Buying a Motorcycle Without a Title

Whether it’s your first or your tenth bike, the truth is, you’re taking a risk buying a title-less motorcycle. There are many reasons for a motorcycle to not have a title, but not all of them mean you shouldn’t go through the sale.

Title, and its importance

The Certificate of Title proves the ownership of the bike. You cannot ride the motorcycle in public without the title. There are some exceptional cases to the rule that vary state to state depending on the bike’s year and if it’s declared as an antique. However, each state has different rules.

Why a motorcycle wouldn’t have a title:

  1. The previous owner died. Now the estate is handling the sale.
  2. The owner moved recently.
  3.  The owner was a victim of a natural disaster like a flood or fire.
  4. The state of the owner didn’t require a title for older motorcycles.
  5. The owner had the bike for many years and lost the documents.
  6. The seller has stolen the bike, and the title is with its lawful owner.

How to avoid problems

The easiest way to avoid a scam is to ask the seller for the vehicle identification number (VIN) before meeting with them. A VIN is unique to every motorcycle and represents its origin.

How to request a duplicate title

To request a duplicate title, here are a few things to consider when completing the application (it will vary state by state).

  • It’s best when the person selling is the only owner of the bike. If not, the paperwork becomes challenging. The application may require signatures of all the people on the original title.
  • If there is an open lien on the motorcycle, the line holder might have to apply for the duplicate title.
  • Lastly, the owner will have to submit this application to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or county’s treasurer’s office. The process will take a few days.


Purchasing a used title-less motorcycle can create a pile of paperwork, confusion, and many hours at the DMV. For the layman, it is best to avoid these types of situations.

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