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how do you know if a car has a lien on it?

I just got a car-no title, says he applied for lost title. How do you know if it has a lien on it? I know stupid me!


  • edited November 2009
    I hope you had him sign a note and had it notorized, If not it is against the law to sell it like that but you will need to take him to small claims court.
    Learn from this!!
  • edited November 2009
    Look at the title . . . should be on the title if there is a lienholder (depends on which state). Tkae him to DOT (or branch office) and get that lost title . . . may be all you need to do. Rocketman
  • edited November 2009
    Basically there was no legal sale without title. So if the lien is excessive you can walk away. However collecting your money back may be difficult.

    Also it is impossible to register a car without title. How are you driving about or is this parked?
  • edited November 2009
    Title requirements vary by state and age of vehicle so no title is not always a bust. Although the DMV will (should) not give you a title (only to the currently registered owner) them might at least tell you if it has a lien on it or not if you smile nicely and explain your situation.
    Even if it does have a lien, again not a total bust, it may just need removing.
  • edited November 2009

    Walk away..there is no way of actually knowing.
  • edited November 2009
    Do you have a written contract, or did you just give him a check?
  • edited November 2009
    The title itself will list the lien holder if there is one. If there is no paper title you can contact DMV with the VIN to make sure who the owner is and if there is a lien or not. Sounds like it might be hot. If someone loaned money on it and they didn't register it with the title, they are out of luck though.
  • edited November 2009
    It is entirely possible that he is using your funds to pay off a note on the car so that an existing lien will be cleared. In my state it is legal to do this, but a bill of sale must be provided. It is also customary to make your check out to the seller and the seller's lending institution if a lien exists. The seller has 30 days to produce the title. Lien titles are not even issued to the "owner" but are in the state capitol's DMV computer and issued when the lien release is given to the DMV.
  • edited November 2009
    This is one of those questions for which there are 50 different answers (well, 51 counting DC). You need to call the DMV (or whoever handles title transfers in your state and ask).

    In my state anyways, what you can do in the case of a lost title is you and the seller go to the courthouse, he shows his ID and they transfer the title then and there.
  • edited November 2009

    The current owner will have to apply and get the title....The (OP) person buying the car can't. Your suggestion is valid..but the answer is the same..You don't know if there's a lien on the car without the title. So you can't/shouldn't buy a car without the title.
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