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Car Title Problems

Transfer the Title at the Time of Sale

When a vehicle is sold in Minnesota, the seller must transfer title to the buyer. To learn how to transfer title, read about Vehicle Title Transfers on the website for MN Department of Public Safety. NOTE: In Minnesota, license plates belong to and stay with the vehicle. They do not belong to a person.

The buyer and seller can transfer title by:

  • filling in the blanks with details of the sale on the vehicle's "Certificate of Title" form,
  • attaching a lien release, if the title shows there is a lien in favor of a bank or lender,
  • signing the certificate, and
  • mailing them to Driver & Vehicle Services (DVS) within a certain time-frame. DVS then mails a new Certificate of Title to the buyer showing that the buyer is the owner.
Tip: To avoid title problems, complete the sale of a vehicle and the title transfer at a Driver & Vehicle Services (DVS) location. The DVS agent can review the title and see whether there are any liens on it. The buyer and seller can avoid problems with the forms, getting signatures, and mailing documents to DVS.
Possible Title Problems for a Buyer:
  • The seller may still owe money for the vehicle (called a lien), and the bank or person who is owed money can try to collect it from the buyer, or can try to repossess the vehicle from the buyer.
  • Only the title holder ("owner" on the title) can get insurance on the vehicle, which is required by Minnesota law.
  • If title has not been properly transferred, the buyer will not be able to re-sell the vehicle to someone else in the future.
  • If the seller has a record of drinking and driving and title is still in his name, the vehicle could be impounded and sold by the state.
  • NOTE: If the seller was a licensed dealership that has gone out of business and the buyer is having problems getting the title, the buyer can call the DVS Dealer Unit (651)296-2977 for information about the dealership.
Possible Title Problems for a Seller:
  • If the buyer gets in an accident in the vehicle, the seller could be sued as the "owner" of the vehicle. This can be a very costly risk for the seller who does not properly transfer title.
  • If the vehicle is impounded, the government may require the seller to pay the charges of towing and/or storage of the vehicle.
  • If the buyer does not have a valid driver's license, the vehicle cannot be put in his or her name. This can lead to the problems described above.
  • NOTE: Seller must report the sale to the DVS and can do that online, by mail or person.

Transfer Title by Court Order

If the transfer of title cannot completed using the Certificate of Title document, the buyer may ask for a court order to transfer title. This takes time and effort and costs money, but title can eventually be transferred. Click on the links below to see how to ask the court for an order to transfer title.

If a seller wants to force the title transfer, he or she must complete the process at the Driver & Vehicle Services Division.


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