When Did ATVs Start Having Titles? What You Need to Know


If you ever have purchased an ATV, you may have noticed that there are many restrictions on purchasing and owning it. Purchasing an ATV will have similar restrictions as owning the ATV, but owning an ATV is much more strict. One of the biggest of these restrictions in modern times is having to have a title with your ATV- but this was not always the case.

When did ATVs start having titles? The earliest records of ATVs having titles is in the mid-1980s. Shortly after 1985, there was a demand for titles on ATVs so they could have proper insurance, registration, and ownership similar to cars and motorcycles. Every state still has its own rules on the need for a title for ATVs.

If you are only purchasing new ATVs (or those made in the last 20 years), then you will likely never have to worry about not having a title. Of course, there are times that this question will still arise (and possibly already has if you are reading this). Continue reading to learn the basics of titles and ATVs including if all ATVs have titles, how to get one, and what to do if the ATV you buy does not have a title.

Do All ATVs Come With Titles?

While it was uncommon up until about the 1990s for ATVs to come standard with titles, the recent times and regulations around them have not always kept it this way. Having a title on your ATV can help to provide proof of ownership, registration, and insurance and is viewed in the same manner as other vehicles that require a license to be driven.

Do all ATVs come with titles? In general, almost all new ATVs (since at least 1997) come with titles today. This is due to increased demand for titles in order to get your ATV registered and insured. If you are purchasing a used ATV, there is a chance that it will not have a title – this could be due to the age of the vehicle, or the previous owner may have lost it.

While it is true that most ATVs will come with a title, it is not always necessary for you.

Many states do not require titling your all-terrain vehicle, even if they require it to have basic liability insurance. You can check online with your DMV (or transportation division) for rules in your state. This would be a great first step, especially if you are looking at used ATVs that may not come with a title.

It would be unfortunate to need a title and not have one in the instance of damage to your ATV, or if you need to report that it was stolen. In these instances, among many others, it can be beneficial to have a title. In the United States, it is important to review your state’s legislation and requirements for carrying (or at least having a copy of) your ATV’s title.

How To Get A Title For an Old ATV?

Purchasing an ATV is a big expense. You want to make sure you have everything you need in order to make it a smooth and beneficial transition for you and the owner. One of the most important things to know before buying your next ATV is whether or not the vehicle has a title. If you already bought and realized later that there is no title, try not to worry.

How do I get a title for an old ATV? If your ATV is older than the title it could have, you will likely just need a bill of sale for lawful purposes. If the ATV should have a title but does not, the best thing to do is to make sure it is not lost or stolen. If the VIN is clean, you can try to trace back owners to find the original title.

Before purchasing a vehicle without a title, it is important to understand why the title is missing.

Unfortunately, the most common reason for this is because it was stolen. Often, stolen ATVs are listed without photos, and are marketed as “used” or “previously owned” but the seller does not specifically reference that they were the one that used or previously owned it.

In this way, the owner (and police) cannot find a photo of the ATV. Of course, this is not always the case, but it happens frequently enough to be known as a yellow flag among ATV purchasers. So, before you purchase a “used” or “previously owned” ATV, it’s important to do your research on what you are actually purchasing.

To avoid being accused of theft, be sure to get a VIN on the ATV that you hope to buy- especially if it does not have a verifiable title and was listed without photos on whatever website you might have found it on. This can give you a warning so you know ahead of time that you are not purchasing a stolen ATV.

It might seem like overkill to take these precautionary steps when it comes to purchasing an ATV without a title, but doing so eliminates any stress or worry that you could be accused of stealing the ATV that you clearly bought. Instead, take the steps to find the title, and if it cannot be found, be sure to file for a title (with a bill of sale) upon making your purchase.

Is It OK To Buy an ATV Without A Title?

When searching for a used ATV, you may find that often only ATVs without titles are for sale. This happens for a number of possible reasons, and you will find that often it is just fine to purchase this type of ATV. However, you should do your research beforehand and ensure proper precautions to avoid being falsely accused of theft.

Is it okay to buy an ATV without a title? You can usually purchase an ATV without a title, as long as you understand the implications. Your state may not require titles, or the ATV may be old enough to simply use a bill of sale. If you need a title for your ATV in your state, make sure you can get one before committing to an ATV that does not have one.

Make sure you get a bill of sale in any case where there is no title. Check out my ATV Bill Of Sale article for more info and free print out of a bill of sale you can use.

While it is okay, in most circumstances, to buy an ATV without a title, it is important to know why there was no title before going through with your purchase. The most common reasons are:

  • The owner lost it. In this case, the owner might simply have misplaced the title and not have access to re-obtain it. If you find that this is what happened, be sure to obtain a bill of sale for your purchase and then file for a new title on the ATV. Keep this in a secure location so that you do not lose it like its previous owner.
  • It was only used on private land. Perhaps someone bought an ATV and never ventured publicly with it. They might not have needed insurance or have had any other reason to pursue having a title. In this case, you will, again, simply need to obtain a bill of sale when you purchase the ATV so that you can file for a new title (if your state requires it).
  • It is old enough to not need a title. Since older ATVs made in the 1980s and 1990s might not have a title, it could be the case that the vehicle is old enough that it never needed one. In this case, be sure to check the VIN to assure that it is a safe, legal purchase. Then, obtain a bill of sale and vouch for a new title to be put in place.
  • It was stolen. In the unfortunate event that the ATV you are attempting to purchase happens to be stolen, you could be accused of the theft if you do not have a title to prove your ownership of the vehicle. Not only could you lose your ATV, but you could face legal charges for the theft of the ATV (even if you did not originally steal it). Be sure to check the VIN before purchasing and verify that it was not a stolen vehicle. Then, obtain a bill of sale and title on a different ATV option.

The first three of these reasons that you might find an ATV without a title are fine to purchase, as long as you have a plan to get a title. The last one is, of course, not okay, not advisable, and can cause you to face legal charges and loss of your vehicle. If you encounter a stolen ATV, then it would be best to just call the authorities and continue on your search.

Rob

That's me sinking another ATV. I love to ride no matter what it is, snowmobiles, four wheelers, dirt bikes, and anything else off-roading. I've experienced my fair share of machines, and like to share that experience here.

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