App version: 0.1.0

What to Do if You Lost Your Car Title

What to Do if You Lost Your Car Title
Dan Miller
Dan MillerUpdated September 9, 2022
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Your car's title is the proof that you legally own the car, and it’s usually required to sell your car or refinance your auto loan. If you have lost your car title, you may not be able to sell your car or get a new loan. Fortunately, there are ways to get a replacement car title, and the process is relatively pain-free.Your car title is usually issued by your state's department of motor vehicles or department of transportation when you first purchase your vehicle. If you're wondering where to get a copy of your car title, the answer is fairly simple: You can get a replacement or duplicate title from the same agency. While the process varies from state to state, it will generally involve filling out a form, providing documentation of ownership, and paying a fee.Read on to find out how to get a title for a car if it’s lost.

What Is a Car Title?

A car title is a legal document showing who owns the vehicle. The car's title also has identifying information about the car itself, which generally includes: 
  • Make
  • Model
  • Year
  • Owner's name and contact information
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Odometer reading at the time the title was issued
  • Information about the most recent car sale, including the name, address, and contact information for both the buyer and seller

Why Do You Need a Car Title?

Your car's title document is the legal proof that you are the true owner of the car. Without the title, you will be limited in what you can do. One of the vehicle loan requirements is that you must show that you’re the owner of the car in question, usually by producing the title document.An important thing to note is that most states are considered "title-holding" states. In these states, if you have a loan on your car, your lender will hold the title until the loan is fully paid off. So if you live in a title-holding state, have a loan on your car, and can't find your car title — don't worry! Your lender has your car title and will send it to you when your loan has been paid off.

Cost to Replace a Lost Car Title

While it’s generally a fairly straightforward process to replace a car title, it's not always cheap to do so. The cost to replace a lost car title varies by state, and can be anywhere from $10-$50. For example, here are the replacement car title fees in a few states:
  • California — $23
  • Minnesota — $18.25
  • Ohio — $15
  • Pennsylvania — $58
You may also incur some costs in making sure that you have all of the necessary documentation to replace your car's lost title.

Where to Get a Copy of Your Car Title

Depending on where you live, your state may have different names for the governmental organization that handles vehicle titles and registration. It will often be called something like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), or Department of Transportation. That’s where to get a copy of your car title.You can look on your state's website to determine exactly what forms you will need to fill out, what documentation you'll need, how much the car title replacement will cost, and whether you can file online or will need to go to a title office in person.

Documents Required for a Replacement Car Title 

Because each state's process is different, the exact documents that you'll need for a replacement car title can vary. It's a good idea to check directly with your state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation to make sure you know what documents you'll need. Here are a few basic guidelines:

Proof of Identification 

The exact forms of identification will vary by state, but generally speaking, you'll need to show identification as well as proof of ownership of the vehicle. This could include your driver's license, information about the car itself, and a signed and notarized statement that you are the rightful owner.

Explanation for Duplicate Request 

Depending on the state, you may have to explain why you are applying for a duplicate car title. You may also have to have your duplicate request form notarized, affirming under penalty of perjury that you are the legal owner of the vehicle in question.

Challenges of Losing Your Car Title 

One of the challenges of losing your car title is that it can make things complicated if you want to sell your car or get a new car loan. Because the title document is what shows who legally owns the car, you will generally need to have it in hand before selling your car. It’s also important to understand whether you have a title loan or car loan before selling your vehicle or getting a new loan.

Can You Refinance a Car Loan if You Lost Your Car Title? 

If you are looking at refinancing a car, you may have a difficult time if you have lost your car title if you live in a non-title-holding state. If you live in a title-holding state (which is the majority of the United States), then your lender will still have your car title. In most cases when you are refinancing a car loan, your new lender will handle the entire process, meaning you won't have to worry about doing anything with the car title. The same is to be true if you’re considering a refinance car title loan.

Refinancing Auto Loans With Lantern 

A car title is a legal document with information about the vehicle itself as well as who owns the car. Without the car title, you may not be able to refinance or sell your car. Fortunately, it is fairly straightforward to get a duplicate car title through your state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation. While the process varies by state, generally, you will need to fill out a form, provide documentation, and pay the titling fees.If you live in a title-holding state (which is the majority of the United States), your lender will hold your car title until the loan is paid off. That’s helpful to know If you're looking to refinance. When you refinance your auto loan with Lantern, we'll do the heavy lifting of paying off the old loan and re-titling the car. That way, you won't have to spend your time in line at the BMV.Refinance your auto loan with Lantern today!
Photo credit: iStock/StefaNikolicLCAU0822008

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you lose your car title?
Can you refinance your vehicle if you lose your car title?
Where can I get a copy of my car title?

About the Author

Dan Miller

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer who's spent nearly a decade covering developments, trends and advances in the finance space. His expertise extends across financial sectors including personal finance, student loans, budgeting, credit cards and mortgages. Miller's work has been featured on sites such as NerdWallet, Forbes, Business Insider, Rocket Mortgage and Intuit Mint.
Share this article: