Title & Registration

Transferring Ownership When Title is Lost

If the seller cannot locate the title and the buyer cannot wait for a  duplicate title, the vehicle may still be sold if:

  • The seller and the buyer appear together at a Secretary of State branch office with proof of the Vehicle Identification Number.
  • There are no secured interests (liens) or the seller has proof that vehicle's loan has been fully paid.
  • A record of the current title is on the computer system.

The seller must title a vehicle in his or her name before the vehicle can be sold.  Never buy a vehicle without a title--you will not be able to register it!

Michigan Law requires disclosure of the actual odometer reading at the time of transfer or assignment of the vehicle's title.  Further, the seller must indicate if that reading is actual mileage, not actual mileage, or exceeds the maximum limit of the odometer (usually over 99,999 miles). This disclosure is not required if the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 16,000 pounds, if not self-propelled, or is a 2010 model year or older (MCL 257.233a).

Federal Law also requires the sellers to state the odometer mileage when transferring ownership. Failure to complete a mileage disclosure or providing false information may make the seller liable for damages and fines and/or imprisonment according to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, Public Law 92-513.

Titling and Registering Vehicles

Obtaining an instant title: Individuals who need to obtain a title may process an application at any Secretary of State branch office. Title applications require proof of vehicle ownership and proper identification. Individuals who have lost an existing Michigan title and need to obtain a duplicate title immediately can take advantage of instant title service at several branch offices.  Follow this link to locate the nearest instant title office. 

In addition to the $15 title fee, there is a $5 instant title fee for this service.

Tax and title: Within 15 days of buying the vehicle, you must title it in your name at a Secretary of State branch office. Failure to transfer the title within that time will result in a $15 late fee. At the time of titling an $15 title transfer fee will be collected as well as a 6% use tax. Sales to father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, grandparents, grandchildren, stepfather, stepmother, stepsister, stepbrother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent-in-law, grandchild-in-law, legal ward, or legal guardian of the previous owner are tax exempt.

Buying a new license plate: You must present a valid Michigan no-fault insurance certificate for the vehicle.

Transferring a license plate: Your plate must be valid. Bring your registration or license plate number. Proof of insurance is not required unless you changed insurance companies since your last license plate renewal.


Contact our Information Center at 1-888-SOS-MICH  (1-888-767-6424).