Buying a car online can be a more budget-friendly option and may give you more access to a wider variety of vehicles. However, title jumping is an issue when buying a vehicle online. Title jumping occurs when car owners do not get their names registered with the vehicle. This lack of registration could happen for many reasons: poorly completed paperwork, shady deals, or lack of knowledge. Discover some helpful information to make sure that you don’t end up in a situation that could pose legal problems for you in the future.

Make Sure the Title Has the Right Names

Title jumping is most easily spotted when the title transfer takes place. The name on the title must match with the name of the seller. A seller can give many excuses to explain why a title isn’t registered in that person’s name. The seller could have inherited the vehicle, purchased it from someone without transferring it, or claimed it as a partner’s car. Regardless of the reason, this issue is one you have to resolve before purchasing the car.

This mismatch in names may not seem like a big deal, but the discrepancy could be something that creates larger issues down the road. If the names don’t match up, you could face a legal complication in some states. These states may not recognize you as the legal owner of the vehicle because of the title confusion. In fact, in many states, title skipping is illegal.

Don’t Accept Any Complicated Payment Setups

One of the telltale ways to spot title skipping occurs when the seller wants an elaborate payment plan or offers to pay to have the car shipped to you for no extra fees. If the seller wants you to send the money to a relative or obscure bank, end all discussions.

While these red flags also apply to scams, those who steal cars and sell them often use these tactics to unload vehicles. Thieves won’t have the same names on the title, and they may offer similarly elaborate reasons for the discrepancy, such as offering to selling vehicles for a third party. Always get a bill of sale when you buy a car to avoid any misunderstandings or potential legal issues.

Ask the DMV

Avoid Title Jumping During a Car Purchase - Lone Star Cars in Plano, TX
Image via Flickr by OregonDOT


If you aren’t sure what laws apply to you and your car purchase, check with your state’s DMV. DMV officials can tell you about proper car-buying procedures and the types of legal protections you have. Staff may also be able to guide you if you want to sell a car with a different name on its title. The DMV can either help you resolve the situation, with the seller’s input, or look up the title to help you find out if the seller’s story checks out.

Buying a used car can be exciting, and buying one from an independent seller can help you with your purchase costs. Follow the guidelines above when buying a used car to avoid any potential problems with title jumping.

Avoid Title Jumping During a Car Purchase

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