How To Replace a Lost or Stolen Title

The title of a vehicle proves ownership. Without it, an owner cannot obtain a collateral loan or sell their vehicle. So, what happens if you have misplaced your title or someone has stolen it?

Replacing a title involves a few different steps and can vary according to the state. In most states, owners will need to visit their local DMV to apply for a replacement title. You will need to have the VIN number and proof of ownership. You will also be required to pay any fees for the title replacement.

The title of a vehicle will either be in your name or the name of a lienholder, if you still owe on the vehicle. You cannot sell a car without a clear title. If you cannot obtain the vehicle title, the sale will have to wait until you can resolve the issues.

A title is required before a sale can take place. You can imagine the chaos that would ensue if titles were not required. Anyone could steal a vehicle, claim rightful ownership, and sell it to any buyer for quick cash.

How Long Does It Take to Replace a Title?

How long it will take to receive a duplicate title varies among states. In most states, the process is fairly quick. You provide the necessary proof of ownership and the VIN and you will receive an instant title. You will typically have to wait about two weeks before receiving the finalized duplicate title.

Replacing a Title in Your Name

Replacing a title in your name is a fairly straightforward process. As stated above, you will need to present proof of ownership and the VIN. You will need to provide your personal information and pay the fee.

In the state of California, for instance, you will need to first fill out a Duplicate Title Form and pay a duplicate title fee of $20. This fee varies across different states but typically averages around $15 to $20.

Replacing a Title Not in Your Name

Are you purchasing a car and the owner cannot produce the title? When this happens, buyers can request the owner fill out a Duplicate Title Form. The owner should be responsible for paying the fee and payment should not be surrendered until a clear title is produced by the seller.

In most states, the Duplicate Title Form requires the following information.

  • The full name of the vehicle’s owner
  • The current address of the vehicle’s owner
  • The driver’s license number of the owner
  • The license’s plate number
  • The VIN number
  • An explanation of why the vehicle title is missing
  • The signature of the owner

What If Your Title Was Stolen?

If you find your title has been stolen, it is important to act quickly. First, you should contact the police as soon as possible, to report the theft of the title.

Unfortunately, car titles are like gold to car thieves. Car thieves will use a stolen title to sell a car they do not own, to an unsuspecting person. This could create big headaches for you.

If your title has been stolen, you need to head to the DMV as soon as you report the theft to the police. Here, as in the missing title issues above, you will need to present the DMV with proof of ownership and pay the fee for receiving the duplicate title. As soon as you apply for a duplicate title, this voids the old title, so the thief can never use it to scam potential buyers, and it protects you from any illegal activity.

Can You Replace a Title Online?

Today, many people prefer to do things online. Who wants to visit the DMV when there are other options? Thankfully, in many states, you are allowed to apply for a duplicate title online. Just like with the in-person process, you will need to provide proof of ownership and the VIN.

It is important to note that some states require notarized forms before they will process a request for a duplicate title. It is important to contact your local DMV or visit its website, to determine the requirements.


A missing title can quickly become a source of stress. If you cannot find your vehicle’s title, there is no reason to panic. The steps above have outlined what you will need to do to get a title replacement. As long as you can produce some kind of proof of ownership, the process is not difficult.

In some states, you can get an instant title replacement, but it is important to check with your state first. In most states, you should have your duplicate title in about two to four weeks.