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How To Get A Title

April 6, 2021

Getting a title is easy if you know what to do. Check out this title guide, whether you are looking to purchase a new vehicle or you just need a new title.

How Do I Get A Title?

Here's everything you need to know about your car title.

  1. Car's that are purchased from a car dealership are given a "Certificate of Origin". This is the document you will need to obtain a title at the DMV.
  2. For all other cars that are newer than the year 1973, you'll need to transfer a title into your name. This can be done (in most states) by stating the name(s) of the buyer and seller on the transfer section of the title and a signature on a vehicle bill of sale document. Sometimes a notary is required to complete the transfer.
  3. Cars that are less than 10 years old will typically need an odometer check and a damage disclosure along with the title transfer.

What Type Of Vehicle Title Does My Car Have?

There are many types of car titles, your car likely has one of these title designations:

  • Certificate of origin: This is the original document given from the car’s manufacturer to the car dealership. This is the document you will receive when you buy a brand new car, you use this document to obtain a title.
  • Manufacturer's statement of origin: Almost identical to the “certificate of origin”, the manufacturer’s statement of origin is another document that is transferred from the manufacturer to a car dealer, which is used to obtain a title.
  • Affidavit: This document is a title that is issued under an affidavit (a sworn statement of fact issued by the state) when there is other missing documentation about the vehicle.
  • Bonded: When there is no clear owner of a vehicle, you can apply for a bonded title. Basically, you purchase a security bond worth the amount of the value of the car. If another person claims ownership of the vehicle in the future, the bond can be used to pay to remove that valid claim of ownership or lien.
  • Clear: The terminology for a title that has no lien.
  • Electronic: An electronic title can be issued in many states. These can be useful in obtaining physical titles for transferring or loan processing.
  • Lienholder: When you purchase a car through financing you will have a lienholder title. This title lists you as the owner but the lienholder is listed as the lender. The lender has possession of the title until the vehicle is paid in full.
  • Junk: If a vehicle has been collected by a junkyard, the title will change to a junk title if the vehicle will be scrapped or sold for parts in the future.
  • Salvage: The three loss events that qualify a vehicle to be designated as a salvage title are theft, repair, and/or major damage. Usually when a vehicle has incurred 60% more damage than its value it is designated as a salvage title.
  • Flood & water damage: Any time a vehicle goes through a flood, has had water damage from a rain storm, or has been submerged in a body of water may be designated a flood & water damage title. 
  • Import: An import title is simply a vehicle that has been imported into the U.S. for the first time.
  • Export: If a car is being exported, the vehicle will need a designated export title. This title makes it possible for customs clearance.
  • Reconstructed: Any car that has been rebuilt for road use can be branded as a reconstructed title by a collision center, body shop, insurance company, and/or a licensed vehicle rebuilder.
  • Rebuilt: Similar to the reconstructed title, the rebuilt title brand can be assigned by a collision center, body shop, insurance company, and/or a licensed vehicle rebuilder.
  • Certificate of destruction: This title designation means that the car is to be destroyed and not used for road use.
  • Parts only: This title brand is typically taken care of on a title transfer for parts only.
  • Lemon:lemon title brand is a title designation for cars that have experienced the same mechanical failure several times.
  • Odometer roll back: If someone has attempted to tamper with the odometer in a car in order to sell the car at a higher price, a mechanic can brand the vehicle with an odometer rollback title.

Do I Need To Register My Car Before I Donate A Car?

The short answer to this question is "yes". You will need proof of ownership to get any type of tax deduction from a 501(c)(3) IRS registered charity. You typically just need a title and a vehicle that has been registered in your name at some point in the past.

See more tax tips for donation here.

Do I Need My Title To Donate A Car?

Donating your car without a title? You will need a title to complete the donation process, however, you can easily obtain a duplicate title or an electronic title (in some states) that will take care of this issue.

There are ways to donate a car with no title but if you want all of the tax benefits of a charitable car donation you'll want to make sure you have the title with the car.

Getting A Duplicate Title By Yourself Or With The Assistance Of A Charity

If you have lost, misplaced, damaged, or destroyed your vehicles title you can typically get a new one through your local DMV. You will need to fill out some forms and prove ownership of the vehicle. Every state differs when obtaining a duplicate title.

If you were denies, delayed, or just having a hard time obtaining a duplicate title, you can work with a non-profit like Wheels For Wishes. Wheels For Wishes is a car donation program that benefits Make-A-Wish kids. We can help you obtain a duplicate title and let you know exactly what you need to fill out in a timely matter when the DMV might take weeks to get back to you.

How Do I Donate A Car With Or Without A Title?

Here's how you can donate a car in just 3 easy steps:

  1. Call us at 1-855-278-9474 or visit this online donation form to get started on your vehicle donation.
  2. We’ll reach out to you for your free towing within 24 hours of the next business day. If you have no title or one of the titles specified in the article above, our title department can help sort out almost any title issue your car may have.
  3. We’ll mail you your tax deductible receipt when your car donation is processed. You can use this to complete your 1098c form and attach it to your taxes. We will take care of the paperwork for you!

Our representatives can help you out regardless of your title situation. If you have any other title questions check out our Title FAQ page, it has great tips on state by state questions and other specific title issues. Help Make-A-Wish kids with the click of a button with your car donation to Wheels For Wishes!






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CDF also runs the following programs:
Wheels for Wishes benefiting Make-A-Wish®, Wheels for Wishes & Wellness benefiting local children's hospitals and charities, Vehicles for Veterans benefiting disabled veterans, and Animal Car Donation benefiting animal rescue organizations.

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CDF's mission is to help these benefitting charities fulfill their missions with proceeds from CDF's car donation programs. CDF and all benefitting charities are separate and unaffiliated 501c organizations.
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