A car’s title certificate is pretty much like the deed to a piece of real estate. It’s a legal document establishing the ownership of a motor vehicle. While not needed on a day–to-day basis, any transaction involving the transfer of ownership of the vehicle must include the title certificate.
For this reason, it is important to keep your car title certificate in a safe place; one where it is readily accessible — yet difficult to remove without your knowledge. This is important, because the key document used to transfer ownership of a motor vehicle to another organization or individual is the title certificate. It is very possible for another person to take your car and your title certificate and gain legal ownership of your vehicle without your knowledge, or without buying it from you.
For this reason, a lost car title is a bit difficult to replace — difficult, but not impossible…
If you discover yours is missing, you should contact your local DMV as soon as possible and seek a replacement title certificate. Each state’s DMV has a specific procedure for applying for a lost car title. The process varies from state to state, however most of the basic steps are common to pretty much all of them.
California for example actually allows downloading of its Application for Duplicate Title form over the Internet. Regardless of how you acquire the form, most of them will want the vehicle’s owner’s full name, current address, and driver’s license number. You will also usually be asked to supply the license plate number of the vehicle in question, as well as its vehicle identification number (VIN).
Most states also require submission of an affidavit explaining what happened to the original title If it is merely damaged, rather than lost, they’ll want you to submit the damaged certificate as well.
When you go to the DMV to file the request to replace a lost car title, you should also take a copy of the vehicle registration certificate, your driver’s license (for identification purposes) and a method of paying the certificate replacement fee. This varies state by state, but can usually be found on each state’s DMV Website. (It’s $18 in California.)
If you are not the legal owner of the vehicle, but rather the registered owner (say for example you have a loan on the car and the bank is listed as the lien holder or legal owner) you’ll have to get the legal owner of the car (or a duly authorized representative of same) to sign the Application for Duplicate Title form before the DMV will replace a lost car title.
If for some reason you cannot apply for the duplicate title on your own (illness, travel, too busy, whatever reason), you can designate another individual to do it for you. This called assigning Power of Attorney.
To do this you will need to complete—you guessed it—a Power of Attorney application with the DMV. The applications are designed to cover a number of different scenarios, make sure you select only the one you need so that you do not wind up assigning this individual more authority than you need to for the situation. In this case, you specifically want to grant power to replace the lost car title.
Once the form is completed, you will usually need to get your signature of it witnessed by a notary public. When the form is completed and duly notarized you can then have the designated individual act on your behalf as previously described to replace the lost car title.