Where Can I Find My Title Number (Without My Registration)?

Your vehicle is associated with several different identifiers, such as your vehicle identification number (VIN), tag number, and title. If you lose your title or registration, it can be a challenge to find the information associated with your vehicle, but there are a few different places you can look. Where might you find your title number?

You can find your title number on your vehicle’s Certificate of Title or other title documents. If you don’t have the title, you can still find the title number on your vehicle’s registration. Some states may have this information available through their Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

This article will discuss these documents in detail and explain the various numbers and identifiers associated with your vehicle. Let’s get started so that you can get back on the road faster.

Understanding Your Title and Title Number

When you purchase a vehicle, mobile home, or vessel, one of the many documents you will receive is a certificate of title, sometimes referred to as a “pink slip.” The title is a document that identifies the vehicle’s owner and comes from the state where it’s purchased. Typically, a title will contain the same basic information no matter where you bought the car.

Information normally found on the title:

  • Title number
  • Vehicle make, model, and year
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • License plate number
  • Lien holder’s information
  • Owner’s information
  • Vehicle specifications

Your certificate of title may be in paper or electronic form.

The title number is usually found at the top or bottom of the certificate, depending on the state and the certificate’s format. Many people use the title number or the VIN to check the title’s status to ensure that it’s valid before purchasing a vehicle from a private seller. 

Without a title, you won’t be able to register the vehicle.

If you’re selling a car, you may need to apply for a new title or meet your potential buyer at your local DMV to transfer the ownership. Keep in mind that a title might be amended throughout the vehicle’s lifetime if its condition changes.

Getting a Title

In most states, you must apply for a title, either during the registration process or separately. If you’ve lost your title, you should apply for a new one as soon as possible. The title is how your state will recognize that you own the vehicle or vessel.

To obtain a new or replacement title, you should have the following items available:

  • Proof of identity: You should have, at minimum, a photo ID (such as your driver’s license). Your state may have other requirements, such as proof of residency or citizenship. It’s a good idea to bring a birth certificate or social security card and at least one item that proves your address, like a utility bill.
  • Proof of ownership: A document or another item to prove that you own the vehicle, mobile home, or vessel will be required to obtain a title. If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, the previous owner may need to provide proof of ownership before transferring the item to you.
  • Application for Certificate of Title: You’ll need to complete your state’s specific application form when you go to the DMV or tag and title agency to obtain a title. Some states have different forms depending on whether or not you have or are changing the registration information.
  • Proof of insurance: Most states require that you provide proof of insurance when you obtain a new title or registration. The type and amount of insurance required vary depending on the type of vehicle or vessel and the laws in your state.
  • Fees: You should plan to pay the applicable registration or transfer fees when you apply for a new title. There will also be taxes and other fees, which could include outstanding citations or overdue registration fees. You might want to check ahead of time to see what payment methods your local agency accepts (checks, credit cards, or cash).

Verifying a Title

If you’re purchasing a vehicle or vessel from a private seller, but not from a dealership, it’s a good idea to verify the title and make sure that it’s valid and that there are no unknown issues that may cause problems for you later.

In general, a title may fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Clear title: This means that the vehicle has no liens against it and no financial obligations that would impact the vehicle’s sale. Potential buyers should be extremely cautious if they have not been able to verify whether the title is clear. Most lenders require a clear title to finance a vehicle.
  • Salvage title: These titles indicate that the vehicle has been impacted by an event that caused a major decrease in value. If a car is in an accident, is damaged, or has major repair work done, it might be subject to a salvage title. If the vehicle’s value decreases by more than 75%, it’s eligible for a salvage title.
  • Rebuilt or reconstructed: If a vehicle goes through extensive repairs, is transformed or reconstructed, the insurance company or the body shop that did the work may issue a rebuilt or reconstructed title. You can register such a vehicle for regular use after a safety inspection.
  • Junk title: If you sell your vehicle to a junkyard or scrapyard, it may be titled for scrap. Some states use a salvage title for this purpose.
  • Odometer rollback title: This title is issued for a vehicle when the odometer has been tampered with and the mileage is inaccurate, such as when the car has more miles than is reflected on the odometer.
  • Water damage title: Vehicles that have been impacted by severe water damage are issued this title. Usually, the water damage is due to flooding or other weather events.

How To Verify a Title

If you’re buying a vehicle from a private seller, there are some steps you should take to protect yourself and make sure that the purchase is a good one.

  1. After you have the vehicle professionally inspected, you should check to see if there are any urgent recalls. You can check for recalls by entering the VIN on the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration’s Safety Issues and Recalls page.
  2. Check the odometer and compare it to service records. If the numbers don’t line up, you should check to see if there is an Odometer Rollback Title attached to the vehicle.
  3. Check the title number on the certificate of title against the title number listed in the official state’s records. Most states have an electronic lookup to check the VIN and title information. Search for this tool by visiting your state’s department of motor vehicles website.

If the title number on the title certificate is different from the title number listed on the database page, then the seller most likely provided an invalid title.

If you’re purchasing a vehicle with an electronic title rather than a paper form, you and the seller should go to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. There, you can transfer the title from the seller to the buyer.

It’s possible to do this step on your own with the proper paperwork, such as a bill of sale.

Still, different states have different regulations regarding what’s acceptable proof of ownership. Some states require a notarized bill of sale, and others may require the seller to appear in person.

It’s always a good idea to contact your local DMV to find out the correct information before exchanging any funds for a private vehicle purchase.

Final Thoughts

Your title number may be helpful to expedite certain processes, like applying for a replacement title or registration. However, it’s unlikely you will need this number during routine transactions related to a vehicle or vessel.

There are other identifiers like the VIN that can be used for many of the same functions.

It’s always a good idea to verify that a title is valid and get the status before buying a car from a private seller. In that case, the title number can be used to ensure that the title is good.

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