, that’s good news, but you’re not out of the woods just yet.
You’ll still need to take some steps to register and title the bike.
Each state has a slightly different process for registering and titling no-title motorcycles.
Some states make it fairly easy, while others make it a total PITA.
More on your primary options below.
Get a Bill of Sale for the Motorcycle
A bill of sale is important any time you buy and sell a motorcycle.
It serves to document the transaction, record the names and addresses of both parties, and acts as a chain of ownership.
When the motorcycle you’re buying doesn’t have a title, the bill of sale becomes even more important.
Always be sure to get one.
You can create a free bill of sale using our motorcycle bill of sale template here.
Get any Other Documentation the Seller May Have
When the title is missing, it can help to get the registration and ownership documentation that the seller does have.
This may include old registration papers, previous bills of sale, or even purchase receipts or MCOs from the original dealership.
If the seller is not the original owner, this may even help you track down the lost title.
In any case, the old registration documents and bills of sale will further help to establish a chain of ownership.
Options: How to Get a Title for a Motorcycle Bought With No Title
You’ve got a few main options when it comes to getting a title for a no-title motorcycle.
- Try to apply for a duplicate title (either through the seller or yourself).
- Try to title and register the motorcycle with the documentation you do have.
- Register your motorcycle in Vermont.
- Go the bonded title route.
1. Apply for a Duplicate Title
Work with the seller to either locate the existing title (dig through old paperwork, contact relatives) or have them apply for a duplicate title through the DMV.
Apply for a duplicate title typically involves filling out an application, providing some details about the bike and registration, and paying a fee.
Learn more about replacing a lost motorcycle title.
2. Register & Title the Bike with the Documents you Have
You can also try to register the bike directly through your state DMV.
With the Bill of Sale, old registration documents, and any other old ownership documents the seller can provide (old Bill of Sale, old registration cards, etc.), you may be able to complete the process directly through the DMV with no further hassle.
If you’re able to do this, you can fill out a new application, have the DMV complete a VIN inspection, and pay your registration, tax, and title fees.
Learn how to title and register a motorcycle in your state.
3. Register Your Motorcycle in Vermont
If all of the above fails, you can see if registering the bike in Vermont will work for you.
Vermont (any a few other states) does not issues titles for motorcycles older than 15 years old or under 300cc.
You can mail in your application and you do not need to be a resident of the state.
4. Apply for a Bonded Title
If all else fails, you can apply for a bonded title through your state DMV.
The bonded title process is laid out by state Department of Motor Vehicles for situations in which the original motorcycle title cannot be found.
- Completing a Bonded Title Application with the DMV.
- Providing the Bill of Sale and Statement of Facts.
- Providing an odometer disclosure statement, if applicable.
- Getting a VIN inspection.
- Having the bike appraised to find its fair market value.
- Securing a surety bond for the bike.
Once the bonded title waiting period is up, you’ll be able to go back to the DMV to apply for a clean title.
The process varies slightly from state to state. Contact your state DMV for more details.
Getting a Title for an Old Barn Find
If you’ve found the perfect barn find motorcycle, chances of the owner having a title are usually pretty slim.
Barn find motorcycles are often sold by people who have purchased the property with the motorcycle already on it. Or, the bike has been sitting parked for so long nobody knows where its papers are (or if it was ever titled in the first place).
In many cases, the seller will have absolutely no clue about the bike or previous owner’s history or information.
In the case of a barn find motorcycle, your best bet for getting a title will be option 2 or 3 as described above.
What to do if you can’t title your motorcycle?
If you’ve exhausted all your options and simply can’t get a title for the bike, it’s a bummer.
This is especially true if you’ve already spent the time and money restoring it.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to determine if you can register and title the no-title bike before you put time and resources into it.
However, if you can’t title the motorcycle, it can still be useful.
You can use the un-titleable bike as a parts bike or doner bike for the same model bike you can title and register.