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Tips to Avoid Title Problems When Buying a Motorcycle

Tips July 22, 2012

Verifying a motorcycle title and VIN has not been easy.  There are hundreds of comments on forums and websites about people looking for a Carfax type service to provide motorcycle VIN and history information.  You can run into many problems purchasing a used motorcycle.  Some of the more important questions are:

  • Is the motorcycle stolen?
  • Is there a lien on the title?
  • Was the motorcycle crashed and rebuilt?
  • Was the motorcycle totaled for any reason?
  • Is the title legitimate?

Ways to verify a motorcycle title & VIN

Get a free VIN check from VINCheck from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Check a motorcycle title with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) through one of the Approved NMVTIS Providers (fees range from approximately $3 to $7 per report).  The NMVTIS is operated and managed by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Among other reasons, it was created to prevent the introduction or reintroduction of stolen motor vehicles into interstate commerce.  Any entity that meets the NMVTIS definition of junk yard, salvage yard, or insurance carrier is required to report specific information to NMVTIS and failure to report is punishable by a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation.  The NMVTIS website states it reports title information on motorcycles, recreational vehicles and most other vehicles.  For more information, see their FAQ.

Motorcycle History Reports are now available from Cyclechex which also has an iPhone App.  Kelley Blue Book says they teamed up with Cyclechex to offer motorcycle history reports on Kelley Blue Book at kbb.com.

CYCLEVIN also states that they provide motorcycle history reports

Tips To Avoid Title Problems

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
  • Call the Department of Motor Vehicles office to find out how a salvage title is marked or branded in the state which issued the title.
  • Do not accept an open title!  Make sure the seller’s name and information is the same as on the title.  An open title is a title signed by the motorcycle owner who is not the seller. For instance, Harry Seller is selling a motorcycle which has a title showing the owner to be John Owner. You are purchasing the motorcycle from Harry and giving the money to Harry but Harry purchased the motorcycle from John. Harry is reselling the motorcycle to you but never obtained a title in Harry’s name.
  • Do not accept a photocopy of the title.
  • Do not agree to receive the title at a later date, as can be seen in this horror story.
  • Make sure that the VIN on the title is the same as on registration, the motorcycle, and the lien release if there is one.
  • Examine the VIN on the motorcycle to see if it has been removed or altered.
  • Make sure that the license plate is the same as on the registration.
  • Make sure that the registration is up to date.
  • Call the police department to see if the motorcycle has been reported stolen.
  • Call your insurance company to obtain a rate quote with the VIN of the motorcycle.  If there is a problem, you might find out from your insurance company.
  • Call the manufacturer to obtain information about the original equipment for the motorcycle.  For instance, someone may be trying to sell a Harley Davidson with a Screaming Eagle package but it may have been an aftermarket add-on which doesn’t increase the value of the motorcycle.  I had a client who thought he had a more valuable Harley Davidson with a Screaming Eagle package which he purchased from a motorcycle dealer but after his motorcycle accident, I found out that the motorcycle was less valuable because the Screaming Eagle package was added on by the motorcycle dealer who was now out of business.
  • Check the title to see if there is a lien holder.  If there is, make sure you have a lien release and call the lien holder to verify it was paid off.

The above information is provided to help you be a more informed consumer and does not include every possibility.  When looking at classified ads for motorcycles online or posting classified ads for motorcycles on line, be sure to read on this site about classified ad scams.  Additionally, information provided by the services listed here should not be considered as accurate if they do not find negative information about a motorcycle title and we do not guarantee any of the information provided by the VIN and motorcycle title verification services listed here.


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One Response to “Tips to Avoid Title Problems When Buying a Motorcycle”

  1. I find it great that you mentioned that one should check the credentials on any motorcycle before buying them in order to avoid getting title problems in the future. In my opinion, if I were to buy one, I would ask the dealership where I got it from to help. Not only will this show how legitimate their wares are but be able to get a great motorcycle for the holidays as well.

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