Someone Sold me a car with a lien on it

Someone Sold me a Car With a Lien On It – Now What?

“Someone sold me a car with a lien on it” is not something anyone wants to say or hear. Buying a car is a significant investment, and determining your new car is still encumbered by a lien is more than frustrating. It can impact your right to own the vehicle you just purchased. Dealing with a car that has an existing lien can be a stressful situation, but fear not! In this blog post, we’ll address the legal aspects, steps to take if you have or don’t have the title, and how to check for liens on vehicles.

Is it Illegal to Sell a Car with a lien?

Selling a car with a lien on it can be a complicated legal matter and it is generally not recommended or allowed without satisfying certain conditions. A lien on a car typically arises when the owner has taken out a loan or has some outstanding financial obligation against the vehicle. The lienholder, usually a financial institution or lender, has a legal claim on the car until the debt is fully paid off. Selling a car with a lien without resolving the debt is considered illegal in many jurisdictions. The reason behind this is that the buyer would not be receiving clear ownership of the vehicle, as the lienholder still has a legal interest in it. Therefore, it is essential to clear the lien by paying off the debt or obtaining a lien release from the lender before legally transferring the ownership to a new buyer.

The consequences of selling a car with a lien on it can be severe for both the seller and the buyer. If the seller proceeds with the sale without addressing the lien, it could lead to legal complications and potential fraud charges. The buyer might face significant issues as well since they would not have clear ownership of the vehicle. In some cases, the lienholder can repossess the car, even after the sale, if the debt remains unpaid. To ensure a smooth and legal transaction, it is crucial to contact the lienholder, discuss the outstanding debt, and come up with a suitable solution before attempting to sell a car with a lien on it.

Of course, there are ways to sell a car with a lien legally. If you sell your vehicle to a dealership, they can satisfy the lien as part of the transaction. If you plan to sell to a private buyer, you will need to pay the lien first before the sale can go through.

What to Do If You Have the Title

If you have the title and discover a lien on the car you purchased, there are several steps you can take to address the situation. First, carefully review the title to confirm the presence of any liens. Next, reach out to the lienholder and discuss the outstanding balance. Negotiate a settlement and once an agreement is reached, pay off the lien. Request a lien release document from the lienholder as proof that the lien has been satisfied. Finally, present the lien release to the appropriate authorities to update the title and reflect the lien’s release.

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What to Do If You Don’t Have the Title

If you don’t have the title and find out there is a lien on the car, there are alternative steps to follow. Start by conducting thorough research to gather information about the lien, such as the lienholder’s name and contact details. Contact the lienholder to discuss the outstanding balance and explore potential solutions. It may be possible to negotiate a settlement or transfer the lien to another asset. If the situation becomes complicated or negotiations fail, seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in lien-related matters is advisable. Ultimately, the DMV in your area should be able to help.

How to Check for Liens on Vehicles

To check for liens on vehicles, you’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), a unique code assigned to each vehicle. Utilize online services or visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to run a lien search using the VIN. Alternatively, you can hire a professional title search company or consult an attorney who specializes in vehicle-related legal matters if you are uncertain about the process.


Discovering a lien on a car you recently purchased can be a challenging situation. While it may not be illegal to sell a car with a lien, it is important for the seller to be transparent about its existence. Whether you have the title or not, it is crucial to follow the appropriate steps to address the lien issue. By being diligent, seeking information, and, if necessary, consulting professionals, you can effectively navigate this situation and ensure a smooth resolution.

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