When you buy an RV from a dealer, you can expect to receive your paperwork in good order. Processing all of this is part of the additional fees they charge and one of the tasks of their back office. Older campers may not have a title available. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the paperwork was lost during a move, the relative you inherited the coach from never had it, or countless other reasons. Finding a camper without a title can occur when you buy your RV from a private seller. Especially for vintage (built before 1985) or neo-vintage (built between 1986-2017) era coaches.
Being a seller of an RV without a title can be problematic for you as well. Educated buyers will shy away from your RV because of the legal troubles they could face without it. There are ways, however, to get a title for a camper without a title.
Essential Documents Needed to Get a Title for Your Camper without a Title
Getting a title for your RV is similar to obtaining one for your vehicle. The process revolves around making sure that the camper is not stolen, safe, and there is not a lien against it. If you have the correct documentation, it’s just a matter of presenting them to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain your new title.
There are two ways you can apply for your new title. The first is to physically go to your local DMV and present the paperwork as well as the necessary fees. The other option is to mail in the documentation and fee. Not all states allow the mail in option, so check with your DMV first. If you mail in your application, a copy of your driver’s license will need to be provided. Also, the mail in option can take around 6-8 weeks or more before you receive the new title.
The documents you will need are the following.
- Title application
- Bill of sale
- DOT or Certificate of inspection
- Proof that there is no lien
- Your driver’s license
Once you receive the new title, you have 30 days to register your RV. If you are pulled over without proper registration, you could receive fines and penalties. Your bill of sale can act as a substitute within those first 30 days in a limited capacity.
Bill of Sale
One of the required documents needed to get your new title is a bill of sale. The document itself must have the correct information on it in order for the DMV to accept it. Each state has its own requirements for what must be included in a bill of sale. Your DMV may have a downloadable form you can use to make it easier for you. Otherwise, there are websites like eForms where you download the form and fill it out manually.
There are many pieces of information that a bill of sale must have in order for it to be acceptable. Each state may ask for additional information based on their motor vehicle laws and regulations. Generally, here is what you will need.
- Date of the transaction
- Amount paid
- Personal information of the buyer and seller
- Phone number
- If required, a valid notary stamp
- Personal information and signatures of two witnesses if notarized.
- If an inspection is required, then it should be stated within the document
- If a deposit or down payment was made before the inspection, it should be written in, and for what amount
- Year of vehicle’s manufacturing
- Make and model of the vehicle
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Any other identification numbers (for example, Fleetwood has their own form called a UIN)
- If known, how much was paid for tax purposes
- Any other necessary information
Both parties should keep a copy of the bill of sale. For the seller, this will be needed during tax season to show proof of income. For the seller, this document will be required to change over the title.
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Your State DMV should have a Title Application form that is downloadable. The document itself is going to ask you for the same type of information that the bill of sale asked for. It will also ask other types of information like mileage, lien information, and other information.
It is advised that you leave the mileage and signatures blank until you can get to a notary. They will need to witness this information first hand. If you fill the information in without the notary seeing it, they will refuse to sign due to their legal obligation.
Other issues of concern would be getting the weight of the vehicle. There are a few places you can look at to get your RV’s weight. Truck stops, garbage dumps, recycling centers or other places that have scales underneath a roadway. Call ahead and see if they will complete a certification of weight document. Some states require proof of weight when applying for a title.
If you have built your own RV or built an RV kit, you will want to look up the requirements of a scrap title. The name “scrap” refers to car enthusiasts building their own vehicle from scrap yard parts. This type of title is used for vehicles that previously did not exist. It also gives you the option of having a VIN issued.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will have their own concerns about your RV. They will want your RV to be checked over to make sure it is roadworthy and in good condition. Some states will require a DOT inspection certification to be included with the title application.
The DOT requirements are the following:
- Working tail lights
- Brakes and brake lights work correctly
- The license plate is easy to read and the light works
- All of the clearance lights (the lights on the front and back of your roof) light up
- Side and rear reflectors are not damaged
- The tires and wheels are in good order
Rather than finding a DOT office in your area, many RV dealerships offer inspection services for your coach. When you shop around, make sure that they are authorized to give you a certification of inspection that the DMV will accept. Many of these dealerships will go above the DOT minimums to inspect almost everything about your RV. After their inspection, they can let you know what needs to be replaced or repaired.
Why You Need Your Title
A title on a specific property (RV, vehicle, etc.) is a legal document that proves ownership. Without it, ownership reverts to the previous owner. The title also is a needed document to register for a license plate. Insurance companies may want to verify your ownership through the title as well.
A worst case scenario that has happened before is a buyer losing their RV due to authorities confiscating it. Unbeknownst to the buyer, the coach was stolen from another person or dealership in another state. When the buyer tries to get a title and update it in the legal way, they have had the police department show up at their door arresting them on suspicion of theft.
If this happens, you can lose your RV and cannot be compensated for your financial loss. You would not be considered the legal owner, so the property rights return to the latest accepted title. Also, you would be responsible for fines and other penalties which could include prison. This is why you always want to receive the title and other paperwork from the seller.
Finding Your Title
If you are trying to sell your RV, contacting the DMV is the easiest way to go. Many states now have an electronic copy stored in their databases. There usually is a fee, but if you need the paper copy, they can print it out for you.
If you are a buyer trying to locate an older title, it could become complicated. If your state’s DMV does not have it, then you will need to contact the DMV that the seller bought it in. This is one of the many reasons why you want to keep your seller’s information.
If you have to go further, you may have to hire a lawyer to track down your title. DMVs and tax offices can only look at their own records. If you need a national search, your lawyer can do that kind of search. Also, the fact that you bought the RV without a title may have some other legal concerns as a result.
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Now That You Have Your Title
Once you receive your updated title, you can now get everything else taken care of. Registering your RV for a license plate and insuring your coach are much simpler. You will find some of the best insurance rates you have ever seen with RV insurance. Still, shop around for the best deal for your specific needs as there are differences in policies when you are a weekend camper versus a full-timer. You can read our guide on RV insurance if this interests you.
Charles Joseph is one of the original authors of Camper Smarts from when it first started.
Product data was last updated on 2023-06-08 at 10:50.