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Buying a car with a lien Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive financial calculators and tools as well as publishing original and objective content. We also allow you to conduct research and compare data for free to help you make financial decisions with confidence. Bankrate has agreements with issuers including, but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The deals that are advertised on this website are provided by companies who pay us. This compensation may impact how and where products are displayed on the site, such as for instance, the order in which they may appear in the listing categories, except where prohibited by law for our mortgage home equity, mortgage and other home loan products. But this compensation does have no impact on the information we publish, or the reviews that you read on this site. We do not include the universe of companies or financial offers that may be accessible to you. Alfa Photostudio/Shutterstock

3 min read Published 27 October 2022

Writer: Holly D. Johnson Written by Author, Award-Winning Writer Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finances, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. As well as writing articles for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson is also a freelance writer for clients which include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and other publications. Written by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate from late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain the confidence to control their finances through providing concise, well-studied information that breaks down complex issues into digestible chunks. The Bankrate promise

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who ensure everything we publish ensures that everything we publish is accurate, objective and reliable. We have loans reporter and editor are focused on the things that consumers care about the most — the different kinds of loans available, the best rates, the best lenders, the best ways to pay off debt and more — so you’re able to be confident about investing your money. Editorial integrity

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There are money-related questions. Bankrate can help. Our experts have been helping you manage your finances for more than four decades. We continually strive to give consumers the professional guidance and the tools necessary to be successful throughout their financial journey. Bankrate follows a strict policy, which means you can be confident that our content is honest and accurate. Our award-winning editors and journalists produce honest and reliable content to help you make the right financial choices. The content we create by our editorial staff is factual, objective and is not influenced from our advertising. We’re honest about the ways we’re able to bring quality content, competitive rates and helpful tools to you , by describing how we earn our money. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We are compensated in exchange for the promotion of sponsored goods and services or through you clicking certain links posted on our website. So, this compensation can affect the way, location and in what order products are displayed within the categories of listing and categories, unless it is prohibited by law. We also offer mortgage, home equity and other home lending products. Other factors, like our own rules for our website and whether or not a product is offered in your region or within your self-selected credit score range may also influence the manner in which products are featured on this website. While we strive to provide the most diverse selection of products, Bankrate does not include specific information on every credit or financial product or service. If you are considering buying an used vehicle through a private seller, find out whether the car is still under a lien attached to it by a lender. This could make the purchase more complicated — but it’s not difficult. It will mean taking some extra steps to ensure that the lien is removed before the title is transferred to you. What is a car lien? A car lien identifies that the car loan lender as the principal beneficiary of the title. It is a contract that acts as a security for a lender if a borrower defaults. The lienholder may utilize the lien to repossess the car which is why they the lien is regarded as . Once the auto loan is completely paid off, the lienholder is removed from any loan and the vehicle is owned in full by the lender. How a lien affects the purchase of your car If you buy a car that has an attached lien, make sure that the lien is gone before you finalize the payment. If you’re buying by cash and pay in cash, you might be able to work directly with the lien holder to pay off the remaining balance yourself. Begin by calling the lienholder who is currently in charge to determine the exact amount needed to release the car and other conditions that might affect the sale. Negotiate with the seller. They will likely want to sell the car in order to earn a profit. However, if you know the payoff amount, you might be able to negotiate a good deal — and not pay more than the vehicle is worth. If you’re buying with a loan Getting a loan that you own to pay off the loan should be relatively easy. It is possible to share the details of the purchase with your lender to make it easier for paying off the lienholder. The remainder — if there is any -is paid towards the vendor. After the lien is fully paid, either you as well as your lender will be issued the title to register the vehicle in your name. The lender will be listed as the lienholder new until you . If the seller repays the loan before the purchase The sale is more straightforward when the owner of the vehicle simply pay off his auto loan and gets the title prior to the sale. But this isn’t feasible for certain individuals, especially those who owe tens of thousands of dollars on a newer car , or those who owe more money than the vehicle is worth. For instance, if the seller owes $20,000 for the car which is privately sold for $17,000, they’ll still have to pay the lender $20,000 — $3,000 more than they’re getting through the transaction. In such a case, the seller may choose to the remainder of the auto loan to an unsecure loan such as an individual loan, in order to have the auto loan cancelled. The purchase should be made official. However you decide to handle the situation, be sure to create a contract that addresses how the lien will be disposed of or transferred. Although it’s not required in all states however, it’s an excellent idea to draft the bill of sale which outlines the transactions. It should be dated and signed by both parties so everyone has a record about the purchase. It is possible to utilize a third-party escrow service to manage the financial aspect of the transaction. An escrow service will help ensure that the funds to be transfered securely. Be aware that escrow companies charge fees for their services — and set it up with the seller to make sure that you’re using a legitimate company. How to check whether the car you’re buying has a lien Ask the seller – they should be upfront about the car’s ownership. It is also possible to check the VIN as well as the title and history report to confirm the seller is honest. Find the number of your vehicle’s identification (VIN) at the state’s DMV. If there is a lienholder on the title, the DMV will be able to tell you. A title search can also give you information on liens. It is a good start point for finding lienholder information. You should also get a car history report in addition. Autocheck and Carfax are both well-known firms which provide lien history along with previous maintenance, damage and owners. The bottom line There are many instances where individuals purchase a used vehicle with the lien of an individual or a private company without facing any challenges or issues. To ensure that the transaction goes smoothly and avoid any serious issues, you should know the steps must be taken to get rid of the lien. It is also important to research pricing, line up your own auto financing and get any agreements you make with a private seller in writing. Find out more


Written by an award-winning author, Writer Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal financial, credit card, loyalty and insurance topics. Alongside writing content on behalf of Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson is also working with clients which include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and other publications. The article was edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate from late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain confidence to manage their finances with clear, well-researched information that breaks down complicated topics into digestible pieces.

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