I have been spending a bit of time on the Department of Motor Vehicles website trying to figure out what my DMV account log in when I came across this little piece of information. Apparently there are situations where you can register a car in New York State without having the title to the car. Gasp! What?

This seems totally sketchy, but according to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles it is a situation that they are often presented with. So, why would you even try to register a car if you didn't have the legal title paperwork in your hands to do it?

  • You bought the car at a sheriffs auction
  • You have a car in your possession that someone abandoned
  • You have a homemade car or trailer and you want to get plates for it
  • Or lastly there is some reason that you do not have access to the actual title of ownership

For any of these above situations, what do you do?

If you bought the car at the auction it really comes down to having something that shows the bill of sale and the vin on letterhead from the sheriffs department. The papers from the sheriffs department must also say something to the effect that they (the sheriff) followed the legal steps required for them to sell you the car. You will also need to show the three things that you need to show if you were to register a car/vehicle and you actually had the title. You will need to show your ID, show proof of insurance and also pay the proper fees.

If someone simply leaves a car on your property for more than 96-hours, you are then required to contact the police to see if it has been reported stolen. If it hasn't and is older than 10 years, and ends up on your property for more than a month, (and you want to keep the car) then you can start then start the paperwork process to register the car. You will need to have a statement from the police saying that you did report the car as abandoned on your property. I had to supply a statement to police when a friend of mine left a car at my house and then moved out of state. After filling out the proper papers, I was able to get the car off the property and towed away for someone else to deal with.

If you made the car yourself, vehicle or custom trailer than you have to apply to the DMV to have it inspected and deemed roadworthy before you can register it. Click here for the DMV form, a pdf, that will go into better detail about what you need to do to get the homemade vehicle inspected, etc. I know some car guys who have combined cars, but been able to get around this by having a VIN from one car (the chassis) and the metal from another car, how they make this work exactly still baffles me. Plus, I am not sure if it is 100% legal to do that.

If you just cannot get the title from the seller, you might not want to buy the car, just because you are opening up a whole other can of worms. You might also want to pause for a moment if someone is trying to sell you a car and it is not their name on the title. The DMV quite often processes name changes on titles, plus they will also be happy to reprint you a title if you have lost yours. Yes, oh yes, there is a fee involved.

So, have you ever tried to register a car without a title in New York State? How did it go? Surprisingly easy or a huge nightmare?

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