How to Get a Title for a Car with a Bill of Sale in Michigan

How to Get a Title for a Car with a Bill of Sale in Michigan

You might have brought your bill of sale, thinking it was all you needed to register and title your vehicle, but then the Michigan Secretary of State rejected it. In almost every state, the DMV requires you to present the previous title to issue a new one. And this isn’t just in Michigan. However, we are going to look at 4 alternative ways you can get a title for a car with a bill of sale in Michigan. We hear from hundreds of people daily asking, ‘Why is it so tough to get a title with just a bill of sale in my state?’ But it’s not just your state. Nearly every state requires a certificate of title to issue a new one. This is a standard requirement. It’s not that some states are stricter; it’s actually a federal law that you need a certificate of vehicle ownership to get a new title.

In this article, we’ll guide you on how to obtain a title using a bill of sale. We’ll cover 4 different methods. For each method, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions and all the necessary details. This way, you can get a title on your own without having to pay any agent.

How to Get a Title for a Car with a Bill of Sale in Michigan

If you are willing to spend $500-600 dollars, you can have someone else do it for you, or you can manage it on your own. Otherwise,  we are going to talk about 4 methods you can obtain a title, including getting a bonded title, a court-ordered title, the famous Vermont transfer loophole, where you get a registration from Vermont, and how you can contact the previous owner. Any of these methods could work for you.

1. Apply for a Court Ordered Title

How to Get a Title for a Car with a Bill of Sale in Michigan

Let’s begin with the process of getting a court-ordered title in Michigan. You can actually use this method to register a car with your bill of sale. First, you visit the clerk of court and provide details about how you bought the vehicle and any documents you have, including the bill of sale. Usually, you must be turned down by the Secretary of State first, then you follow the court process. The second step involves researching the vehicle owner’s records, which includes a five-dollar fee for the search. You may have to send a certified mail to the vehicle’s last owner. You may also need an inspection. After the inspection, you file your petition and affidavit with the court, which costs $150. The next step is the court’s decision on your petition. If successful, you’ll get a judgment of ownership. Finally, with this judgment, you return to the Secretary of State to apply for a title.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee you’ll get a court order. It all depends on what the court finds out. They’ll do their research and wait for your certified mail to return. You may also need to bring your denial letter, record search copies, and your inspection form. You can always find out from the court how to format your court petition or get an attorney to do the work. This is a formal court filing, similar to a lawsuit, about a certificate of title. You can handle it yourself, but having a lawyer will really help. You’ll need to sign an affidavit and provide details about how you got the vehicle, then sign it. This is usually done by the petitioner and often needs to be notarized.

You’ll receive a form for confirming ownership if it’s approved. This is just a sample of how it works. Different counties might do this differently. But generally, this is how you go about getting a court-ordered title for a vehicle. So, after you get the ownership judgment, you go to the Secretary of State to get a title, the same way you would if you already had the previous title. I wrote a detail article about the entire court order title process, so make sure to check it out.

2. Get a Car Title in Vermont

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You can also get a title for a car with a bill of sale in Michigan through a Vermont title loophole. If you have a handwritten bill of sale, pair it with a Vermont registration application, the VD-119 form. Mail this to Vermont with a fee – it’s either $48 or $76 plus tax, depending on your vehicle type. Vermont will then send you back a registration ownership. This document is officially recognized as proof of ownership. You can then take it to your local state office and swap it for a title. This is a pretty standard method. Some companies might charge you around five or six hundred dollars for this, but you can easily do it yourself for about $50-80, depending on whether you have a motorcycle or a car. This method will get you a certificate of title from your state, Michigan. It only works for vehicles that are 15 years old or older. And it works in all 50 states including Michigan, provided the vehicle isn’t reported stolen, doesn’t have any liens, and isn’t subject to any claims.


The party has come to an end. Vermont has shut down that loophole where you could register a car without living in Vermont, without even going to a Vermont registry in person, without showing insurance proof, and, if your car is 15 years old or more, without needing a title or a past registration.

3. Obtain a Michigan Lost Title Bond

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Let’s talk about Michigan lost title bonds and how an insurance agent can help you get one. You can also complete rhe process yourself. So, a lost title bond is a guarantee the government needs when you want to prove you own a vehicle but do not have the right papers such as the title. This bond protects the real owner from losing money if it turns out the person applying for the title doesn’t really own the car. The bond needs to be double the car’s market value.

In Michigan, if someone wants to get a new title for their vehicle but only has a bill of sale, they have to get this bond. The Michigan Secretary of State overlooks this. To get a bonded title, you must buy this bond. It’ll cost you either $100 or 1.5% of the bond’s value, whichever is more. When applying for the title, make sure you really own the vehicle. If not, you could face claims against your bond. A bonded title is valid for 3 years in Michigan. Once the term is up, you can apply for a non-bonded vehicle title.

4. Contact the Previous Owner

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What else is possible? You can consider contacting the previous owner. In Michigan, you need to provide the original vehicle title (no photocopies) with the following information:

  • Accurate odometer reading or odometer disclosure statement
  • Seller’s section completed
  • Seller’s signature
  • Buyer’s section completed
  • Buyer’s signature
  • Date of the sale

So, if you have no title, you do not have this required information, which means you have to contact the previous owner. I have written a step-by-step guide that you help you find the previous owner of the vehicle. If you want to reach out to a former owner, complete the duplicate title form in Michigan using their name. Then, send it to them with a return envelope included. This way, they can easily send it back to you to obtain the title.


So, we have been able to look at 4 different methods you might be able to use to get a title for a car with a bill of sale in Michigan. The court order method can be very complicated, and there is no guarantee that you will actually get a court order. So, the best method is to get a lost title bond, as long as you are 100% sure that the car belongs to you and no one will pop up to file a claim in the future.

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