How to Get a Copy of a Car Title

California DMV
The state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the usual place to obtain a duplicate car title. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Your car title is a critical piece of paperwork – without it, you can't sell your vehicle and transfer ownership to a buyer. The car title is the proof of ownership that you receive once you've paid off your car loan. Until the loan is paid off, the loan lender keeps your title on file at their offices.

You may find that your title is missing or destroyed (or ruined by coffee mug stains). That means you need a duplicate title before you can complete a vehicle sale.

Every state handles the title duplication process a bit differently, but there are typically three ways to obtain a copy: You can complete the application by mail, online, or in person. In most cases, you'll contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but in other states, such as Mississippi and Georgia, you'll go through the Department of Revenue instead. For the examples in this article we'll reference the DMV, though the process is similar in all cases.

Here's how to apply online:

  1. Go to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles' website.
  2. Find the "Replacement Certificate of Title" link (or similarly named link) and follow the instructions. In general, if the address on your title is the same as your current mailing address, you own the title you're requesting, and there are no other changes to the information listed on the title, you should be able to complete the form online, as is the case with the Wisconsin DMV.
  3. However, in many states you'll need to have the application notarized, so the process can't be done entirely online.
  4. Assuming, you don't need notarization, pay the application fee. The fee is often less than $20.
  5. In states where notarization is required, you'll have to mail the application or present it in person at your local DMV office.

Here's how to apply by mail:

  1. Complete an application for the duplicate certificate of title, which is available online at your state's Department of Motor Vehicles' website or at your local DMV office.
  2. Photocopy your proof of identity. Check with the local DMV to find out what forms of identification are acceptable proofs of identity.
  3. Get your application notarized if necessary.
  4. Make out a check for the fee.
  5. Mail all these items to the address listed on the application form.

Here's how to apply in person:

  1. Go to your local DMV office.
  2. Complete an application for a duplicate title.
  3. Present proof of identification and notarization if necessary.
  4. Pay the fee.

The title will be mailed to you usually within seven to 10 business days, but the time can vary depending on the state you are in. Some states will allow also issue the new title immediately if you apply in person.

Last editorial update on May 8, 2019 05:29:04 pm.