A car title is a vital piece of documentation that proves you own a vehicle. It also helps you complete important transactions, such as selling your car or getting a loan. Car titles typically display the state government’s name that issued it, and they usually contain sections that identify the owner and lienholder of a vehicle. Those sections will indicate whether the vehicle is free of liens or has one, which could have a major impact on your ability to sell it or get a loan. Titles might also include annotations like "flood," "salvage," or "lemon," which could indicate the vehicle’s history or condition.
A traditional car title will also list the odometer reading on the date of sale, which is helpful if you’re concerned someone may have tampered with the odometer to deceive you about the number of miles the vehicle has on it. In addition, a traditional title will contain the VIN (vehicle identification number), which is useful for tracking vehicle ownership and accidents.
When reviewing a car title, make sure the date of issue is recent. If the date of issue is significantly older, the title might be a copy and should be checked carefully for signs of forgery, such as missing watermarks or fuzzy printing. If you’re unsure, you can always run a vehicle history report from a service such as AutoCheck to confirm the information on the title is correct. You can also contact your state’s motor vehicle department for a duplicate title if necessary.