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.
ATVs have titles. It’s not uncommon for ATVs to change ownership without a title. However, some states require a title for an ATV, even for off-highway use. Title documents detail the ATV and its legal owner. Having title documents offers complete confidence to both buyer and seller when transacting.
In this post, you’ll learn why buying or selling an ATV without a title can be a gamble. You’ll also learn if you do choose to transact without title, the one document you’ll need to minimize risk.
Unfortunately, most older ATVs just don’t have titles, never did, or long since lost. It’s just the way it is. Attitude to the title is changing. However, newer ATVs are more likely to have titles.
So What Is Title
The title is a document that lists all the details of the vehicle, like make model, color, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), etc., and most important details, the name, and address of the legal owner.
The 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 recognized 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 guys 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 a 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
- 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 excellent mechanically has a few mods, looks good, and is your kind of dollar. The last thing most buyers check is the title. But, if you think about it, it should be the first thing we check. Hey, I’m guilty, too…get all giddy with the thoughts of ownership.
The reason we don’t pay too much attention to the paperwork, I suspect, is because we intend to use it off-road. But the title is important, and here’s why – stolen bikes.
If you’re 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 ATVs are stolen every year because they are easy to steal and easy to sell. And that’s because purchasers are prepared to buy without a 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.
Do you think I’m getting carried away here? I say no, this is a 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 moneylender against a loan outstanding.
The lien owner 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, 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 yourself. If you’re buying an ATV without a 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
- Reason for title docs not present
- Signed by both parties each has a copy
Having a BOS won’t prevent you from 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 here at NICB.Org. It’s free and instant.
How To Get Title
If you already own the bike and lost the title or have owned it from new and never titled it, you need to reapply to the DMV. As you know, it’s not the law in every state to have your ATV titled, and the process varies, so check with your local DMV for the status of ATVs 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 VINs checked before the title is finalized.
You may find the following posts helpful:
How often should I service an ATV?
Is 200 hours a lot for an ATV?
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
John Cunningham is a technical writer here at ATVfixed.com. He’s a Red Seal Qualified Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience. He’s worked on all types of mechanical equipment, from cars and trucks to ATVs and Dirt bikes.