How do you file a lien on a car in California?

I was looking at a used car a couple of weeks ago and found out it had a lien on it. While I’m not interested in buying it anymore, how do you file a lien in California?

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Andrea Barrett · Answered on Jan 26, 2023
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
There are a few things to look for when buying a used car—and a lien is definitely one of them! If you’re buying from a dealership, they will usually file a lien for you. But if you already have a title and need to add a lien to it, you can file a lien on a car in California by filing a UCC-1 form.
The UCC-1 form is a legal form that a creditor files to secure its interest in a borrower’s property or assets used as collateral for a loan. When a creditor files a UCC-1 form, it notifies the public that the creditor has the right to repossess the assets as repayment on the underlying debt.
You can obtain a copy of the UCC-1 form on the California Secretary of State website, which you can print and then submit.
When a loan includes a lien, there are three possible outcomes:
  • The debt is completely paid off, thereby removing the lien.
  • Payment stops and the lienholder continues to hold the title until the property is sold to and paid for by someone else.
  • The remaining debt is paid to release the lien, and the property or vehicle can be sold.
Good luck in your continued search for a used car!
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