Buying a Motorcycle Without a Title? Buyer Beware!

Buying motorcycle without title

Living life on the edge can be fun, but what’s not fun is buying a motorcycle without also getting the title.

You might think it’s no big deal to fork over cash to the owner of a motorcycle in exchange for your dream bike, but without that slip of paper that says “Certificate of Title,” you could end up facing an uphill battle of administrative and legal challenges.

Here are four reasons to ensure that you can get the title for a motorcycle before buying.

1. You Need The Title to Get License Plates and Insurance

A certificate of title is required to get license plates issued on your bike. And, as you know, you’re asking to be pulled over if you’re riding around town without any plates.

If the bike already has plates, you might think those will suffice. The problem with that line of thinking is that the license plates currently on the bike aren’t registered in your name, and you’ll get invalid registration tickets.

Further, you may not be able to secure insurance without the title. The reason is that you need to prove you are the owner of the bike to get it insured.

2. You Need The Title to Prove Ownership

Whether it’s a house, car, or motorcycle, the best (and sometimes only) way to prove ownership is by showing you have the title. Think of the title as an ownership deed for your motorcycle. If you get pulled over and can’t prove you own the bike you’re riding, you could get into hot water with the law, especially if the bike has been stolen and you had no idea.

Note that a simple bill of sale is not enough to prove ownership because it is not filed with the local DMV and could be easily forged.

3. You Know Nothing About the Bike’s History

A title document will contain a lot of information besides the name of the owner. The title may contain a history of the bike’s ownership down to the original owner of the motorcycle.

In addition to being able to trace the path of ownership, the title may also alert you to any liens that are attached to the bike or incidents the bike has been involved in.

For example, the title document may show you that the motorcycle was involved in a flood and has salvage status. This greatly reduces the bike’s value, and you would never know without having access to the title.

4. It Can Be Expensive and Time-Consuming to Obtain The Title

In almost all cases, anyone with a legal background will advise you not to buy a motorcycle without a title, but you can still do it. The important thing to know is that if you do go down this route, you’re going to have to jump through more hoops to get legal ownership. You may also have to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in additional fees to get that title.

For example, if the bike has a lien, you’ll likely have to pay the dollar amount associated with the lien. Often, a lien occurs when the original owner financed the bike and wasn’t finished paying the loan. In that situation, you’re on the hook for your purchase price and the outstanding loan amount if you want to secure the title.

The seller might “promise” to mail you the title in a few days or offer you a screaming deal in exchange for selling the bike without a title. Again, all we can say here is, “buyer beware!” If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Caveat Emptor Is Not the Latest Bike Model

You’ve probably encountered the term “caveat emptor” before, which is Latin for “let the buyer beware.” In much of modern commerce, there are buyer protections that allow for recourse in the event of someone not getting what they paid for.

However, buying a motorcycle without a title can put you in a “buyer beware” situation because your options for owning the bike legally are limited without obtaining title.

Are you interested in learning more about motorcycle law and the practicalities of enjoying your bike? Visit Law Tigers to get more information. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please give us a call at 1-888-863-7213. We’re here to help.