Here’s a typical scenario: Aftering getting your hands on your new ride, you immediately think about the things you can do, the places you can go and the fun times you will have with your new ATV. It’s this kind of buyer’s excitement that makes you forget to check the details and you ended up buying an ATV that doesn’t have a title.

If you realized that you brought an ATV without a title, the first thing you should do is to locate the VIN number and do a search to see if the vehicle was reported missing or stolen. If it’s not stolen, you can use the VIN number to try and locate the original owner who may be able to sign over the Title to you.

In this post, I’ll go over everything you need to know if you don’t have a title on for your ATV.

Why Your ATV Has No Title

In almost 99% of cases, an ATV without a title usually means that it was stolen. The criminals stole the vehicle and advertised it on a 3rd party website like Craigslist or other online forums in hopes to make a quick sale. Here are some typical things to watch out for in these 3rd party ads:

  1. The seller is advertising the ATV as “used” but is using the picture from the manufacturer instead of the actual ATV. This is the hide from authorities who may be searching for the vehicle. 

  2. The seller is using an excuse like “Priced low for quick sale because moving out of town, need vehicle gone by tomorrow”. One thing that many newbies don’t realize is that ATVs are luxury toys, meaning if they are moderately priced and if in good condition, they will sell quickly.

    Real ATV owners know this too so why would a legit owner low ball his own offer if it makes little difference for the timing of the sale?

  3. The seller prefers to meet you at another location rather than his or her own home. Most legit ATV owners will park their rides inside of their garage. If your seller wants to meet you at a different location (such as empty warehouse or storage facility) then you know something is fishy.

  4. The seller may indicate that he lost the title papers but assures you that it’s easy to get and you can get them after the purchase. This is a lie. Title papers are very hard to come by as they require verification of ownership. 

Criminals are getting smarter and better at disguising themselves. If you’re not buying your ATV from an authorized dealer, the first thing you should ask for is the VIN of the vehicle and look it up to see if it’s been reported as stolen. You can do this using the NICB Theft Check

How to Find Original or Last Owner of Your ATV

If you can’t contact the person who sold you the ATV. The best way to find the original owner is through the VIN number. Once you have that number you can use different VIN decoder websites to obtain more information about your ride. Some popular services are listed below:







The reports that are generated from these websites will provide you the registration information of each previous owner of the vehicle including the location that it was originally purchased from. 

You may require the help of a local dealer to help you run a VIN check and help you contact the last owner (hopefully the same guy who sold you the ATV) and have him transfer the title to you. 

A Word on Liens 

After getting the VIN reports, you may see liens against your ride. This means that the vehicle was most likely financed through a bank or other financial institutions and it hasn’t been fully paid. The bank has the title for your vehicle and the lien is not cleared until the debt is paid off. You as the new owner will be responsible for paying off the lien. 

Since the bank has the title for your ride, they could reprocess the vehicle. This means you will have lost money that you paid to buy the ATV and the ATV itself. 

Brought a Stolen ATV: Now What?

After checking the VIN reports and if it’s determined that you have brought a stolen ATV, you need to call the authorities right away. 

This is the most unfortunate situation in your case because you were scammed out of your money for the ATV purchase and the ATV itself. You will now need to also clear your records with the authorities. 

In the eyes of the authorities, you are now the theft until proven innocent. Hopefully, you kept all of your communication information with the seller to prove that you were scammed. 

Purchasing an ATV without a title is a risky business and unfortunately, it happens more often than you think. That’s why it’s better to purchase your ride from the dealer.

If you’re buying from a private sale, take precautions to protect yourself, including the creation of a Bill of Sale (more info below). Don’t be afraid to ask the seller for identification to verify ownership.

signing title

How to Register an ATV Without a Title

If you determined that your ATV was not stolen, then you will need to take the necessary steps to have the paperwork done properly and have the Title transferred to you from the previous owner. 

The procedure for doing this is different depending on the State or Province that you live in. 

Here are some documents that you will need to bring with you to your local registration office. Note that this is a general list to give you an idea of what is required. You need to talk to your local registration office to get a list of what they are looking for. 

  1. A completed Bill of Sale including:
    • Full Names of Buyer and Seller
    • Address of Buyer and Seller
    • Signatures of Buyer and Seller
    • Date and Place of Sale
    • Purchase Price
    • Full Description of Vehicle including (Year, Make and Model)
    • VIN number
  2. Transfer of Ownership / Tax Form
  3. Consumer Taxation Branch Gift of Vehicle Form

It is advised that both you and seller go the registration together. The seller will need to sign the title to release ownership before new registration and title can be issued. 

If a bank or lender’s name is on the title, the seller will need to call the bank and ask how the transaction of the sale can be handled. In most cases, the lien will then be formally transferred to the buyer (Hopefully as a buyer, you’ve factored in the amount remaining on the lien into the selling price at this point). 

If there is more than one person on the title and depending on how the title is written, both people may need to sign the title in order to release it. The two names on the title might have the word “and” or an “or” between them. “And” means both parties need to sign. “Or” means only one person needs to sign.

Final Thought

Now that you know the risks of purchasing an ATV without a title, I would strongly advise that you buy from dealers only. Dealers will make sure the paperwork is right and will do all of it for you. Sure it’s more expensive, but you can enjoy your new ride with peace of mind.