car title ohio

Do I need a title for my ATV or Dirt Bike?

Throughout the year OMTA gets numerous inquiries from riders who have an ATV or dirt bike that does not have a title, or are considering buying one and the seller does not have a title. Many Ohio riders are unaware of the fact that ATVs and dirt bikes have a Certificate of Title, just like a car or truck. The title is the legal documentation that proves you are the owner.  If someone is selling an ATV or dirt bike and they cannot produce the title, something is wrong! Never buy an ATV or dirt bike without a title!

Do all ATVs and dirt bikes have a title?

In Ohio titling began in July 1999 for all bikes and quads. Every unit sold since then has a title.

What about pre-1999 machines?

There is a process for having a title issued for older machines, as long as it has not already been done. Start by going to THIS BMV WEBSITE. Enter the Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.) in the box and click search. If no title exists for a machine it will come back with “no records found”. If a title does exist you will get some basic information, make/model etc. Note that due to privacy laws you will not be shown any information such as an owners name to track them down. The best you will get is the number of the county of residence where the owner lived when the title was last processed. Remember, if a title exists, but the seller cannot produce it, walk away. Also note that since this is a public site theft information is not displayed. So if you run the search on a machine that has been reported stolen there are no flags on this site to warn you. The site will only tell you if it has a title and the county where the owner of record lived when recorded.

How do I get a title for a pre-1999 machine?

Once you have determined a title does not exist your first stop is your local BMV Deputy Registrar (the place you get your license plates), you must take the machine with you and have them perform a V.I.N. inspection. This will cost about $10. You will get a slip of paper from the BMV which you must then take to your local motor vehicle title office. Explain that you have a pre-1999 ATV or dirt bike that never had a title, and you need to have one issued. You may be asked for proof of ownership, or to sign an affidavit attesting that you are the owner. If you have owned the machine for many years documentation may be hard to find, and you will need to use the affidavit. Fees for this vary from county to county, expect to spend around $20. It is highly recomended that you make the seller of a pre-1999 machine do this process to procure the title.

So what if the seller says they never had a title for a machine newer than 1999?

If the seller has simply lost the paper copy, but it was transferred to their name, they can go to their local title office and get a duplicate for about $10, and it takes about 10 minutes.  If they never transferred it into their name they must go to the last owner and get them to procure a duplicate. If they have no way to contact the previous owner it will be nearly impossible to procure a title. You must also consider why a person would be selling a machine without the title. It could be stolen, or money could still be owed to a bank or other lender. In either case you could face trouble down the road! In fact under section 4505.19 of the Ohio Revised Code ( as well as a couple other Ohio laws) it is in fact illegal to sell any vehicle without providing the title. This applies to both dealers and private individuals.

Why do I need a title?

First and foremost, the title is proof of ownership. If the seller cannot produce it then SOMEONE has the title assigned in their name. If it turns out that they come looking for the machine and they have the title, you could have lost your money at best, or face criminal charges at worst.

Second, you may want to get your machine registered to use Ohio’s growing public off road trail systems. Both ODNR and Wayne National Forest, as well as some private parks, require the machine have a current registration and insurance to be used on the trails. You cannot register a machine without a title.

Insurance is another issue, insurance companies may not issue a policy if you do not have a title, or may deny a future claim if they find out you are not the legal owner.

Yeah, but the guy selling this 1999-current machine says he will give me a bill of sale and it will be easy for me to get a title, and it’s so cool, and a good deal, and I really want it, and, and…!!!!!!!

Seriously? After reading all that information above you still believe it will be easy to get a title if the seller does not have it? It’s not, you wont. If it’s so easy why doesn’t he get a title?  If you really want the machine, tell him you will be happy to go with him to get the title and pay the fees, but don’t exchange any money until you have the title. A nice drive to the title office seems like a relaxing way to waste some time.