Do You Get a Car Title with a Car Loan?

If you’re financing a vehicle, your lender will be listed as a lienholder. Whether the lienholder or borrower holds the title varies between states.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
If you’re financing your vehicle with a
car loan
, your lender or lienholder will be listed on the car’s title. In some states, the lienholder will possess the title while in others, it’s the borrower who gets possession of the car title.
It’s important to be aware that you don’t need the title to drive the car. The car title is always processed through the Department of Motor Vehicles. It serves as a record that goes along with the car no matter who owns or drives it throughout its lifetime.
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Do you get a title when you finance a car?

In some cases, you might get a copy of the car title when you finalize your financing agreement—but that doesn’t mean that you hold the title. It ultimately depends on where you live.
If you live in one of the following nine title-holding states you hold the title as the borrower:
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Wisconsin
If you live in any other state, your lienholder possesses the car title. You will take possession of the car’s title once you pay off your loan in full. This will trigger a lien release and the title will transfer to you.
If you decide to take out a personal loan to pay for your vehicle instead of financing it (which is common with private sellers), you’ll usually get the original title in your name.

What is a car title?

A certificate of title is a legal document that stays with a vehicle for its life, detailing legal proof of ownership. This document is reissued anytime there is a title transfer—that is, when the vehicle changes owners or is registered in a new state. 

What does a car title look like?

The car title looks like an official government document—because it is. It will bear the unique identifying seal of your state’s government.
A car title will include information such as:
  • Name and information of owner
  • Identifying information of the vehicle such as make, model, year, color, and VIN (vehicle identification number)
  • A date marking when the title was issued
  • A bill of sale
  • A section noting outstanding liens—such as a current loan
  • Odometer reading to track the lifespan of the vehicle
  • Signatures of the buyer, seller, lienholder, borrower, etc. as well as a state representative (DMV)

When do you get the vehicle title after buying a car?

If you’re in a state where your lender holds the title, the
title will be transferred into your name
once your loan is fully paid. That said, you’ll be listed as a registered owner—even if your lienholder is still on the title.
If you live in one of the nine state where borrowers get the title, you’ll usually receive a paper title from the Department of Motor Vehicles within two to six weeks of getting the car. 
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Who is listed on the vehicle title if you have a car loan?

If you have an auto loan, you will be listed as the registered owner while the lender will be listed as a lienholder.
If someone cosigned the auto loan, they will also be listed on the title. They are held responsible for the loan if you are unable to pay it.

What you need to get a car title

To get the car title, you’ll need to pay off any liens. While you can drive your car without the title in your name, you cannot sell it without a clear title. If you’ve paid for your car in full, here’s what you’ll need to request the title.

New title

Once you’ve taken care of payment, check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles for a full list of documentation needed to register a title in your own name. Here’s what you’ll usually need:
  • Bill of sale
  • Odometer reading
  • Lien/lien release information
  • Your driver’s license information
If your dealership registers their vehicles electronically, the DMV may already have lien and title information stored. And when you receive your little, you can opt for both paper and electronic copies.

Replacement title

If you need to
replace a lost or missing car title
, you can request it through your DMV. The process varies by state but you’ll usually need to complete an application form and pay a small fee.
You can also request a secondary copy or “duplicate title.” For this, you’ll need your license plate number to verify the identity of your vehicle.

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If you’ve lost your certificate of title, you should apply for a replacement through your local DMV office. Many states also issue electronic titles, which you can keep stored among your digital files.
A car title loan is a secured loan that uses a vehicle you already own as collateral. The lender will place a lien on your car title in exchange for the loan amount. This is sometimes called “borrowing against” your vehicle.
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