This is one of the most common questions I get asked: Should I buy a car without a title? The answer is almost always: No!!
In Louisiana, the way that you prove that you own a vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, RV, trailer, etc.) is with the title. When you register a vehicle, the Office of Motor Vehicles issues a title with your name on the front of it. If there are any liens against the vehicle, that is also stated on the front of the title. The title clearly states the year, make, model and VIN of the automobile as well. If you have a legitimate auto title with your name on it, you own the vehicle. A bill of ale will help you prove that you paid for it, but the title is controlling as far as the OMV is concerned.
When you sell a car, you transfer the title to the buyer. The smartest way to do that is to go to a notary (like me). Both the buyer and the seller will sign the back of the title in front of the notary. The notary will help you fill out the back of it to show who the new owner is, how much you paid for it, and the mileage of the vehicle. The notary will also sign it, after you show proper id, and he will place his seal on it.
The new owner/buyer of the vehicle will take the properly transferred title to the OMV. He will then pay his taxes and registration, after showing both the title and proof of insurance. The OMV will issue a new title that will be mailed to the buyer, and they will also mail a new registration to you. You will receive a new license plate at the OMV.
Here’s the problem with trying to complete this without a title- how are you going to prove anything at the OMV? They will not allow you to register the vehicle without a title. You won’t be able to do anything at all at the OMV unless you have a properly transferred title. Nothing!
If the seller does not have a title with his name on the front of it, walk away! Better yet, run! I’ve heard all of the excuses. Some sellers claim that the title was lost. If that’s the case, it’s easy to get a duplicate title. Some sellers claim that the bank has the title. If that’s the case, go to the bank with the seller. Some sellers claim that they will bring the title to the buyer the next day.
If the seller does not have the title in his possession, do not hand them your money!
If you are buying a used car from a reputable car lot, that’s another story. Many of them will actually have to wait for the title to come in from the bank. They should give you a temporary plate to use until the title arrives. If it is a well known car dealership that is running their business above the board, that’s fine.
The used car dealerships that concern me are the ones that I call “ghetto lots”. If you drive around certain areas in Baton Rouge, you know which ones I’, talking about. They may take your money, promise to deliver the title to you in a few weeks, and then never follow through. It happens all of the time. You will never be able to safely drive that car on the streets because the lying ghetto dealer never gets the title to you. Just recently a dealer went to jail over this very issue in Baton Rouge.
To sum all of this up, do not buy a vehicle from an individual in Louisiana unless they have a clean title that shows their name on the front of it, and the vehicle information on the title matches the vehicle that you are buying. If you are dealing with a used car lot, it’s usually fine to wait on the title, unless they are of the scummy variety. In other words, buyer beware!