Many VLN clients do not know the proper way to transfer title when a car is sold. This can lead to problems. When title is not transferred, buyers may face the below problems:

  • The seller may still owe money for the vehicle (a lien) and the bank or person who is owed money can try to get it from the buyer or repossess the vehicle from the buyer.
  • Only the owner on the record can get insurance on the vehicle.
  • If title has not been properly transferred, the buyer will not be able to re-sell the vehicle to someone else.
  • If the seller has a record of drinking and driving, the vehicle could be impounded and sold by the state.

On the other hand, when title is not transferred, sellers may face the problems listed below:

  • If the buyer gets in an uninsured accident in the vehicle, the seller could be sued as the “owner” of the vehicle.  This can be a very distressing and expensive experience.
  • If the vehicle is impounded, the government may require the seller to pay the charges of towing and/or storage.
  • If the buyer does not have a valid driver’s license, the vehicle cannot be put in his or her name.  This can lead to the problems described above.

When a motor vehicle is sold in Minnesota, the title should be transferred from the seller to the buyer.  See

The buyer and seller can transfer title by:

  • Filling in the blanks on the certificate of title form with details of the sale;
  • Signing the certificate; and
  • Mailing the report of sale to DVS within 10 days of the sale


  • Avoid problems by completing the sale and title transfer at Driver & Vehicle Services locations.  The DVS agent can review the title for any liens or other restrictions on the title.
  • Sellers – complete the report of sale and sending it to DVS within 10 days of the sale to avoid liability.
  • If a seller gives a buyer the title and a buyer does not complete the transfer, the seller should immediately file a “Report of Sale” to DVS.  For a link to an online form, click here.


When it’s not done properly at time of sale, two procedures exist to obtain an Order from the Court ordering the Commissioner of Public Safety to issue a title in the buyer’s name.  The buyer can then take this Order to Driver & Vehicle Services, pay the title application fee and taxes and then obtain the title. The two procedures are detailed below.


Current Documentation:

Buyer does not have the title and is not listed as the record owner on DVS records.Note: The vehicle must not be abandoned, unauthorized or part of an estate (after the death of the owner). Buyer does not have the title but is listed as record owner on DVS records, usually because s/he purchased plates or tabs.
Procedure to Follow and Forms Needed:


  • Notice of Motion, Motion and Affidavit for Order Directing Issuance of Title to a Motor Vehicle
  • Motor Vehicle Findings of Fact & Order
  • Motor Vehicle Notice of Filing
  • Motor Vehicle Notice to Commissioner

Link to forms:

Statutes: Minn. Stat. §§ 168A.04, 168A.08, 168A.25

  • Summons & Complaint
  • Forms available at the Self-Help Center located at the HCGC
  • Certified Mail to the seller and/or last registered owner
  • First Class Mail to the Commissioner of Public Safety
  • Affidavit of Service by Mail & Affidavit of Compliance
  • Personal service
  • Affidavit of Personal Service
  • Service by Publication if necessary
Time for response: Documents may be submitted to court for administrative processing after 23 days have elapsed from date of delivery. Answer due within 20 days of personal service or publication (1x/week for 3 weeks).  If no response, may ask for default.


Submitted by Debra Swaden
Supervising Attorney
Fourth Judicial District Self Help Center