What Is Title Jumping?

Title jumping is when someone sells a car that was never titled in their name, which causes the vehicle’s ownership history to skip an owner.
Written by Mary Cahill
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
Title jumping is when someone sells a car that was never titled in their name, causing the ownership history of the vehicle to skip an owner. Title jumping is illegal in all 50 states.
The title of your car is important because it shows that you are the car’s legal owner and the person who’s entitled to sell it. When you purchase a car, the previous owner is required by law to transfer the title to your name within a certain time period. 
If you sell a car without signing the title, you are guilty of title jumping. And if you buy a car through a private seller or a small dealership, you should take precautions to make sure you don’t end up in a legally precarious situation like title jumping. 
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In this article, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know: what is title jumping, why do people do it, and how can you correctly complete a title transfer?
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What is title jumping?

Someone who
sells a car
that isn’t titled in their name is committing the act of title jumping. Other names for title jumping are skipping or floating
Title jumping occurs when the seller of the vehicle either signs the title without completing any of the other information or simply doesn’t sign it at all. When you purchase a car with a title in this condition, you’re purchasing what is known as an open title—this is a hugered flag. 
The omission of the seller’s information creates a jump in the ownership history of the car you’re buying. An inaccurate ownership history can result in the wrong person incurring taxes, fees, or moving violations related to that vehicle. At the end of the day, title jumping is a scam

Is title jumping illegal?

Big time. Title jumping is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in some like
Georgia
and
Texas
. Most states require you to
transfer ownership of the title
within 30 days of the date of purchase and
register
the car with the DMV.  
If you’re found guilty of title jumping, there are some major repercussions. Penalties include heavy fines or possible jail time

Why would someone jump a title?

The most common reason people title jump is to avoid paying taxes and fees on a vehicle. Anytime you buy a vehicle, you’re legally obligated to sign and date the title and register it in your name with the DMV. 
Title jumping was formerly a crime associated with small car dealerships that cut corners to quickly turn a profit. But due to the popularity of online car sales, some individuals will buy cars cheaply and fail to register them in their name with the intention of jumping the title and making money fast.
Another reason a seller may title jump is that they don’t want the buyer to know the truth about a vehicle’s history. The car they’re selling may have a
salvage title
or have had flood damage or other major issues.  
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How to avoid title jumping

Title jumping is problematic for both the buyer and seller of the vehicle. You should never title jump when selling a vehicle. And if you’re buying and suspect the seller is title jumping—walk away from the deal.
Generally speaking, buying a car from a reputable dealership is easier than a private sale because they’ll handle a lot of the paperwork on your behalf. But, if you choose to privately purchase a vehicle, the following steps can help you avoid a title jumping scenario.

Do not buy a vehicle with an open title

The seller might give you reasons why the title is incomplete or assure you that it’s no big deal. Don’t fall for this scam. 
Furthermore, you should never purchase a vehicle without signing and dating the title. If you buy a car without signing the title and end up selling it, you are title jumping. 

Examine the bill of sale and run a VIN check

When you purchase a car, you’ll receive a bill of sale. Look at this document thoroughly. Make sure that the name on the bill of sale matchesthe name of the seller on the title. 
Always run a VIN check on a vehicle you’re buying in a private sale. You can check the vehicle identification number (VIN) of any car for free through
CARFAX
. A VIN check will let you know if there’s anything fishy about the vehicle—like if it’s stolen, salvaged, or has a hidden
lien
If the seller tries to avoid letting you take down the VIN of the vehicle you’re interested in buying, this is yet another indication that you could be dealing with a title jumper. 

How to transfer a car title

The procedure of transferring a car title varies from state to state, but the seller must sign the title and complete all of the information fields. 
Afterward, the buyer can take the title and other required documents (such as an odometer reading) to the applicable government office so that the vehicle can be registered under the new owner with the DMV.

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FAQs

Yes. Title jumping is a form of fraud. But be advised that it might not be easy to prove—especially if there is no paper trail indicating the seller’s name.
You can be arrested for title jumping and be subject to fines or jail time.
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