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Removing a lien from your car title doesn’t have to be complicated. A lien is a tool often used by the loaning party or the person or entity selling a high-value item. The lien exists to turn the item, in this case, a car, into collateral. Once the loan is paid off, the lien is removed from the car’s title. However, there is more than one type of lien and, in turn, more than one way to lift them. Here are five tips for how to remove a lien from your car’s title

A used car lot where people go when buying a used car.
Used car dealership | Getty Images

Can you sell a car with a lien on the title? 

Selling a car with a lien on the title privately is not possible. However, you can sell one back to a dealership. Liens can come from a variety of scenarios. Liens can come from buying a car with a loan, repairing a car with loaned money, offering your car as collateral on another loan, or the sneakiest one, owing money to the state for something like outstanding parking tickets. Basically, if you owe money on your car or it is collateral for something else, it basically isn’t yours to sell. This is why getting a lien off your car is important. 

How to remove a lien from your car’s title

Unfortunately, the lien removal process doesn’t have a magic button to press to make outstanding debts disappear. However, the process doesn’t have to be painful either.

The first and simplest method of removing a lien is simply to pay what you owe. This means paying off those tickets, paying off the purchase or repair loan, or reconfiguring a loan you offered your car as collateral for. 

Remember, a lien is a tool designed for legal protection against defaulting on loans. If you default on your loan and the lien exists, then the item with the lien can be repossessed to pay back the loan. This is why paying back the loan is the first and best way to lift a lien. 

Another way to go about removing a lien is simply asking the lien holder to remove it. Sometimes liens can take a while to process, even after payment. It is typical to give a lienholder at least five business days to release the title, but it can take longer, depending on the loaner. If the status of a lien is in question after payment, there are multiple online tools available for searching your VIN to find any lien information. 

It’s not ideal, but you can always go to court

mechanic filling out paperwork
A technician works on paperwork | John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

According to the New York State DMV, you can apply for a court-ordered removal of a car lien if the debts have been paid. For instance, in the case of a mechanics lien, a disagreement in price or services performed for that price can lead to a lien if unresolved. In cases such as this, taking it to court could be the appropriate road to take. 

Along similar lines, you can also appeal to the state to drop a state-ordered lien. In the unpaid parking tickets instance, even if the lien amount has been paid, the lien holder’s name could still be on the title. Removing this name from the lien may require state cooperation, according to

Don’t be afraid to hold a sit-down meeting

In some cases, the simplest and best solution to getting a lien removed from your car’s title is to bring the physical title to the lienholder and buyer (in the case of selling) and ask the lienholder to sign the title over to the buyer directly. If all loans are paid, this should be a reasonable request. However, the buyer will still have to deal with getting a clean-looking title from the DMV. 

Once the debt is paid, the car is yours to sell where you please. The sooner you can remove a lien, the sooner the vehicle is fully, completely yours. 


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