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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

Problems Getting Title to My Vehicle

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

What to do if you are having problems with getting title to your vehicle if, for instance, you bought a car from someone who does not have a copy of the car’s title. #0324EN


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How do I normally get proof of vehicle ownership? 

A vehicle’s buyer and seller must both turn paperwork in to the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) within five days of the vehicle’s sale. The seller signs over the title to you. The DOL then issues you a new title.

If you are paying on the car, the title lists you as the registered owner and the seller as the legal owner until you finish making payments. Read Reporting the Sale or Transfer of Your Car to learn more.


What if the seller lost the title?

A seller who has lost or misplaced the title can apply for a new copy and sign it over to you. The seller should use DOL’s Affidavit of Loss form at the end of this fact sheet.


What if the title is in some other registered or legal owner's name?

You can ask the last registered or legal owner to sign and file a Release of Interest. The DOL form is at the end of this fact sheet.

Example: You finished making your payments on the car. You can ask the legal owner to sign and file a release of interest.


How else can I get title? 

If you cannot get title from a seller or other person you got the vehicle from, you have 3 options to apply for “ownership in doubt:”

  • You can ask DOL to issue a three-year registration without title. This converts to full ownership (giving you the title) if after three years nobody contests (challenges) the vehicle’s ownership.

  • You can file a bond with DOL for a three-year period and get a bonded title.The bond amount must be equal to one and a half times the vehicle’s value.

  • You can file a petition in court for an order awarding you legal ownership of the vehicle. Quieting Title to Your Vehicle has forms and instructions.


When should I ask DOL for a registration without title or a bonded title?

These procedures apply when

  • The seller never gave you title or never had the title, and

  • No other known person claims to own the vehicle.

It is easiest and cheapest if you get a three-year registration without title, and then wait for three years to get a full title.
The DOL Bonded Title or Three Year Registration without Title Affidavit form is at the end of this fact sheet.


Should I file a court action?

Sometimes, going to court is the only option when:

  • The person who sold you the car failed to file the bill of sale and transfer title and still claims ownership.

  • The used car dealer that sold you the car, whose name is on the title, went out of business.

  • The lender of your car loan went out of business.

Quieting Title to Your Vehicle has more information, forms and instructions.


The court awarded me the vehicle in my divorce. My ex disappeared OR refuses to give me title. What can I do?

It depends on if your final divorce order had the car’s ownership information in it:

  • Year, make, and model

  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

If it has this information, you do not need to go back to court. You do need a certified copy of the Final Divorce Order from the clerk of the court that entered it.


My Final Divorce Order has that info. What do I do?

Get a certified copy of your Final Divorce Order from the court clerk. There is a small fee.

Take the certified copy to your local Department of Licensing vehicle licensing office. They will transfer title into your name.


My Final Divorce Order does not have that info. Now what?

You should file a Motion for Clarification of Final Divorce Order to add this ownership information to the decree:

  • Year, make, & model

  • VIN (Vehicle Identification #)

Filing a Motion for Clarification of Final Divorce Order to Get Title to Your Vehicle has forms and instructions.


Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 



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Last Review and Update: Aug 27, 2020