When it comes to buying or selling your dirt bike, titles are something that can cause some worry. Are they common and do you need one for a legal transfer of ownership? Hopefully, this read will ease some of that burden off your shoulders.
Titles for dirt bikes are a form proof of legal ownership. They are not very common in the sale of dirt bikes, especially in the sale of older models, but having the title can be valuable. Most states do not require title when selling a dirt bike, but the laws may change to include them in transactions.
There is a lot to know about titles. The laws for a dirt bike are not the same road bikes, so everything can be a little confusing. Additionally, it seems like there are not a ton of resources out there that tells you exactly what you need to know. That's where we come in. Let's start with the basics.
What is the Title?
The title is the document that exists to prove that the person or business in possession of the form is the legal owner of the vehicle specified on the document. Usually issued by the Secretary of State in each state that the vehicle in question was purchased from, the title (sometimes called the pink slip) is issued through the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV.
Unfortunately, for everyone involved (as if a potential trip to the DMV wasn't enough), the laws dealing with titles vary from state to state.
For example, some states require notaries to be present when completing the title, others don't.
The information contained on the titles can also vary from state to state, as does the appearance of the piece of paper itself.
However, this is some information that is fairly standard on vehicle titles, regardless of the state the title or vehicle originated from.
- The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Make and Model
- Year the vehicle was manufactured
- The license plate number
- The name and address of the owner
- The name of the person to whom money is owed on the vehicle (if applicable).
- Title number
- Taxation information
This pink slip helps owners prove that the vehicle (dirt bike, car, truck) is actually owned by them and not stolen. Having the title can really help you if your bike is stolen, or if someone claims you stole their bike.
New vs Old Dirt Bikes
So how does this apply to dirt bikes?
Old Dirt Bikes
That, also, unfortunately, is another sad story (if a title is something you care about). If you're buying a dirt bike from someone else, chances are they don't have the title.
They either lost it, or they weren't given one when they purchased the bike themselves. Laws and requirements have only semi-recently changed to make people feel more like they need to hold on to the title or ask for it when they make the purchase of a used dirt bike.
With an increase of scams and people trying to make quick money without doing things through the proper channels, it's always safer to only make a dirt bike purchase if the seller actually has the title. All you have to do it google "Do I need a title for my dirt bike" to see the horror stories that people have experienced.
From buying stolen vehicles to having dirt bikes taken by the police because they've been reported as missing (and losing all their money/ possibly getting arrested in the process), buying dirt bikes without the title is a purchase fraught with peril, and possible jail time, if you can't actually prove that you bought the bike in question.
New Dirt Bikes
If there's an upside to this story, it's the new dirt bikes. As the first owner, it's much easier to get a title for your bike, if your state requires it, and to get the bike registered.
That being said, many dirt bikes don't come with titles when you buy them. If they aren't street legal, there's not really a reason. If the dirt bike comes street legal, then it will probably come with a title. If it doesn't, then it probably won't.
How Common are Titles for Dirt Bikes?
Dirt bike titles are not common, unfortunately. Unfortunately is a word that's being used quite a lot, if you haven't noticed. Even new dirt bikes generally don't come with titles. There's not really a reason for them from a legal standpoint (in most cases).
For example, you're not supposed to buy or sell a car that doesn't have a title. In some states, it's illegal. In all states, it's a bad idea. Even if you paid for the car, the person who possesses the title is the legal owner of the vehicle.
The same rules run true for dirt bikes. The person who has the title (if one exists) is going to be the undisputed owner of the bike. If the bike doesn't come with a title, you NEED to make sure that you're going to get some kind of proof of ownership from the person selling the bike. Some kind of signed document with their name, date of sale, description of the bike, and the price that was paid for it is usually acceptable. You should always have that at MINIMUM if you're buying the bike used from a third party.
Selling a Dirt Bike
If you're selling a dirt bike, you probably have a good reason.
You could be moving, you may need the money, or you could just hate the bike because it seems to have been cursed with bad luck. Best case scenario, you're making room in your life for a new, better, more reliable bike! Hopefully, it's that option. Regardless of your reasons, you now have a bike that you're going to want to sell, and there are good ways and much less efficient ways to do that.
First of all, you're going to want to make sure you have a title (I know, shocker), or some kind of official registration or proof of ownership. Having these documents will assure the person interested in purchasing the dirt bike that you are, in fact, the actual owner, and not trying to scam them out of their money, which is a more common phenomenon than it should be.
If you don't have those things, no smart person is going to buy your bike. It's probably nothing against you personally, it's just not smart to buy a bike that they wouldn't be able to prove is theirs.
There's a good chance you won't have a title. New dirt bikes don't really come with them unless they come street legal, in which case they might. But unless you've obtained a title yourself (which you should), you may not have one. Dirt bikes just don't really come with them, and unless the person who is looking to buy your bike has done some research and some digging, they might not know that.
Fix it up
As dumb as it may sound, since dirt bikes generally aren't clean vehicles, to catch someone's eye, you're going to want to have a nice, shiny bike if you're wanting to sell. Nobody wants to buy something that looks like it's been taken mudding within the last day. It doesn't reflect well on you as a person if you're trying to sell a dirty bike, and you're not going to make as much off of it.
Spiff the bike up, polish it, change out the oil, clean the air filter, fix anything that needs it, do all the things that you would want someone to do to the bike you were thinking about buying. Make it look nice, take some pictures, and now you can actually start looking for someone to buy the bike.
Finding a buyer
You can check out dirt bike tracks and clubs to try to find someone in person who may be in the market for a bike, and chances are they might be more honest than a random person from the internet. Worst case scenario, they scam you but you still know where you can find them. In-person is always better than online.
If meeting people and trying to sell it in person doesn't work, you can always try Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. It is online, which doesn't give you as much protection against scams, but you will reach a much larger potential interested group of people, which is definitely to your advantage. When it comes to Facebook Marketplace, read the reviews of the buyer, to make sure they are legitimate.
You're going to need to know the brand, model, model year, engine size, and engine type. You'll also want to list whether or not you can give them proof of ownership and purchase, because anyone who knows what they're doing will ask you for those things anyway.
Hopefully, you've kept records of the work that has been done o your bike. If you've done it yourself, it might be a little harder to sell the bike because the person buying the dirt bike will have to take you at your word that you performed the regularly needed maintenance.
If you've found a buyer, you're going to want to make sure that there is physical proof that they bought the bike, for your safety and theirs.
Like I've mentioned, some states require your bike to be registered, some don't, and some only require it under certain circumstances. Some states (listed later) require a notary to be present for the sale. You're going to need to make sure that you're following all the rules for your state when it comes to the sale.
At a bare minimum, make sure you put together a proof of ownership and purchase and make sure that both of you keep copies for future reference, just in case something goes wrong.
Cash is nice, but it doesn't leave a record, which the two of you might want, since dirt bikes generally aren't cheap, and you'll want records (say it with me) just in case. A bank transfer, something that leaves a trail, or records, is best, cash is probably the next best because even though it doesn't leave a trail you still get your money, and checks, for the most part, are a BIG nope. Don't ever take a check. They're too easy to fake and you might lose a ton of money.
Buying a Dirt Bike
If the owner doesn't have the title, you should NEVER buy the bike without doing these things. Even if the owner has the title, checking into the background of the bike won't ever do you any harm.
- Run the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to make sure the bike isn't registered as salvage, stolen, or any number of things that would make you, as the owner, look fishy. You can get the VIN number from the person selling the bike, and if they seem reluctant to give it to you, or flat out refuse, that's a huge warning sign. Thank them for their time, and leave. No matter how cheap the bike is, it isn't worth whatever trouble you get in for buying a sketchy dirt bike from a shady person.
- Ask them if they have the title. If they have the title, that's an automatic point in their favor. It will have a lot of the information you'll be looking for on it, like the VIN, and once you buy the bike, you'll be in possession of the title, which is proof of ownership.
- Find out about any liens. If you find a lien on the bike, that means that the bike has been financed, and you should be able to find out from the VIN check if money is still owed on the bike. You should ALWAYS know before you buy the dirt bike if the person you are buying it from still owes money on the bike, because if you buy it, you are going to end up responsible for finishing his payments. That information will also be on the title, if the owner has it.
- Check to make sure the VIN on the title (if there is one) matches the VIN on the bike. If the person selling the bike isn't honest, there could be a chance that the bike on the title and the physical bike aren't the same, which would make the bike you're riding around someone else's property.
- Check to see if you need a notary. Depending on the state you live in, the title has to be notarized before the sale is official.
Those states are:
• North Carolina
Just make sure to use a good mixture of common sense and check the laws for your state to make sure that you're doing everything the law requires. Since the laws change from state to state, don't assume that you know what you need to do unless you've recently had experience buying used bikes in your state.
What to Do with Your Title
KEEP. IT. SAFE. Whether you're the first owner of the bike or not, you're going to want to keep track of that title. Not only can possession of it keep you out of legal trouble of your ownership ever comes into question, but you're automatically more likely to be able to sell your bike if you ever find yourself looking to sell your bike. It's really just safe to have it.
Like I mentioned before, the laws from state to state vary when it comes to dirt bike titles and registration, which can make this difficult and slightly irritating from time to time, specifically when it comes to getting different licenses, or selling and buying a used dirt bike.
For example, in Idaho, to get a restricted license to ride on country roads, you have to have your title as proof of ownership before you can get the restricted license. In Utah, every off-highway vehicle HAS to be registered, and Rhode Island doesn't title vehicles manufactured after the year 2000.
Keeping on top of the laws in your area is important!
So check before you buy or sell so you can keep yourself out of trouble. Even if you have sold a dirt bike before without the title, double-check the regulations! The laws may have changed since then in your state.