• A title documents the ownership of a vehicle. If a car has a salvage title, has liens or has a Vehicle Identification Number that does not match the VIN of the car, it does not have a clear title and you will have trouble registering the vehicle.


    When you take out a loan to purchase a car, the lender puts a lien on your vehicle that cannot be removed until the loan is repaid. The lienholder must issue a release of the lien, for the title to be cleared.

    VIN Number

    The VIN must match the car to the title. If they don't match, don't buy the car. The title could be fraudulent or it could be a simple case of a typographical error, but you have no way of knowing without doing an extensive search on the history of the vehicle. You can't register your car if these numbers don't match.

    Deceased Owner

    If the owner of the car has died, though their decedents inherit the car, they must transfer the title to their name before it can be sold. Unless this is done, the car does not have a clear title. No one can simply sign over the car because the prior owner is deceased.

    Mechanics Lien

    If a person has done work on ther car and has not been paid, they can get a mechanic's lien which entitles them to sell the vehicle. They must provide you with proof that they have complied with state statues regarding these liens, and you must provide that proof to the Secretary of State's office for the title to be cleanly transferred to you.


    If a car owner defaults on a loan, the lienholder can repossess the vehicle. Once repossessed, the lienholder must effect the transfer of ownership from the owner in default to the lienholder. Once completed, the lienholder can sell the car and the title can be cleared, if appropriate documentation is submitted.


    If a car was declared a total loss by an insurance company and they are issued a salvage certificate, this car can never have a clear title.


    State of Illinois Titling Procedures

    Links to Title Laws by State

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