written by: Kimberly Johnson•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 2/13/2011
What do you do when you need to replace a lost car title? Here are a few steps to point you in the right direction for obtaining a replacement car title, no matter what state you live in.
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A car title is simply a piece of paper that proves you own a vehicle. When you first purchase a car and still have a loan that you are paying off to a bank, the loan company or bank holds the title. However, once you pay off the loan, the title is sent to you. Since it proves ownership, the title is an important financial document that must be kept in a safe place. When you decide to sell or trade in the car, you will need to present the title to the new owners. To replace a lost car title there is a process you can complete to request a new title.
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Where to Request a Replacement Car Title
In most states, you must visit the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office in the county where you reside to fill out the paperwork for a replacement car title. However, in some states, such as Georgia and Florida, you must visit the Tax Commissioners office instead. Other states, such as Colorado and Alabama and Tennessee, require that you visit the Department of Revenue office in your county. Always start at the DMV and they will direct to the other appropriate office if required.
It’s also important to note that each person on the car title must be present at the time you request the replacement care title. For example, in the case of a married couple, both of them would need to visit the office at the same time if the title says Mr. AND Mrs. John Smith. On the other hand if the title says Mr. OR Mrs. John Smith then either can obtain a duplicate title.
In addition, before you make a trip down the DMV or Tax office, visit your local DMV website, since some states, like California, allow you to request the replacement title documents online.
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Documents and Information Needed
There are a few items you must take with you when you go to request the replacement car title. The most obvious document is a driver’s license. This can be a little tricky because the license must have your current name and current address on it. If you have moved recently or changed your name, such as through marriage, you must update your license before you apply for the replacement title.
In addition, if the name you are placing on the new title is different from the one on the previous title, you must provide a copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree or other official document certifying the name change.
You will also need to provide proof that you have valid insurance for the vehicle. While an insurance car is typically sufficient, it’s not bad idea to take your actual car insurance policy down to the office as well.
Finally, you will also need the license plate number of the vehicle and the VIN or vehicle identification number. In some states you also need the current odometer reading on the vehicle, so be sure to write it down before you go into the office.
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Fees for a Replacement Car Title
At the time that you fill out the paperwork for a new car title, you must pay a small processing fee. The fees for a replacement title vary by state, but typically range from between $2 and $20 and differs based on the type of vehicle the title is for.
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Length of Time for a Replacement Title
The replacement title will be sent to you in the mail once it has been printed and registered, however, in some states titles are printed onsite. The processing time typically takes two weeks and then another two to four weeks for the document to actually arrive in your mailbox. For this reason, plan ahead if you are planning to sell or trade in your car, since it can take a month or more to get a replacement title. Note that for an additional processing fee, some states will expedite the process of issuing a replacement car title.
While losing a car title can be a major inconvenience, the process to replace a lost car title is straightforward and should be done as soon as possible. Once you have the new car title, place it in a secure location along with your other important financial documents.