What is a Motorcycle Title?

Investopedia defines a title as “a document that shows legal ownership of a property or asset.” In our case, that property/asset is a motorcycle. 

When you buy a motorcycle, the seller will sign over their title to you. Then, you will use it to apply for a title in your name at your local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). 

If you’ve ever googled “motorcycle title” or have purchased a motorcycle out of state, you may have noticed differences between the documents. This is because formats vary among states. 

Despite these differences, each title generally contains the same information and serves the same purpose. 

The term title is short for Certificate of Title. Therefore, note that we will use the terms “title” and “Certificate of Title” interchangeably. In both instances, we are referring to the motorcycle title.

For more detailed information on motorcycle titles, continue reading below!

1. Purpose of a Motorcycle Title 

A title has two main purposes: to provide proof of ownership and to transfer ownership. 

  • If you purchase a motorcycle in full at a dealership, the dealer will present you with the title. 
  • If you finance your motorcycle, you will be listed on the title as the debtor/borrower. In this case, you should receive a copy of the title for your records. In some cases, you will not receive the title until your loan amount is paid off. You’ll just have a bill of sale (proof of purchase) until you receive the title.
  • If you purchase a motorcycle privately, the seller will sign over their Certificate of Title to you. Then, you must present that signed Certificate of Title to the DMV. If approved, the DMV will provide you with a new Certificate of Title in your name, which is mailed to you several weeks later. 

2. Information Listed on a Motorcycle Title 

A title contains important information about a motorcycle, such as its:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Year, make and model 
  • Color
  • State of registration
  • Registered owner 
  • Lienholder(s) 
  • Debtor(s) 
  • Odometer reading
  • Tite Brand, etc.

3. Types of Titles 

It’s important to know the different types of title brands. This will help you avoid buying a lemon

The title of the brand gives insight into the history and the condition of the motorcycle. See the different types below:

Lemon Title Brand: This describes a vehicle that has been deemed unsafe to drive due to an excess of defects. 

Odometer Rollback Title Brand: This vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with to reflect a lesser value, which is illegal. 

Salvage Title Brand: This vehicle has suffered damage that would cost more to repair than what the vehicle is worth. 

Water Damage Title Brand: This vehicle has suffered water damage. The main cause of vehicle water damage is flooding.

Hail Damage Title Brand: This vehicle has suffered damage from a hailstorm.

4. Other Documents that are Often Confused with the Title

There are several documents involved in the motorcycle buying and selling process. Make sure you do not confuse the Certificate of Title with the Certificate of Registration or Bill of Sale

In short, a Certificate of Registration is proof that your state government has record of your vehicle and that you are permitted to operate it (with the appropriate license). 

For example, this is the document you would provide a police officer with if you got into a fender bender (along with your ID and proof of insurance).

Think of the Bill of Sale as an invoice/receipt. The seller will fill out their portion of the document, which includes the sales price, method of payment, their contact information, important details about the motorcycle, etc.

At the meet-up, you will pay the seller and fill out your portion of the document. 

Then, you will take the Bill of Sale to your local DMV (along with any other required documents) and apply for registration.  

In Conclusion 

We hope this post made it easier to understand what a motorcycle title is and its purpose! 

Keep in mind that requirements and procedures for acquiring a motorcycle title vary widely among states. Therefore, you should contact your local DMV for more information. 

If you’d like more detailed information and tips on the buying and selling process, check out our guides on how to sell a motorcycle and how to buy a motorcycle!

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