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Old 10-12-2018, 09:23 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1977 31' Sovereign
Moab , Utah
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 7
Title jumping - have title what now?

Ive scoured the forums but havenít quite found this situation:

In Texas:
Friend sold me 77í Airstream. Gave me bill of sale. Airstream has title, but it was never transferred to the owner who sold it to my friend, who sold it to me. So, title has jumped 2 owners. I believe this was simply hippies buying things off craigslist and since neither towed the airstream far, they didnít want to pay registration fees and never dealt with title transfer. I do not believe it is stolen. Friend who sold it to me does not want to be involved (sheís not on the title so hopefully itís not necessary)

So I have the title with an owner from 2 sales ago, but how do I find them? I have an address, but it could be outdated. Will the DMV have their contact info? Iím considering sending a certified letter explaining the situation, hoping he is cool and willing to meet and sign over title. But if he doesnít respond, what then?

Can I get a bonded title even though I have the title? Is that the best option?

Iím planning to tow this to Utah where it will stay, immobile. I only have to jump through said hoops because I donít have a flatbed trailer to transport it. In that regard, how sketchy is it to tow an uninsured, unregistered trailer? Anyone know the fines if caught and what would happen? Is it likely to get pulled over?

Seems like laws differ wildly state to state. Please donít tell me to return the trailer, the price is worth the work, I just need help navigating the process.

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Old 10-13-2018, 03:53 AM   #2
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2012 27' Flying Cloud
W , New England
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Posts: 6,466
Sorry for your troubles. Not transferring a title is usually a tax-avoidance scheme and is illegal. As is towing an uninsured unregistered trailer - which I assume youíre only asking about hypothetically and have no actual intention of doing or publicizing in a forum like this. If the price is worth the work maybe pay to have it towed on a flat bed by a service (assuming youíre free and clear to do that from a title perspective). Last known title holder isnít likely to help due to legal exposure, back taxes, fines and penalties.

The link below may help - you need to talk with your local DMV and possibly a lawyer. Good luck!

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Old 10-13-2018, 05:13 AM   #3
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2012 19' International
Southeastern MI , Michigan
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Give the title back to the person you bought it from and tell them to get it signed off or you will return the trailer. If the “person who sold it to you is not involved” they won’t mind returning your money. Book value on a ‘77 airstream is probably $500 so I doubt the tax avoidance thing.

Unfortunately you accepted an open title and posted about it online. Hopefully this didn’t cost much because you’ll probably end up walking away. Never buy anything without a signed title. The one time I did it I did a title search on a ‘56 Chevy, went back 15 owners to find an heir who legally signed off on the title for me.
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Old 10-13-2018, 06:22 AM   #4
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2013 20' Flying Cloud
Westerly , Rhode Island
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Posts: 234
You can get all sorts of internet advice, but why not just call the Texas DMV and get the official procedure? You won't be the first person that's had to deal with this issue and it's not like they are going to trace your phone call and arrest you for asking questions.

I'd also find out who the local authorities are that conduct a VIN search to get the stolen/not stolen question out of the way and do some basic internet searching on the name on the title to see if they still reside at the address on the title.
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Old 10-13-2018, 08:04 AM   #5
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1972 31' Sovereign
Lexington , Minnesota
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 3,477
Call the DMV. We were able to get title on an untitled AS we brought up from Mississippi, by following their instructions. Mississippi doesn't title trailers that old. Not a hard process in Minnesota. Some states are more difficult, but there has to be a way.

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Old 10-13-2018, 08:16 AM   #6
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2017 30' Classic
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
Join Date: May 2017
Posts: 6,259

I once traded in an SUV to a dealer. He then sold it to somebody. They did not do the full paperwork so it still traced back to me in the record system. The vehicle got towed in New York City and locked in an impound lot. I got letters from New York for about a year before I asked about the implications. After finding out just how crazy things could get, I contacted them and supplied the details I had. I have no idea what happened. After I contacted them, I stopped getting letters.

The title transfer / registration process is important for *both* parties to the sale ....

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Old 10-13-2018, 08:42 AM   #7
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1969 27' Overlander
Boise , Idaho
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Satchien, I have a similar situation in Idaho.

I bought the trailer in KY, seller did not have the title. I had trailer towed to ID, and the person towing it never got pulled over. I tow it back and forth from storage to my home to work on it, and have taken it on two 15 hour roundtrips for camping, and never got pulled over. If I do get pulled over, I'm likely to get a ticket for towing an unregistered vehicle, which will cost me a little bit of money that pales in comparison to the price of rehabilitation a 50-year-old trailer. So, don't let the worry warts above get you all freaked out. Also, trailers do not need separate insurance in most states, your vehicle insurance covers the trailer. And most cops would cut you some slack if you explained you just bought it and are just towing it home while you work on getting title.

As to the title, each state has a different procedure. In Idaho, I am required to (1) obtain motor vehicle records from each state that I have reason to believe might have titled/registered the vehicle in order to identify previous owners and ensure that there are no reports of a stolen vehicle (in my case, neither of the states involved had any record of my 69 Ovelrander, even though I know this trailer was bought new and lived in Ohio for many years); (2) send certified letters to each previous owner that I can identify asking for their assistance; (3) if I still can't get title, take all my documents to DMV showing I have made all reasonable efforts (this will mainly consist of the undeliverable or refused certified letters in my case), and am still unable to meet the documentation requirements for a title. At that point DMV will issue a "conditional title" which is another form of bonded title. After three years, if nobody reports the trailer stolen I will get a regular title.

Wherever you live will have a similar procedure, but they don't make it easy to find out how to do it. You'll spend a lot of time at DMV's website, or talking to a good title clerk, but it absolutely can be done. Tow that bad boy home, carefully so as not to get pulled over for some other infraction, and start working on getting your title.
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Old 10-13-2018, 09:34 AM   #8
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1999 25' Excella
Western Springs , Illinois
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This is probably not legal, but it’s the easiest way out of your situation. Sign who ever’s name is on the title take it to your DMV and apply for transfer to yourself. States never check or verify who signed the title only that it’s signed. They will process your transfer request and send you a new title in your name, problem solved. I worked in the car business for over 30 years and this was a common practice when a customer traded in a vehicle with a open title. Nobody can prove who signed the title and if questioned play dumb “ I don’t know this is how it was given to me”
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Old 10-13-2018, 09:36 AM   #9
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Woodinville , Washington
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In my prior probate practice, I dealt with your issue repeatedly. My experience:
1. At least at the beginning, don't bother trying to find the prior owners.
2. Contact the DMV of the State in which the vehicle was last registered, explain the situation to them, and ask them for their procedure to obtain title given your situation.

Your situation is not unique at all; there will be a procedure. I can't recall any situation I had where the foregoing didn't work, although in some cases it required jumping through hoops (ie, a lot of paperwork).
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Old 10-13-2018, 10:13 AM   #10
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1985 25' Sovereign
Olympia , Washington
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Many thoughtful replies here. Consider asking the seller to prepare a Bill of Sale for you to at least have something in your possession on your way to DMV. Can begin reading this
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Old 10-13-2018, 10:14 AM   #11
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2013 20' Flying Cloud
Westerly , Rhode Island
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Originally Posted by wavelength View Post
This is probably not legal, but itís the easiest way out of your situation. Sign who everís name is on the title take it to your DMV and apply for transfer to yourself. States never check or verify who signed the title only that itís signed. They will process your transfer request and send you a new title in your name, problem solved. I worked in the car business for over 30 years and this was a common practice when a customer traded in a vehicle with a open title. Nobody can prove who signed the title and if questioned play dumb ď I donít know this is how it was given to meĒ
That's exactly what I would do, except I would look into a VIN check first to make sure there was no record of it being stolen.
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Old 10-13-2018, 10:34 AM   #12
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Look at the TX DMV website, under the section on buying and selling vehicles privately. Your bill of sale is useless in terms of registration and titling (especially since the person who sold it to you didn't have it titled in his name). You will need a form 130-U, which you can download from the site. This form also will require identification and signatures of the "previous owner" (whose name is on the title).

One CYA recommendation I would offer is to call the DMV and ask them to do a VIN search on the trailer--make sure it hasn't been reported stolen at some point...

So to go ahead and try to find the owner of record on the title. There are many services on the internet that can find every public record known for an individual for a few dollars. If you are lucky, you'll find them, they will sign your 130-U and title, and you can be on your way to the DMV. You should exhaust all efforts to find them before chasing these other mechanisms (bonded title, etc.). It really is in the titled owner's best interest to facilitate transfer of the vehicle to another owner (I unfortunately know this from recent experience).

Assuming you can get your paperwork in order, before you go stand in line at the DMV, check the regs regarding trailer safety inspections. It used to be that only trailers with a gross weight over 4500 had to be inspected. Seems like I heard that this changed recently. Anyway, if the inspection is required, you need to get that done before you can register it.

I sense that you are tempted to not get the trailer titled or insured. Just remember you are planning to tow a 50 year old trailer hundreds of miles at highway speeds. There is nothing to say you won't get pulled over and fined in every town you drive through, in which case the dollars can add up fast. In a worst case scenario, a ticket and fine might be negligible compared to the financial liability that results from your trailer separating from the tow vehicle when the A-frame parts. Also, some day you may decide to sell the trailer, and you will be right back where you are right now, unable to transfer ownership to the new owner becasue officially, you don't own it yourself.

good luck!
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Old 10-13-2018, 11:58 AM   #13
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1973 31' Sovereign
1978 Argosy 30
1985 31' Excella
Sacramento , California
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 323
I had the same problem... the guy sold me mine.. and only gave me a bill of sale... and no plates... towed it from NM to problems...seems that works...

take the bill of sale to the DMV and they will transfer the registration to you... and if you like calif... if you want the title to come back in your name.. you have to pay a extra 20 bux... go figure... (hello prop 6... YES YES YES...stick it to Gov Brown and get our money back...on gas and registration tax increases of 95%)

I did the same and got the actual title paper from Calif... so I feel better.. but, according to the DMV it is not needed... actually I wonder why we can't have trailers registered for 10 years at a time... seems to me that it would save the paper work effort and time... but, oh well... trailer registration went up 100% over last year... i.e from $59 bux to $109+... go figure...

I am looking for another state to tag up with...
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Old 10-13-2018, 02:22 PM   #14
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2001 30' Classic S/O
Marshall Ford , Texas
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 132
Go to the Travis County tax office for help. I've had good luck with them. I had a out-of-state boat trailer that never left the boat yard. Never titled. Some friends said the fine was $25 per month for 15 years. Inquired about my problem when at the tax office on another errand. It was $10, period.

Go to the source first.


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