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Division of Motor Vehicles

Vehicle Services Titling

Tips on Purchasing a Used Vehicle

  • Ask to see the title of the vehicle
  • The buyer should insist that the seller provide a properly signed title at the time the vehicle is delivered. Do not accept other documents such as a bill of sale or registration in place of a title
  • If the vehicle is being purchased on payments, the seller should record the lien on the back of the title, then surrender the title to the buyer. The Division will mail the title to the lien holder when the vehicle is titled
  • Check the front of the title. Does it describe the vehicle you are purchasing? Physically verify that the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the title and the vehicle match. Generally, the VIN is located on the driver's side where the dash meets the windshield
  • Look at all blocks located on the front of the title. If you see the word "flood," "salvage," "rebuilt", "reconstructed "or "restored salvage," the vehicle may have been dismantled and rebuilt, may have been stolen and recovered with damage, may have been damaged by flooding or may have been badly damaged in an accident and repaired. This branding is for the buyer's protection. It lets you know that the vehicle has probably been rebuilt in some way. You should take it to a good repair and body shop for a thorough inspection before you purchase the vehicle. NOTE: Some states use "number" or "letter" codes to show brands. Check the title carefully to determine what any numbers or letters may mean.
  • If the words "reconstructed," "specially constructed" or "homemade" appears anywhere on the title, the vehicle was rebuilt or built from scratch. Check the VIN on the title. The title might show that a state serial number was issued. This is particularly true on homemade vehicles or trailers and, therefore, the manufacturer's VIN on the vehicle is no longer a proper VIN. If the state-issued (DE, NJ, PA, etc.) serial number cannot be located on the vehicle, the buyer will likely have problems obtaining a title and registration
  • Look at the "lienholder" information on the front of the title to see if there is a lienholder. A lienholder is a person who has a legal interest in the vehicle. The seller should have a notarized paid receipt (lien release) from the lienholder describing the vehicle, the name of the seller and the date and amount of the lien. The lien shown on the title must have been released by the lienholder
  • Look at the owner(s) name on the front of the title to see if there is more than one owner. The legal status terms "AND" requires the signature of ALL owners. Legal status "AND/OR" requires only one of the owners to sign
  • When the seller signs the back of the title, check to ensure the seller's signature matches the name(s) on the front of the title. If someone other than the owner signs the title as seller, he or she must have authorization such as a notarized power of attorney or court order. The seller must give you a certified copy or the original document authorizing them to sign the title. Check the title to see if the seller's signature must be notarized
  • Check the odometer information on the front of the title carefully. Look for any odometer brands or alterations to the mileage. Ensure the seller completes the odometer section on the back of the title. The mileage disclosure made by the seller on the back of the title should normally be higher than the mileage shown on the front of the title. Exceptions occur when the mileage has exceeded 100,000 miles and the odometer has rolled over. In this instance, the seller should disclose the mileage shown on the odometer and check the block on the title stating, "The mileage stated is in excess of odometer's mechanical limits (exceeds 99,999 miles). "In the event the seller makes an odometer disclosure and checks the box "the odometer reading is not the actual mileage" "WARNING" "ODOMETER DISCREPANCY" or you see this brand on the front of the title, be aware this brand indicates the mileage on the vehicle is unknown. Federal and state laws mandate the seller to make a disclosure on the vehicle's title, except for vehicles ten or more years old, vehicles not self-propelled or vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 16,000 pounds. Protect your rights by ensuring the seller makes a disclosure in all other cases
  • If the seller's signature is already on the title, and you are purchasing the vehicle from someone other than the seller, you may be purchasing a vehicle from an illegal dealer or someone other than the original owner. The original owner has already sold the vehicle and probably has notified DMV of the sale. If something goes wrong with the transfer of title or in the event of odometer rollback or other fraud, you may not be able to find the middleman to get your money back. You will likely have a difficult time locating him/her to straighten out any problems. He/She is out of the picture, and you may have no recourse. This practice is illegal in Delaware
  • Licensed dealers are not allowed to sell from locations other than their established business location. If you are buying a vehicle off of a street corner from an individual, and the seller tells you he is a licensed dealer, notify us at: New Castle County - 302.434.3224 or Kent or Sussex Counties - 302.744.2519.
  • A prospective buyer should be extremely careful when considering the purchase of a vehicle titled or registered in a foreign country. It must meet Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  standards. Vehicle that were not manufactured for export to the United States (gray market) do not conform to Federal DOT and EPA standards unless proper conversions have been made. This would result in title and registration being denied in the United States. The cost of conversion may be several thousand dollars and must be done at a federally licensed, independent commercial conversion shop
  • As the new owner of the vehicle, you must apply for a title at a Division office within 30 days from the date of purchase to avoid a penalty charge
  • If you have any questions regarding title information or the purchase of a vehicle, refer to our titling section