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Topic-icon Buying remotely when title isn't in seller's name

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5 months 5 days ago #4439 by charlie
All,

I've been looking for a vintage bike. A few times now I have run across one that appears to be a good candidate, but the seller has a title that is still in the previous owner's name. This seems a major red flag presenting a potential major hassle, for a number of reasons. The seller may have bought the bike several years ago but never transferred title. I suppose it could be legitimate practice for collectors or speculators that purchase and hold a number of bikes and don't want to pay taxes on the transactions, but it seems shady in a way. I am pretty sure they would not be able to get a license plate and registration without having title, so it means at the very least that the bike hasn't been ridden much.

Is this common practice in the vintage motorcycle world? I have bought and sold a number of used vehicles without going through a dealership, but always a local sale and we transferred the title immediately. The titles were always in the seller's name. I'm more than a bit hesitant to try to buy a motorcycle, especially remotely, when the title is not in the seller's name.

I have no experience with buying any vehicle remotely. I've checked out a couple of online escrow companies and the process makes sense, but it still seems like a huge leap of faith.

Any advice would be welcome.

Cheers,

Charlie

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5 months 5 days ago #4440 by 1872
Talk to your DMV. If a VIN is checked to determine if the bike is stolen the absent owner's name will probably show up. Even though Georgia does not title vehicles over a certain age, I would want to know I could register the bike with a bill of sale from someone other than the owner-that's the name on the title.

There are ways around this, but only you can determine if the bike is worth the potential problems.
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5 months 5 days ago #4442 by charlie
Good thought to check with DMV in my state. The seller sounds pretty reasonable. He says he has the title that was signed over by the prior owner when he (the current seller) bought the bike 5 years ago. He never transferred title because the bike was just part of his collection and he didn't get a tag, just rode it around the block a few times every month or so.

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5 months 5 days ago - 5 months 5 days ago #4443 by Wobbly
• If your state is like mine (GA), and the bike you buy is in-state, then you'll be required to pay all the taxes back to the last time it was tagged. I found this out when I didn't tag a classic for 3 years during restoration. It was a bit of sticker shock !

• If the bike is out of state, then I suspect the present owner is a "horse trader" and simply didn't want to put the bike in his name to save all the registration fees, taxes, and possible insurance.

• If the bike has a title and the numbers on the bike match the title, then it's a legit sale. Especially if you're taking it to another state. The exception to watch out for are the bikes with "salvage titles". Those were either "totaled" in a severe wreck, put together from several junkers, or stolen and then recovered. Besides being of dubious heritage, the original owner could appear one day and claim it !

Mr 1872 is correct. In GA you do not need a title for a vehicle over 20 years old. But when I buy a bike older than 20 years I insist on a title. This because not all states have that rule, and I may (one day) want to sell that bike to a guy in a state that is not so lenient. Getting a bike titled in your state is easy when the seller has a clear title from his. Getting a title after 5 years of not having one is a RPIA, and the only option open to you may be a "salvage title", with all the baggage that carries.


Just be glad it's not a dirt bike. Most off-road dirt bikes are never titled, for the simple reason that titling is a prerequisite for getting a tag. So when a dirt bike gets past the original owner, you have no idea of its ownership history or legality.

Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
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