Do ATVs & UTVs Need Titles? (What To Look For When Buying & Selling)

by Matt Powell | Last Updated:  October 4, 2019

If you are in the market for an ATV or UTV then you will most likely be buying one in the near future. The buying process can be very streamlined as long as you know what to look for. One of the biggest worries is knowing whether or not you intended purchase has or even needs a title. As you read on  I will give you enough information about buying and selling an ATV or UTV that you should be able to find out whether your situation warrants a title on the vehicle.

The bottom line is yes, ATVs and UTVs need titles. A title is a legal form of ownership for a vehicle but models before certain years didn’t come with titles and should be fine with a bill of sale for proof.

Titles can be a confusing subject when it comes time to buy a vehicle because the laws are different in every state. I am going to give you some general guidelines that will help you in your buying process and to make sure you are getting everything as legit as possible. These guidelines apply almost everywhere, but make sure to check your local laws to keep yourself 100% safe when making a purchase. When you purchase a new vehicle, make sure you keep it in a quality waterproof and fireproof safe like this one from Amazon.

What Is On An ATV Or UTV Title?

Like I said, a title is legal proof that you own the vehicle and can legally sell it. If you buy from a dealer then they will provide all the paperwork needed to get the title transferred to you but buying from a private seller may be a bit trickier.

There are several pieces of information that will tell if the title is genuine and not faked and these pieces of info should match up to the corresponding info on the ATV or UTV as well.

All the information listed on a title has been processed through and is issued by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles office. Every state has slightly different laws as to how to get a vehicle titled but you can bet the DMV will need to be notified of a vehicle sale.

Buying An ATV Or UTV

Buying and selling an ATV or UTV are a bit different so I want to separate each one to better cover what you need to know. 

In the early to mid 1990s most states started requiring titles for their off road powersport vehicles. This doesn’t mean that every vehicle from the 90s and up ALL have titles. Some states don’t even require a title for these vehicles so there are some exceptions. For more information, consult your local DMV before making a purchase.

Is The ATV Or UTV Still Being Financed?

Another question to ask yourself if there is no title is whether or not the vehicle is owned by another company and has a lien on it. The bank or person that loaned the previous owner money for the vehicle has legal rights to that property until it is paid off so the title will not be with the vehicle. The lienholder name will be on the title instead of the person trying to sell it.

This generally requires you to go with the person who is selling the bike, to the lienholder and perform the transaction there. 

If you are going to use a loan to buy the vehicle, then you will most likely need to go to your lienholder as well. When I bought my ATV in 2009, that’s how I did it.

Is The ATV Or UTV Stolen?

This is the second question you should ask yourself if the seller does not have a title. There are plenty of unethical people out there that are trying to steal items and make money off them. ATVs and UTVs are no exception. If the seller can’t produce the title and the vehicle is a newer vehicle, then they should have a title. If they don’t have one then you can just assume it is stolen.

I don’t even want to risk it anymore because there are so many dishonest people and I want to make sure I get a clean title so I won’t risk having to forfeit my new vehicle sometime in the future.

If you think you still want to purchase an ATV or UTV without a title then there are a few tools and ways to help determine if the seller is honest or if the vehicle is truly stolen.

Look For Red Flags

There are some people out there that have perfected being con artists and can scam most people. In order to pick up on small details to pinpoint if you are being scammed is not always as easy as it seems.

Public Meeting Locations

If a person wants to meet you in a public place to sell the vehicle that is a red flag. I understand some people just aren’t comfortable letting people know where they live but in EVERY that I have bought ANY kind of vehicle from a private seller, I have gone to their house to buy it. It sends a signal of trust to us as buyers that this vehicle isn’t stolen. 

People will often want to meet in a public place so that you can’t track them back down if you discover the vehicle is stolen or has some big problems with it. 

VIN Number Spoofing Or Alteration

When someone steals an ATV or UTV they use a similar vehicles vin number to mask the theft. They take that VIN and make counterfeit VIN plates that they will install onto the stolen car and make a fake title to match. 

Some thieves aren’t as sophisticated and simply scratch off the VIN number or tty to make a number read something else. If there has been any kind of alteration, just run.

Matching Information On The Title

Another red flag to look for, if they actually have a title, is the information not matching up correctly. The VIN number should be an exact match from the vehicle to the title. Ask for multiple documents like registration, title, and insurance make sure the seller information matches across all records. If there is any variation then the title is most likely a fake.

The Price Is Well Below The Vehicles Current Value

If you have ever heard the saying “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” then it definitely applies in this situation. Most thieves want to unload their stolen merchandise and unload it fast so they price it too low because they have zero money in it. 

Check the blue book value before you make a purchase and make sure there is no damage that hasn’t been made known because that is another reason to have a lower price than value.

Where Is The Vin Number On An ATV Or UTV?

Different manufacturers place their VIN number plates in different areas but on ATVs and UTVs they are generally mounted on the lower part of the frame on the left or right side. You may have to grab a flashlight and get down on your hands and knees to find it but will be there.

Check The VIN Number

If there is no title then there are several ways to check and see if the VIN number for that vehicle has been registered as stolen or if it is clean and has no accidents reported. Before running a VIN number check, be courteous and ask the seller if it is ok for you to run the number through a database just to make sure everything is ok with the VIN number. Honest sellers will not mind this more often than not and if someone has a problem with you doing that then there is another red flag.

Get A Bill Of Sale

Getting a bill of sale is the next best thing to having a title. While it is best practice to have a title AND do a bill of sale, just one of these would suffice. This document proves that the vehicle was sold to you, who sold it, and has all the seller and vehicles relevant information. 

Do You Need A Notary For Atv And UTV Sales?

Some states require the title to be notarized before it is official. You can find a notary at most banks, local town hall, city hall, or county courthouse.

Keep The Title Safe

Make sure you don’t keep the title WITH the vehicle. Lock up somewhere safe like a lockbox or inside a safe. Not only will you know where the title is for future use, it will stay safe from any damage and keep you from having to get a new one to replace it if something happens.

Now that you have purchased a new ATV or UTV, go out and get some good quality gear! If you want to see what I suggest, check out my recommended gear page for some top notch gear that won’t break the bank.

Selling A UTV or ATV

Selling an ATV or UTV requires the same steps but you need to be the seller that you are looking for when buying. It will be a much easier process for both you and the buyer if you have everything prepared before you decide to sell.

Have The Title

Just like with buying an ATV or UTV,  you want to make sure YOU have the title or can provide the title or lienholder information. If you don’t have the title because it didn’t come with one, have the proper documentation and a bill of sale ready to go. You want to make sure you are as honest with potential buyers.

Fix Any Issues

If you have any issues with the vehicle, be sure you take care of them and repair them. Nothing is worse than having someone trying to sell me a vehicle that has repairs that need to be made unless it is priced accordingly. As a buyer, I like to see sellers that have taken the extra time to fix repairs they know need to be done and I would expect myself to do no less.

If you really want to make a good impression on a buyer and get an easy sale, go ahead and change the oil and out the air filter, too off the coolant and do the other periodic maintenance tasks that you should be performing on a normal basis. A buyer will see this attention to detail and not have to worry about servicing the vehicle as soon as they buy it.

Clean It Up

A clean and sparkly ride is very aesthetically pleasing to a buyer and lets them know they are getting a well taken care of machine. 

Imagine walking up to buy a UTV and there is mud caked all over it and it looks like the seller has never even washed it. Would you want to buy that?

Take a little extra time to make it look good, maybe not showroom good, but clean enough so it looks well maintained.

Gather All Your Records

Along with your title, keep all your paperwork you get together. This includes original owners manuals, oil change records, paperwork for any modification installed, service records, warranty information, and anything else that is pertinent to the vehicle. 

I run an excel spreadsheet that tracks all my routine maintenance including dates of service, service performed, cost, performed by, and any notes you want to add. It’s a snap to just print that out when it is time for me to sell my ATV and the buyer will have all they need on hand. Go ahead and download this simple spreadsheet I made to help you track maintenance on your vehicle.

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Put It Up For Sale

You can put your vehicle up for sale anywhere honestly just beware of people that will try to scan you with false information off places like craigslist. 

Try posting your vehicle for sale in places where people would generally be looking for something like this, such as the local track or on an ATV/UTV forum board. Again, watch for fraudulent activity so you don’t get scammed.

Finalize A Price

When you sell a vehicle, make is crystal clear to both the buyer and yourself what the final price will be. Both parties need to agree on the price and that is what will be put down on the bill of sale. 

I always like to seal the deal by shaking the seller or buyers hand, depending on who you are. Thya is the universal “I agree to this price” gesture.

Get Paid And Transfer Ownership

Now it is time to get the cash! Seriously, get cash or a transfer you can track. Checks are too risky and can be cancelled or faked so make sure you get a solid payment type before you ever hand the title over.

Now that you have been paid you can release the title, or have the lienholder do so and you have now sold your vehicle and made the new owner happy.

What The Law Says

The law on whether or not your ATV or UTV needs a title is certainly different in each state so make sure you know what your state says. Laws periodically change so don’t take what you knew 3 years ago and try to apply it today.

Look up your CURRENT local laws if you plan on buying or selling an ATV or UTV and make sure you keep an eye out for people that aren’t genuine and save yourself a ton of headache, time, and most importantly……MONEY!

My name is Matt and I am the owner of DirtWheelRider.com. I want to do my best to give you all the information needed in your offroading endeavors.