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gruberv8

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I have a 46 willys jeep I bought with bill of sale only. Title was lost years ago. After working with my notary, I've finding out that getting a title for it in PA is a PITA, requiring inspection etc as it would now be a reconstructed vehicle. I've been told that there are companies like broadway title who will get me a title from a state with less red tape. They want like $800 for this service, which is shocking to say the least. Do any of you guys have any recomendations of some other company I could use who might be more reseasonable?

I don't understand why PA is so strict on something like this, considering the just changed the rules to allow year of manufacture plates for antique cars and you no longer need to submit pictures. What's someone to do when they are doing a restoration?

Any help would be appreciated.

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Back in 1984 I had to do the same thing to title my Model A. I was able to purchase a clear title and bill of sale through a man in New York who advertised in Hemmings. The title cost me $75.00 at that time. Then I had to go to a notary and get some registration papers,get an authorized inspection mechanic to verify the vehicle numbers(which had to be restamped to match the title numbers) ,then I could apply for title. Even the state police could not give me an alternative. It wasn't a real ordeal as no one really knew anything about the car or could care less about the matching numbers so everything went smoothly. Soon afterward i got my title and then could get the registration! Getting the antique plates was alot more trouble! If you buy a title, make sure the the seller is legit and the title is clear! It shouldn't cost any where near $800. Unless these guys think you're in a bind and are trying to take you! Also make sure any bill of sale or transfer is dated at least 6 mos. prior to your getting a title or you'll have to pay PA state sales tax again!

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Pennsylvania's stance is that unless a title was transferred you didn't actually buy the vehicle. You may have possession and money may have changed hands but without that title you don't own the car so they can't issue you a title. Crazy but that's how they see it.

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Many years ago I had to purchase a bond that protected me from any previous owner coming forward to claim my "bill of sale" purchase. The bond was for three years and I could not start a restoration until the three year period had expired. This policy has changed now, and I believe that a fee plus a statement from the seller are all that is required. It definately pays to have a title (with correct numbers) and any past history in your documents. The title alone can be worth quite a few dollars when you go to sell it.

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So why not register it in Rhode Island? You don't need to live in the state that it's registered in.

You need a RI address like any other state.

When I moved to Florida in '94, all they asked to see was a previous registration from RI when I registered my '62 Buick there even though Florida is a titled state.

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You need a RI address like any other state.

That may or may not be so; I'd ask RI DMV. When I moved to New Jersey from NY, I had paperwork issues when applying for a NJ title on one of my collector cars (the old NY registration from the previous owner had the engine number, and I wanted to title the car with the VIN). The solution, as suggested by NJ DMV, was to register the car with the VIN in New York, and then get a NJ title. I went to New York and they issued a NY registration to me at my NJ home address, no questions asked. Another time, a friend had a car that he lost garage space for, so he registered it by mail in Vermont (to his New York address) because Vermont didn't have a mandatory insurance law at the time, and with a valid plate he could park on the street. Again, there were no questions asked.

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All the of New York state cars I have owned that were registered to the engine number I have changed to the VIN numbers. I register them first to the paperwork I received. Later I return to have them corrected if needed. These are cars that have VINs in addition to engine number (not T Fords) I have all the documentation with me, including a pencil rub of the VIN. I have been thanked and told they were happy to do it so the correct info was on record. I think there was a token charge, maybe they really want the money. --Bob

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You don't need a title company when you can do it yourself. All you need to do is this http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/fs-intr.pdf

Works if you are willing to spend $2000 or more. The advertising costs alone might approach $2000. If you doubt me check out the rates for Legal Advertisements in your local paper. I doubt you could do this without an attorney in any case.

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This kinda thing happens alot,especially if you've pulled an old vehicle from an old junk yard or barn and the paperwork was lost long ago. As it was explained to me ,you cannot apply for a title in Pa unless you have a good title in hand . You cannot apply to the state and hope to get a transfer or copy,that's why you have to obtain a clear title(if you have none) from a title dealer before you can register.This means getting a clear valid title for a vehicle like yours (same year,make,model) which is the hardest part,but then your numbers won't match, so you'll have to change all the numbers. Hopefully,like in my case, the inspecting mechanic or state trooper will not see any problem in the transfer of numbers.(Don't ask,don't tell!,they probably won't know which numbers are correct,they just really want to see if the vehicle matches the description and that there is no funny business going on!)) Seems to work better on pre war cars where actual numbers are hidden and harder to trace! Sounds kinda shady but with 60-70yr.old vehicles it's not likely they will turn up on some stolen list especially if they've been out of the system a long time.Unfortunately,it may be the only way to register your car in PA. Good Luck!

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Works if you are willing to spend $2000 or more. The advertising costs alone might approach $2000. If you doubt me check out the rates for Legal Advertisements in your local paper. I doubt you could do this without an attorney in any case.

In my area, county legal journal ads are $65, and the local paper totals about $40. You can consult with an attorney if you wish, all they will do is verify that you followed the guidelines. The court proceeding can be done with your local judge, which in my area will happen in his office. It works very well if you take the time to do it.

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You've done this before? What is a "local judge" and how do you get into his office? We have occassionally tried to get titles for cars in PA and it has never worked that way for us. Where are you located in PA and which judge did you use? Maybe we'll try your method again.

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For what it's worth, New Jersey has a similar 'three newspaper ad' system for getting a title. It is used frequently by towing companies and repair shops to secure a title for a vehicle that wasn't claimed by its owner. Private parties can also obtain a title this way for a vehicle abandoned on their property. I've never done this myself, but I've spoken to several people who have. They've told me that it's a fairly straightforward process.

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You've done this before? What is a "local judge" and how do you get into his office? We have occassionally tried to get titles for cars in PA and it has never worked that way for us. Where are you located in PA and which judge did you use? Maybe we'll try your method again.

Sorry I should have said Magisterial District Judge to aid others in their search. The magistrate that I used before is no longer in office(retired), I will soon find out how my new magistrate is. For those citizens of PA that don't know who their local magistrate is, look here: Magisterial District Judge Search

Or due to the time of year, just look along the roads near your home to see if there is a judge up for re-election.

If you can, I would look for one in a smaller town, they probably have a more open schedule. And in my limited experience, the clerk(s) are more eager to help and answer questions.

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I'm not sure if a "mechanic's lien" method to obtain a title from the state might work in all cases. There is quite a bit of paperwork and searches which usually need to be done before such a title can be issued to "the lien holder". In these cases, the "lien holder" would be a repair shop where the customer never came to reclaim the vehicle after repairs (with a time criteria involved, plus attempted notifications) or a tow-in company where the damaged vehicle had been "in storage" for a particular length of time (with similar attempted notification criteria).

I suspect, without knowing how they actually do things, that the title company would become the vehicle owner's agent, with a local address for the state they're in, so a title could be obtained for a resident at a particular local address. When that process has taken place, then the owner can receive the title and transfer it into their name in their home state. BUT, knowing "the agent" is the tricky part, to me! Unless there is some sort of contract involved, they could abscond with your paperwork, title the vehicle,and then claim it for their own, possibly.

Back to one of the original poster's comments . . . I wonder why the particular Jeep would have to have a "reconstructed" title? I would suspect that would be for "rollin' totals" which have been rebuilt and re-sold.

LOTS of sticky details, in many cases!

Just some thougths,

NTX5467

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Strangely in PA "Mechanics Liens" do not apply to automotive repair shops. If a customer fails to pay a bill your only recourse in PA is to file charges with a District Justice who will hold a hearing and award you a judgement in the amount due plus costs. The customer can then enter into an agreement to pay the outstanding bill via monthly payments. You just can't take ownership of their car despite what folks think nor can you charge an inflated "storage" charge. You cannot in fact even "impound" their car for non payment unless you have a signed contract with the customer whereby they agree to this. In PA a car is not considered abandoned if the car is left at a repair facility with unpaid bills. Only a licensed towing company can have a car declared abandoned and dispose of it.

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Probably things are more complicated, but can they give you the listed owner of the car and have the person or someone who would have inherited ownership apply for a lost title?

"Lost Titles" are quite a different situation. Just some paperwork, I suspect (from my experiences in TX, as a resident), pay a fee, and they mail the title to the applicant.

The problem with title searches is that they can be inconclusive, sometimes. I believe that in many states, they have a limit as to how long they keep titles on file, OR have them relatively-easily accessible. But, one of our BCA chapter members purchased a '38 Self-Shifter and followed the titles' trail all the way to the reasonably-local selling dealer's name. BUT, he had a current title to trace from.

Having the heir to the vehicle's ownwership apply for a lost title might have it's own perils. First, would be getting them to go along with it. Second might be that they'd have to find the Will and Last Testament which made them the beneficiary of the vehicle (and all that might involve). Third, it might ignite the "I'm going to restore that car" orientation, which, as the "last owner of record", they might desire to do. If the present owner never transferred the vehicle's title into their own name, for whatever reason, then the vehicle is not really "theirs" unless they can produce paperwork which is legal and would indicate otherwise. If the vehicle changed hands several times, it only complicates things. Yet, it's that paper trail of titles that makes the state dmvs confident that the vehicle is not stolen.

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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On an earlier post I mentioned he need to change numbers when using a purchased title. I must say that number tampering is illegal and may carry serious charges, Best to discuss the situation with the state police and your notary before any changing is attemped. At the time that I did it, no one had a problem because of the age of the vehicle and no records existed for the vehicle in question. Best to check first!

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The best way to deal with this situation is to Petition the court for a declaration of ownership. They are relatively painless and about the same cost as one from one of the title companies. I have done dozens of these Petitions for clients and not only does the owner of the vehicle get a Pennsylvania certificate of title but also the owner gets a court order declaring him the owner, free and clear of all other interests. This extinguishing of interests is what makes the court route so attractive. Also, I am aware of a few instances where folks went through a "questionable" titling process only to have it bite them in the end.

Finally, yes, you can transfer a car without a title in Pennsylvania but you cannot get Penndot to give you a title to it or register it. The Uniform Commercial Code governs car purchase transactions and states that failure to deliver a certificate of title to a purchaser does not abrogate the sale.

Also Pennsylvania does still recognize the common law "repairman’s lien" however traveling down that path is not recommended for the "do it yourself litigator" as it requires a declaration by the Court of Common Pleas. The "owner" of the vehicle must have assented to you providing services and then failed to pay you. If you are dealing with the true "owner" and the "owner" did assent then you should be deemed to have a perfected possessory lien in the vehicle for the value of your services. Now if there is a security interest in the vehicle in favor of another or a bank, then you cannot assert a repairman’s lien. See Associates Financial Services Co. v. O'Dell, 491 Pa. 1 (1980).

Just about a clear as mud!!!

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Spoken like a true attorney. How likely is it that a private citizen could actually get a clear title through the court petition process without the aid and expense of an attorney? Can it in fact be done at the District Justice level as stated above? So there is no automatic "mechanic's lien", as commonly understood, allowing a shop to keep or sell a customer's vehicle if payment is not made unless there is a contract in force stating such? Was I correct in stating above that it requires a judge to force payment or allow you to sell the vehicle? Thanks for your clearing up these issues. As always, these laws vary state to state.

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The use of the legal system naturally requires some legal skill, knowledge and ability, not unlike the restoration of an automobile. It is possible that lay person could get through the legal system, but someone trained in the law will make that trip much easier (albeit at an expense that person). I don't believe that the question of whether or not the declaration of ownership of an automobile is within the jurisdiction of a district justice has been settled yet. This is a question which seems unsettled by my reading of the law. Accordingly, anyone who takes this route should take it with caution until such time as this jurisdictional question has been resolved. Another reason to stay away from the district justice route is that, in Pennsylvania, the district justices are not "Courts of Record" meaning that there is no transcript of the proceedings of the cases heard before the district justice. If the petition is brought in the Court of Common Pleas, there will forever be a record of the proceeding and a transcript can be made of any proceeding or hearing held before the Court which will forever preserve the moment.

There is no automatic "mechanic's lien". Even insofar as mechanic's liens are applicable to improvements to real estate, there still must be a judicial determination prior to any action being commenced for the sale of the property liened. Common law repairman's liens in Pennsylvania are rare and unfortunately somewhat archaic.

Finally, contracts are only as good as (1) the intentions of the parties and (2) the actions of the parties. Even with a written contract, if the intention of one party is the cheat another it can and unfortunately does happen. But in any event having a CLEAR and SIGNED (by both parties) written contract, which is amended from time to time as the scope of the project grows or shrinks is still your best bet.

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I post on a number of boards. Over the years, I've learned, at least, one thing. Thank God Almighty that I don't live in Pennsylvania. They have the most Draconian motor vehicle laws in the known universe. If that Jeep was in California, I would have a clear title and a current tag in a few days, all legal, approved and signed off by the CHP and the CA DMV.

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I found this site which has some information on getting a PA title for vintage, title-less cars. I've not yet found any answer as to how to get a title for a car that never had a title, such as my 1906 Maxwell. Since this car pre-dates titles in most states one would have to be created. PennDOT has no rules about that, apparently. From the site:

"The current laws in Pennsylvania contemplate only scenarios in which certificates of title are transferred with every vehicle transaction. Therefore, by extension, the law fails to contemplate a scenario in which a person or entity would acquire a vehicle or vehicles for which no owner can produce and accordingly transfer a certificate of title. "

Phil

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Many years ago I handled the sale of an 05 Cadillac for a friend of mine. It was sold to a gentleman in Pennsylvania and we had all the idiotic run-arounds mentioned above. When I called the Pennsylvania motor vehicle department, I got someone who told me I must be lying when I said that there was no such thing as a title for a 1905 car in Rhode Island... that even if you offered to pay for it, the state refused to issue one. It was only when some one from their office actually checked with the RI DMV that they learned I was telling the truth (and they only did this because the purchaser of the car was well-to-do and had some political clout). Then they agreed that they could take an official RI sales tax receipt as proof of ownership. I agree with 58Mustang above... I'm sure glad I don't live in PA and I certainly never will.

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I only know about Oklahoma and Texas. In Texas there is a procedure for a "bonded" title. If you have no title or the title is lost you post a bond and the state will authorize the issuance of a title. After a period, I believe 3 years, you can get a clear title and the bond is cancelled. In Texas the county tax assessor-collector issues vehicle titles. In Oklahoma the State Tax Commission issues vehicle titles. These are considered personal tax records and are not open to the public and you cannot trace ownership of a vehicle back through the title records. If you are the current registered owner you can get a duplicate title if your title certificate is lost or destroyed. I don't know what the procedure is to title from a bill of sale from a non-title state.

Back in the 90's a lot of people in Oklahoma registered and tagged their cars in Oregon due to the high price of Oklahoma registration. I think Oregon stopped doing mail order registrations.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recommend seriously looking into going through the Vermont DMV. They clearly spell out the regulations and the fees on their website for all of the services that they offer. This is (or was) one of the states that the title service companies were using. There is no need to use a company like Broadway when an individual with some time and attention to detail can absolutely do it on their own and for hundreds and hundreds of dollars less than a title service company charges.

Vermont works because of their current title and registration laws and the fact that they do not have any sort of residency requirements.

I have a rare Vespa Scooter that came into the US on in a container of antique furniture and was used in a movie/photo prop house. I had absolutely zero paperwork and was never titled or registered in the US. I bought it from the prop house without any paperwork (broke my own rule there), got it back together, got insurance on it, and went through Vermont to get license plates and registration (non a title).

However, since Vermont is not a title state in my particular case, I can take the registration I have into the DMV in my state as proof of ownership and get a title (after showing that Vermont is a non-title state). Or Vermont is perfectly willing to let me have a plated and registered scooter that will likely NEVER be located or operated within their state. I did it all by mail and was COMPLETELY HONEST about what I had, where I got it, what I paid for it, and where it came from. I did provide a bill of sale and the other forms as required on their website, but that's it. Vermont had zero issues. I paid the fees and the plates and registration showed up. In fact, I decided that it was so cheap to keep the Vermont registration, that I just renewed it with them.

Point being that you CAN deal with this yourself if you are patient and detail oriented and that it can be completely legal IF you are completely candid throughout the process and don't try to mislead anyone or hide anything. Just absolutely do your homework before you do anything.

You may run into problems with the fact the the vehicle (the original poster's) previously had a title. There are MANY "ifs" in this process. Nonetheless, check into Vermont...they have provisions for this.

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Thank you SG but my question concerns a car that was made up using various parts from different cars plus a lot of specialized fabrication. Unlike your situation, I am thinking of a case where there would be no existing vehicle with any identification to start with.

Yes...my reply wasn't really a direct response to your question, but was rather a posting concerning the general subject and original poster's questions. Sorry for the confusion! I'm not sure if Broadway (or others) could work in your case.

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Scooter Guy,

From posts in this thread and others, it appears that many states have tightened up their regulations and getting a title for a paperless vehicle has become much more difficult in the last few years. How long ago did you first register the Vespa in Vermont?

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