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How to Fix Written Mistake on Car Title When Selling

Hanna Kielar4-minute read
January 25, 2022

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What should you do if you discover errors on your car title when you’re prepared to sell? This is called a damaged title and can make it more difficult to conduct a transfer of title. While it’s best to check a title and correct any errors when you purchase, this guide covers how to fix a written mistake on a car title when selling your car. 

Quick Car Title Error Fixes

  1. Contact your DMV in writing and let them know there’s an error on the title.
  2. Have the DMV issue you a duplicate title.
  3. If the previous owner is responsible for the title error, contact them and have them fill in the new vehicle title correctly.
  4. For errors that are your fault, make adjustments on your replacement title.

Car Titles Explained

A car title, also called a Certificate of Title, is a legal document that confirms proof of ownership. Having a car title is just as important as driving with a valid driver’s license, and you can’t register your vehicle in your state without one. In most states, you only receive a copy of your title when you’ve paid for the vehicle in full at the time of purchase or completed all of your loan payments.

Your car title includes important information, such as the make, model and year of the vehicle, vehicle identification number (VIN), your name and address, and the odometer reading at the time you took possession. The car title also states if there is a lienholder.

Titles with liens show that the vehicle is titled under the auto lender while you are making payments. When you have a loan on your car, you need to get the title cleared through the financing company before you can transfer ownership.

Common Car Title Errors

While some title mistakes are made on purpose by people with bad intentions, the majority are completely accidental. Since a car title is a legal document, everything on it must be accurate. Some errors you may find on a title include the following:

  • The car title was signed, but never transferred.
  • The date of sale is inaccurate.
  • The odometer reading was incorrect.
  • The buyer's or seller's name is misspelled.
  • It’s an out-of-state title.
  • The title is signed wrong or the title is signed in the wrong place.

If you have discovered any of these title errors, read on.

Title Errors When You’re The Seller

Any title mistakes you make when selling the car can have legal implications. Here are the most common errors the seller might make.

Seller Made A Mistake

It’s not uncommon for the seller to make a written mistake on the title, such as misspelling a name or writing down an incorrect number for the address or odometer reading. If you’re selling your vehicle and made a written error, the best solution is to go to your DMV and explain what happened. The DMV can issue a duplicate title so you’re able to start over.

Wrong Buyer Signature

You might have been excited to know that you had a buyer and made it all the way to the signing of the title. Then, for some reason, the buyer walks away from the deal. Now you find yourself with a title with the wrong signature. The best way to prevent this is to only allow the buyer to sign the title at the conclusion of the sale, when payment has been exchanged. If you made this mistake, it can also be rectified with a trip to the DMV.

Title Jumping

Title jumping occurs when the vehicle is never registered under the new owner prior to exchanging hands again. This is an illegal practice, and if you never obtained a title when you bought your car, you need to title it under your name before selling it.

Title Errors When You’re The Buyer

You might not be able to properly transfer the title to your name when there are title mistakes, so make sure to review the title carefully before you complete the transaction. You can check the title status by entering the VIN in the National Motor Vehicle Information System, a nationwide database maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. Here are the most common mistakes buyers make.

Damaged Title On Your New Car

It’s not uncommon for a buyer to complete the transaction and then notice during the transfer process that some of the information is wrong or inaccurate. Contact the seller and your DMV so that the seller can correct the mistakes with you.

Buying A Car With The Title Already Signed

If someone else signed the title before you did, the seller could have had another buyer prepared to purchase it, but they changed their mind. Unfortunately, this title error means you can’t register the car in your name. If you have the bill of sale and the buyer’s information, you can work with the DMV to find a solution, but it’s much easier if you get the seller to come to the DMV with you and then wait until a replacement title is issued.

Title Without The Seller's Name

If you are buying a car, be wary if the current seller’s name does not match the vehicle owner’s name on the title. This issue, called title jumping, is illegal and is a sign of a scam, though it could also be an honest mistake. This is something that you must address with the seller before moving forward.

What Not To Do

So you made an error. You might be wondering, “Can I use white out on a title?” The answer is a hard no. Since a Certificate of Title is an official legal document, you need to go through the correct channels to alter or correct it.

The Bottom Line: Get A Flawless Title

A damaged title can delay the transfer of title to a new owner and create legal headaches. The best way to handle this issue is through prevention. Make sure that you have all the correct information on the title during the sale. If you do discover title errors, the best route to fix them is through your DMV.

Making sure your title is correct is not the only step in the vehicle selling process. Learn all about how to sell a car.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.