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How to Clear a Lien Off a Used Car

Car liens are a commonly used tool by lenders of all kinds that transforms the vehicle they have a lien on into collateral. This is usually done to secure payment on money or services lent to the vehicle itself.

A lien can be created when acquiring a loan to buy a car, borrowing money to repair a car, or offering your car as collateral on an unrelated loan, or, depending on where you live, it could even happen when you have too many outstanding parking tickets.

Regardless of how it happens, the results are the same. When you have a car with a lien, it stops being yours to sell, and you need to remove the lien before it goes back to being fully yours.

How to Clear a Lien Off a Used Car

If you’ve purchased a used car from an agency or a private party, there shouldn’t be a lien on the title. If there is, this usually means that the lien has already been paid off (hence why the seller was able to sell the vehicle in the first place) but the original lien-holder hasn’t gone through the steps to update the paperwork.

Though annoying, this is a surprisingly common thing, and there are steps you can follow to ensure the lien is removed:

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Verify that there's a lien

The first step is to verify that there’s actually an existing lien. If you purchased your used car from a dealership, there shouldn’t be any liens.

If there are, you’re entitled to have it removed from your vehicle, as used car dealerships are legally obligated to remove all existing liens before selling a vehicle.

This isn’t the case for private sellers, so you want to check for an existing lien before you purchase a car.

Checking with your local DMV Offices is a good way of finding out if there’s an existing lien, and you can do that either online, by going to the offices, or by hiring a DMV services provider.

Removing the lien

If you’ve verified the existence of a lien, and it wasn’t a mistake, then the only way to remove a lien of a used car is to pay the existing debt.

Remember, liens can be put on a car for several reasons, so you want to talk to the person who sold you the car (and the lien) to figure things out. Another way you can remove a lien from a used vehicle is to hire a DMV services provider to help you with the process.

DMV services providers, like Payless Registration, are DMV-registered experts that can help you navigate DMV-related issues, including used car liens. While they might not be able to pay outstanding debts for you, they can help you find them and can guide you through the removal process so you know exactly what to do every step of the way.

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