How Do You Replace a Missing Car Title?

Last Updated on September 1, 2022

A vehicle title proves ownership. If a vehicle title goes missing, then you should replace it as soon as possible.

Generally, you replace a missing car title by contacting your state’s DMV and requesting a replacement title. However, the specific missing car title replacement process varies between states.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about replacing a missing car title for any vehicle.

Table of Contents:

How to Replace a Missing Vehicle Title

Generally, you replace a missing vehicle title by contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the equivalent organization in your state.

You should be able to request to replace a missing car title via one of the following methods:

  • Complete a lost title application request on your state DMV’s website
  • Mail a title request replacement form with the required documents and fees to your state DMV
  • Visit a local DMV office in-person with the required documentation

The DMV tracks ownership of all vehicles registered in your state. As long as the vehicle was registered in your name and you can provide proof of ownership for the vehicle, you should be able to receive a replacement car title. (Click here to learn the difference between a vehicle’s registration and title.)

Typically, your title is the proof of ownership for a vehicle. If you don’t have a title, then you can use lease documentation, a bill of sale, or other paperwork to prove ownership of the vehicle.

Some states require you to provide your vehicle identification number (VIN), found in the lower corner of your vehicle’s windshield. Other states require you to provide your driver’s license number, the last four digits of your Social Security Number, an email address, and other documentation to receive a replacement title.

Some DMVs charge a small fee to replace a missing car title, while others do not.

How to Replace a Vehicle Title that Was Not In Your Name

When you replace a vehicle title, the vehicle is typically in your name. You can easily request a new vehicle title because you had legitimate, undisputed ownership of the vehicle.

However, some people need to replace a vehicle title for a vehicle that is not yet in their name. If you recently purchased a vehicle from a private seller, for example, and lost the title soon after the purchase, then your situation may be more complicated.

In this situation, your best option is to contact the vehicle’s previous owner and ask them to submit a request for a replacement title – similar to the steps outlined above. The owner may need to pay the replacement title fee. Then, the owner signs the duplicate title to you when it arrives.

Alternatively, you may need to obtain a title using a court order. If the previous owner is unavailable, is not cooperating, or cannot prove ownership of the vehicle, then you may need to turn to the court system.

To obtain a title using a court order, you need to appear in court and ask a judge to award you ownership of a vehicle. As long as you can prove you legitimately purchased the vehicle and you can provide specific information about the vehicle (like the make and model or the VIN), you should be able to obtain a title for the vehicle in your name.

You may need to obtain a vehicle title through a court order if you purchased a vehicle from an estate. In this situation, the original owner of the vehicle is deceased. Using the court system, you can prove you legitimately purchased the vehicle and obtain the title you are rightfully owed.

How Long Does It Take to Replace a Missing Car Title?

Depending on your state, replacing a missing car title takes 7 to 30 days.

Some states also have time-related restrictions. For example, you may not be able to request a replacement title within 15 days of receiving an original title for a vehicle. Or, you may not be able to request a replacement title if you already requested a new replacement title within the last 30 days.

Alternatively, some states offer same-day missing car title replacement services for urgent situations.

Documents Needed to Replace a Missing Car Title

Specific missing car title replacement requirements vary between states.

Generally, most states require only the lien release and a completed replacement title request form to grant a replacement title, along with a form of identification. As long as you’re the original owner of the vehicle, you should be able to obtain a replacement car title easily.

However, in other unique situations, you might need one or more of the following documents to replace a missing car title:

  • Signed and completed the missing car title replacement request form for your state
  • Your damaged or mutilated title (if available)
  • The lien release (if applicable)
  • Forms of identification, including your state ID or a driver’s license
  • Any additional paperwork proving ownership of the vehicle, like a receipt, bill of sale, or financing agreement
  • A way to pay the missing title replacement fee (typically via cash, card, or check)
  • Odometer reading (required if the vehicle is less than ten years old)
  • Copy of court order (if applicable)
  • Naturalization paperwork (if title transfer involves a name change)
  • Affidavit of facts (required for vehicle modifications)
  • Notarized title application (if applicable)

The DMV clerk will verify this information, process the payment, and replace your title. Depending on your state, it may take 1 to 30 days to receive a duplicate title.

Where to Store a Vehicle Title

To avoid losing your vehicle title again, you should store it in a secure place. Although it may seem natural to store your vehicle title in your car or glove box, most experts recommend keeping it in a secure location outside of your vehicle – like a safe deposit box.

Store your vehicle title where you keep other important financial records.

Consider leaving a photocopy of your vehicle title with a trusted family member or friend. If you ever lose your vehicle title, it makes it easier to request a replacement copy of the original title.

Final Word – Replacing a Missing Car Title

Drivers need to replace missing car titles regularly. Sometimes, car titles go missing, get damaged, or are stolen. In other cases, you need a new car title after an estate sale or private transfer. Sometimes, you filed all of the appropriate paperwork during a car sale – but the new car title was lost in the mail.

Whatever the situation may be, you should be able to obtain a replacement car title simply by contacting your local DMV. Contact your DMV, visit in-person, or mail your state DMV office to request a replacement car title.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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