Help Buying Abandoned Car Legally? No title or registration

I see online on YouTube, makes for good videos, people “rescuing” abandoned cars in the woods or “barn finds” fixing them up and driving them.

How do people buy these cars legally though? There’s likely no title or registration, the original owner long gone.

I recently come across such a car being sold at a dealer, no title no registration, claimed to have been parked for years. All they can provide is a bill of sale.

Asking my local motor vehicle place in my state, if there’s no registration or title, can’t register it. The person selling the car could have stolen it and may not have the right to sell it. I would need a bonded title or something like that? If the original owner shows up I’m in big trouble?

I’m talking about buying a older car that has been parked for years from a dealer without registration or title. Seems kind of sketchy, they are not the original owner so how can they sell it to me??? I’m hesitant to buy it.

Go talk to your local DMV. In my state, I think there’s a process for applying for a lost title. Personally… I’d require the seller to get the “lost title” complete before handing over any money.


Hey thanks. So if the seller gets the lost/bonded title, and then I buy it from them, would the lost/bonded title transfer over to me, and I would be responsible for any issues and not the person who sold it to me? Meaning if the original owner shows up I’m at fault and not the dealer?

Seems great when people find cars that are several decades old in barns and so forth, but how they go about selling it to someone else without title or registration seems kind of sketchy.

Check with your state’s officials but any previous owners have 3yrs to come forward with a claim against the bond and if the bond company has to pay them whoever purchased the bond is liable, after a period of time (as little as 3yrs) you get a clean title. Bonded title is considered a better option in most states because it shows you want to have some legal proof of ownership and can be transferred. Just would still be considered bonded for some time.

Thanks. So the person whose selling me the car should get the bonded title before selling it to me?? Or I should get a bonded title after purchasing it and have the bill of sale? It would be better for the seller to get the bonded title I presume? But I don’t know what are the benefits of one over the other.

The bonded title protects everyone for the 3yrs before you have full legal ownership, the dealer gets the bonded title for $100 or more and transfers the title for you but is responsible for the bond if the original owner comes forward and they make a successful claim whoever buys the bond is on the hook to reimburse the company for the payment. After 3yrs you’d have full legal title to the car otherwise.
Getting a Bonded Title |

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That is all the DMV will tell you. Appling for a vehicle title for another person’s vehicle is a difficult process, the DMV is not going to teach you how this is done.

A bonded title is insurance to protect those involved, you still must prove to the DMV your right to the vehicle, this includes checking for liens and an attempt to contact the recorded owner. If this were easy, the dealer would have their title clerk send in the application. The dealers I have worked for had abandon vehicles towed to impound lots, eventually they get sold at auction.

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Never done it myself, but these guys claim " How To LEGALLY Title Any Classic Car, Truck Or Motorcycle Using The Vermont Loophole"

Here in Arizona, you would need to file for a bonded title. You would provide whatever documents you have to establish your interest in the vehicle, such as a bill of sale from a towing company, landowner, etc. As long as there are no recorded liens against the vehicle, and it was not reported stolen or destroyed in an accident, you CAN obtain a drivable title by going through the bonded title process.

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I see that the value of the bond is based on “the average sale price of the car” and has nothing to do with the actual value of your exact car? Is this accurate? So if you find some rusted out 1930s car that has been sitting in a barn for several decades. The land owner sells it to you for a few hundred bucks, no title or registration. You get a bond on the average sale price of the car (which may be cars in a LOT better shape and maybe like $20k) and not what you paid for the car (a few hundred bucks)? The car is not reported as stolen or a total lost, and you have the bill of sale from the owner of the barn for the few hundred bucks proving that you bought it from the guy and didn’t just simply take it. If the original shows up you have pay the bond company $20k and not the few hundred bucks you paid for the car from the owner of the barn? Seems a bit risky if I’m understanding this correctly. Seems only like a good idea if you know the full story and are 100 percent positive the last owner is long gone, otherwise it could be stolen and you would be out thousands and thousands of dollars on something you spent a few hundred on. If I’m understanding this bonded title process correctly?

Just find an old vehicle you are interested in that has a clear title . With the questions you ask it is clear that you really have no idea just how involved and time consuming this will be. That way when you give up you will be able to sell it without title problems.



The VT trick is a thing, and apparently perfectly legal. Per the YouTube video someone else linked. VT seems to know people do this and do not care, they make lots of taxes off it.

Essentially you register in VT and pay VT taxes. VT does not require you to live in VT or even show up to a VT DMV. However if your car is on the hot sheet you won’t be able to register it.

Then they will mail you a VT registration and tags. Then go to your local DMV and transfer over your VT registration to your state. Don’t let the tires of your car hit the public roads in your state until it’s registered in your actual state.

Apparently lots of people do this for inherited cars or barn yard finds. All you need is a valid bill of sale to show you bought it.

If you obtain the car via legal means and it’s just that the registration is lost, can do the VT trick.

Otherwise you would need a bonded title, which is costly and tarnishes the title.

This is not legal advice. Just what I got from the video. Looking at the VT DMV website all seems to be true lol.

It’s not really that expensive, and it doesn’t really “tarnish the title” if your goal is just to own the car and drive it. As far as I can see, the only real problem is that with no odometer statement from the previous owner, the title becomes “not actual mileage or true mileage unknown”.

In Indiana it has to be 25 years old I believe. In Illinois you can’t unless you’re a tow company or such. But Illinois removed the title requirement for boats under 22 feet!! Could Illinois be the Vermont for small boats!

If the original owner shows up, can the vehicle be given back instead of paying the bond?

Not sure how that would work if you did the VT trick. Pretty wild, right on the VT DMV website you don’t have to be a VT resident.

But if you do thenVT trick there is no bond.

Not sure if they take the car back and they get the bond, or they just get the bond.

Also I think there is statue of limitations on such things, but I have seen contradictory information. Like if the car was rotting in a field for 40 years and stollen 40 years ago, and the current landowner sells it to you via bill of sale, 40 years might be to long ago even if it was stolen back then

Also have seen if it is on your property, you can put a lien on the car for unpaid storage fees, then when the owner doesn’t pay because they are no longer with us, I think there’s a process to legally take ownership of it because of the lien. Meaning if there’s an abandoned vehicle or boat on your property and you buy the property, you don’t technically own the abandoned car or boat, but the original owner still does.

Interesting how it works.

Also seen rotting cars in the woods on YouTube. Seems like after a few decades, there won’t be much of it left besides the frame because of all the moisture. But if it’s in a field or barn, better chance at saving it.

Just because you can get a Title for the vehicle doesn’t mean you’re “home free”.

The owner of the vehicle, their heirs, any lienholders, possibly an insurance company and yes the government (parking fines, ect.) may still have “an interest” in said vehicle, which could come back to bite you.
Imagine you just plunked several thousand into restoring said barn find and upon finally registering the VIN someone pops up with their hand out …

PS Licensed Automobile Recyclers operate under another set of Abandoned Vehicle laws but then it’s very unlikely those vehicles will ever be in the road.

Vehicles with title loans on them get abandoned. The value of the vehicle is less than the amount owed. The loan company likes to show that their books have a lot of vehicles with with loans on them instead of selling the vehicle that they now own for far less than their books show it is worth.

do you get paid extra for crapping all over everyone’s questions?

let folks ask questions and have a discussion…