Title Jumping – When the seller’s name is not on the title


Title jumping is the act of buying a vehicle and selling it without registering the vehicle in your name. The title “jumps” from one owner to the next, without any record. Title jumping is also known as a jumped title or floated title.

Formerly, title jumping was a practice used by car dealers to avoid having to pay taxes on vehicles. Today, though, title jumping is not limited to just car dealers. People title jump for many reasons, but mostly to avoid paying sales tax and to avoid the actual title process.

Title jumping is illegal in every state.

Even if you purchase a vehicle and turn around the next day and sell it, you are legally required to transfer the title into your name. There are exceptions to this rule, though, such as when a title owner is deceased and the next of kin wishes to sell the vehicle.

Title Jumping - Dangers to sellers

You are title jumping if you sell a vehicle without transferring the title into your name.

Most states require you to transfer the title into your name within a specific time period. But even if you miss the time period, you are still required to put the title in your name.

Sellers who do not transfer the title into their name before selling a vehicle technically are not the legal owner of the vehicle. Risks include penalties, fines and/or jail time. 

Title Jumping - Dangers to buyers

If you purchased a vehicle from someone whose name was not on the title, you risk many possible headaches.

Headaches include:

• Problems with transferring the title into your name at the DMV

• Lengthy back-and-forth with the seller/original title owner

• Not knowing how many people the vehicle was owned by. Potential vehicle issues, etc.

In many cases, prior sellers and/or the original title owner cannot be located. This means you are stuck with the burden of figuring out what to do on your own.

Man jumping on forest trail
Title jumping can cause trouble for both the seller and buyer.

If You Are The Victim Of Title Jumping

If you bought a vehicle and the seller’s name was not on the title, you have a few options:

1. If you bought the vehicle from a private seller, you could try to get the seller (or current title owner, if different) to transfer the title into their name and sign the new title over to you (have your local DMV help you with this)

2. If you bought the car from a dealership, you could file a claim against the business

3. In either situation, you could try to get your money back and avoid the headache

4. If none of the above options work for you, you could possibly get a bonded title

Please note that the last option (bonded title option) is not a solution for everyone. You need to check with your local DMV first before starting the process.

You are always free to take legal action, but most people choose to not do so because of the time and money involved.

Helpful Resources:

About Surety Solutions, A Gallagher Company

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Crystal Ignatowski

Crystal Ignatowski is a Marketing Content Developer. She writes and creates content for Surety Solutions, A Gallagher Company's blog and website.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. My 18year old son just purchased his first truck, and now he is a victim of title jumping and we can’t get it registered. I’m just heart broken over his disappointment and I just don’t know what to do. We tried to contact the seller, and he was rude, and told him, “good luck ever driving it on the road”.and then blocked us from any further communication. I really need assistance in this matter, as I don’t know where to begin. Thanks

    1. Hi Dawn,
      I would recommend you reach out to your local DMV and ask if the car is eligible for a bonded title. If it is, they should give you some instructions, some paperwork to fill out, and ask you to purchase a surety bond. You can purchase the surety bond on our website, then turn in the completed paperwork and the bond back to the DMV to get your bonded title.

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