If you’re not on the title, are you still allowed to sell the car?
A car title is a legal government document. Similar to a passport or a social security card, this document is only valid if it is printed by an official government agency. You cannot print a car title online or buy one from a non-government agency. The purpose of a car title is to prove that you own your vehicle and have proof of ownership for that vehicle. This makes it easier for you to sell or trade-in your vehicle, as well as transfer ownership of the vehicle from owner to owner.
If you’re not the legal owner of the car, you cannot sell the vehicle without the owner’s signature and permission. However, if the owner signed a power of attorney, you may be able to sell the car on their behalf.
A power of attorney is a legal document that enables an individual to delegate authority over his or her financial affairs to another person. The person who holds power of attorney can handle asset transactions and banking activities on behalf of someone else. In most cases, this is done when someone is ill or incapacitated and cannot handle these tasks for themselves.
If the owner of your car has signed a power of attorney form giving you permission to sell his or her vehicle on their behalf, then you can legally sell it off as long as it’s not in violation of any other laws or contracts filed by either party involved.
What are some scenarios where you may need to sell a car on someone else’s behalf?
The owner is deceased and you need to transfer the title
Every state has a process to transfer a vehicle title from a deceased owner. This process may involve providing the owner’s death certificate and usually can only be done by relatives or with their written approval.
The owner is deployed in the military
Oftentimes when a member of the military is deployed, they’ll leave their vehicle in the care of a trusted civilian relative. Before deploying, many military service members will provide a power of attorney to that relative to handle their assets while being deployed. If there is no power of attorney, contact the base where they are posted. The base will provide opportunities for military service members to sign documents and conduct other civilian business when necessary.
The owner is in prison or jail
If the owner of the vehicle is in prison or jail, they likely did not have the time beforehand to sign a power of attorney. However, every prison or jail has a “signing day” typically once or twice per month where inmates are able to sign official documents needed for their outside life.
The co-owner is an ex-spouse
If the co-owner is an ex-spouse, the process to sell the vehicle may be a bit more difficult. If you can get your ex-spouse to sign off on the title transfer, then you will have no problems. If you cannot get your ex-spouse to sign the title or they are not able to be contacted, you can request a court-ordered title with your county clerk.
If you’re not the owner, it’s probably not yours to sell unless you have a power of attorney. The DMV won’t just take your word that you are the owner of a vehicle unless you have the signed certificate of title. Remember, selling a vehicle without a title is illegal in many jurisdictions. However, if you’re in one of these four scenarios, consider the options available to transfer the title.