Do ATV’s Have Title? (Read this first)

Buying or selling an ATV is serious business, they cost thousands and it makes great sense to do your homework ahead of time. Buying or selling, it’s critical to get the legal ownership bit right.

ATV’s have title. It’s not uncommon for ATV’s to change ownership without title, however some states require title for an ATV, even for for off highway use. Title documents details the ATV and its legal owner. Having title documents gives complete confidence to both buyer and seller when transacting.

In this post you’ll learn why buying or selling an ATV without title can be a gamble. You’ll also learn, if you do choose to transact without title, the one document you’ll need to minimise risk.

Unfortunately most older ATV’s just don’t have title, never did or long since lost, it’s just the way it is. Attitude to title is changing however, newer ATV’s are more likely to have title.

So What Is Title

Title is a document that lists all the details of the vehicle, like make model, colour, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) etc, and most importantly details the name and address of the legal owner.

Title document is also known as the “Pink sheet”, it is issued by the dept of motor vehicles (DMV) to the legal owner and is a recognised legal document.

If you hold the pink sheet in your name, you are the owner of the ATV and are free to sell, trade or borrow against it.

Advantages & disadvantages of Title

Most guy’s might say “I’m not using my ATV on the highway why should I get it titled?” But there are some real advantages to having proper title.

Advantages of title include:

  • You can ride in parks that insist on titled ATV’s only
  • Proves ownership in a legal dispute
  • Easier to sell
  • Has a higher value
  • Easier to insure – some insurance insist on title before quoting insurance
  • Easier to make a loss claim – some insurance won’t pay out unless titled
  • Legal to transport throughout all states

Disadvantages include:

  • Paperwork to fill out
  • Paperwork to file and keep safe
  • Costs of titling
  • On going taxes in some states
  • Could be fined and have to pay back taxes in some states

Buying Without Title

OK so you have found the ATV for you, she’s great mechanically has a few mods, looks good and is your kind of dollars. The last thing most buyers check is title.

But in fact if you think about it, it should be the first thing we check. Hey, I’m guilty too…get all giddy with the thoughts ownership.

The reason we don’t pay too much attention to the paperwork, I suspect, is because we intend using it off road. But title is important, and here’s why – stolen bikes.

Stolen Bikes

If your buying a bike without any paperwork you are putting complete trust in a total stranger, and not just with your money but also with your liberty.

A ton of ATV’s are stolen every year, because they are easy to steal and easy to sell. And that’s because purchasers are prepared to buy without title.

Consider this, if a stolen bike is found in your possession, it will be seized by the police and given back to the rightful owner, you lose your money and bike but worse, you may be prosecuted for stealing it or trading in stolen property.

You thinks I’m getting carried away here, I say no, this is a very possible scenario, especially if you met the seller in a parking lot.

Another scenario rarely considered is a bank lien on the ATV. The ATV may indeed have a pink slip, but it’s held by a money lender against a loan outstanding.

The owner of the lien will have a better right to the ATV than you and you’ll get the crappy end of the stick on this one too.

Bill Of Sale

I don’t suspect every owner of an untitled ATV to be a thief, if I did I’d have no customers in the workshop. And obviously if you know the owner of an ATV, you don’t have to worry, but it still makes sense to get a BOS (Bill Of Sale).

But do protect your self, if you’re buying an ATV without title, ask to see any receipts for work done over their ownership. Check the VIN against stolen bikes by ringing the local police station. And always insist on a bill of sale. It’s simple to prepare ahead of time, either by the buyer or seller.

Take a sheet of paper and list the following:

  • Sellers name and address
  • Buyers name and address
  • Date and place
  • ATV make
  • VIN number
  • Colour
  • Price
  • Reason for title docs not present
  • Signed by both parties each has a copy

Having a BOS won’t prevent you losing the bike if it turns out stolen, but at least you’ll be protected from the suspicion of stealing it.

Check your potential purchase by running the VIN number here at NICB.Org, it’s free and instant.

How To Get Title

If you already own the bike and simply lost the title or have owned from new and never titled it, you simply need to reapply to the DMV.

As you know it’s not law in every state to have your ATV titled, and the process varies, so check with your local DMV for the status of ATV’s for off highway use.

If you recently purchased the ATV, you’ll need a bill of sale (BOS) and it may need to be witnessed by a notary.

The vehicle will need to be inspected and VIN numbers checked before title is finalised.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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