Title Jumping

Title Jumping (How To Avoid Disaster Buying Or Selling Cars)

What Is Title Jumping?

Title Jumping is when someone sells a car to another person having only signed their name on the title in the “Seller’s Signature” Section, creating an “Open Title“; that buyer then takes that open title and sells the vehicle to someone else without ever registering the vehicle or signing the title themselves. 

The end result is a transaction (On Paper) that appears as if the original seller sold the car to the final buyer, but the “Middle Man” never existed.

Intrigued? Here’s More: Can you sell a car without a title?

Title Jumping Quick Reference Table:

Title JumpingWhen someone buys a car, doesn’t register it, and then sells it to someone else.
Skipped TitleIf you purchased a skipped title, the buyer’s section of the title is filled out by a middle man.
Jumped TitleIf you purchased a jumped title, finding the original owner is crucial as the state DMV only acknowledges them as the seller.
Options for Resolution
  • Filing a claim against the licensed dealership if purchased from them.
  • Working with the private seller to complete the necessary transfers.
  • Obtaining a Bonded Title to establish ownership.
  • Requesting a refund from the seller if they refuse to cooperate.
Penalties for Title JumpingIn a skipped title, the title has been filled out, but the buyer/seller did not register the vehicle. In a Jump title, neither the title nor the registration was completed.
The Seller’s Name Isn’t On The TitleIn a skipped title, the title has been filled out correctly, but the buyer/seller did not register the vehicle. In a Jump title, neither the title nor the registration was completed.
Transferring the TitleIn a skipped title, the title has been filled out, but the buyer/seller did not register the vehicle. In a Jump title, neither the title nor the registration was completed.
Buying a Car With the Title Already SignedIf the title is already signed but lacks additional buyer information, it is considered an open title, presenting certain risks.
Selling a Car Without a TitleIn most cases, selling a car without a title is not legal. However, there may be options such as obtaining a surety bond or registering the vehicle in Vermont under specific conditions.
Skipped Title vs. Jumped TitleTitle Jumping is a felony punishable by fines and even jail time.
Warning Signs to Avoid Jumped or Skipped TitlesIndicators include the title not being in the seller’s name, missing or forgotten signatures, and titles already signed before the purchase agreement.
Is title jumping a felony?If you purchased a skipped title, the buyer’s section of the title is filled out by a middleman.
Title Jumping Table

Video Explaining title Jumping

What Is Title Jumping?

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What Is A Skipped Title Vs A Jumped Title

Title jumping happens when you sell a vehicle without transferring the title into the buyer’s name. In contrast, a skipped title occurs when the seller and first buyer of the vehicle complete the necessary paperwork but fail to follow through with the crucial step of registering the car.

Jumped Title Example:

David purchases a car from Sam.  During the Sale, Sam signs the title and hands it to David without filling out any buyer information about David (An open title has been created). 

Now, David takes this car and immediately sells it to Harry without ever putting his information on the title or registering the car with the state. 

In this scenario, David has jumped the title because there is no evidence David ever owned or took possession of the vehicle.

Skipped Title Example:

Let’s say James decides to sell his car to Jan. They both fill out the necessary paperwork, including the title transfer form, indicating the sale of the vehicle.

However, instead of taking the additional step of registering the car under Jane’s name, they both skip the registration process.

As a result, the car’s ownership is technically transferred on paper, but it remains unregistered with the proper authorities.

In this scenario, James and Jan completed the paperwork for the title transfer but neglected to follow through with the registration step.

This means the car’s own documentation shows Jan as the owner, but it lacks the official registration to confirm her legal ownership with the relevant government agency, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This creates a skipped title situation.

What To Do If You Are The Victim Of title Jumping

Skipped Title

If you find yourself the victim of title jumping, you might be able to fix your situation, as long as the information on the title isn’t fake, because remember:  On a skipped title, the “Middle Man” has filled out the “Buyers” section of the title.  

Jumped title

On the other hand, if you have purchased a jumped title, that situation may not have an easy fix.  You must be able to find the original owner because that’s the only person the state DMV will acknowledge as being the seller.  Remember:  The “Middle Man” is not on record anywhere in either transaction, so on paper, he doesn’t exist.

Both of these situations will probably be an uphill battle because helping you out will mean someone forking over fees and sales taxes on a car they no longer have-  Good Luck.  But if you do find yourself in this situation, here are all of your options laid out:

  • If you made your car purchase via a licensed dealership, you can file a claim against the business
  • If you bought the car from a Private Seller, you can try to get the seller to work with you on setting up the transfers that should have been done before they sold you the car
  • You can get a Bonded Title, which is a title with a bond on it that is essentially a “Promise” that you are the true owner.
  • If the original seller doesn’t wish to cooperate, you can ask for your money back!  Yes, this will be difficult, but it is an option.
  • If the original seller and the person that sold the vehicle to you refuse to cooperate or you cannot find them, you have no choice but to report the jumped title to the proper authorities.

Penalties For Jumping Title

The penalties for title jumping vary depending on the jurisdiction and state you purchased the vehicle in, plus the severity of the offense. Some possible consequences include the following:

  1. Fines: Individuals caught in title jumping may be subject to substantial fines, often ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  2. Criminal charges: In some cases, title jumping can lead to criminal charges, such as fraud, forgery, or even grand theft auto. Convictions can result in probation, community service, or incarceration.
  3. Suspension or revocation of dealer licenses: Dealers who engage in title jumping may face the suspension or revocation of their dealer licenses, hindering their ability to operate legally within the industry.

The Seller’s Name Isn’t On The Title

If the Seller’s name (The person physically selling you the car) isn’t on the title, both you, this individual, and the original owner are jumping the title.  The problem for you is-  If the state DMV catches this, there will be no record of the seller, only you and the signed owner, leaving you responsible for a Felony.

Buying A Car With The Title Already Signed

When the car you are buying comes with the title already signed (And does not have any buyer information filled out), you have what is called an Open Title. 

This is when the owner of a vehicle has signed their name in the “Seller’s Section” of the title but failed to fill out any additional information about the sale, such as:

  • Price
  • Mileage
  • Buyers Information
  • And more…

Can You Sell A Car With No Title?

Most of the time, you cannot legally sell a car without a title. However, I do know of two options that may be available to you:

  1.  A Surety Bond- Which we discuss in another article, “Transferring Car Titles And Vehicle Ownership”.
  2.   Register your Vehicle in Vermont- If a vehicle is over 15 years of age, Vermont does not require a title to obtain a registration.  All you need is a bill of sale, which doesn’t even need to be in the original owner’s name!  That being said, this does not override the claim to ownership that the original title owner will have.

What To Watch Out For To Avoid A Jumped Or Skipped Title

  •  You are buying a car where the title is not in the seller’s name
  • The seller’s signature section is blank, or it appears the seller forgot to sign the title
  • The Cars title has the signatures of the buyer and seller but was never transferred.  (The state will ALWAYS issue you a new title after purchase, and it will contain no written or signed information)
  • The title is already signed before you ever agree to purchase (A Signed title is a risk, and owners don’t just sign titles)

Title Jumping In California

I had to do some research on Jumping Titles in California, and it seems to hinge on a form called the “Release of Liability.”  This is the form that sellers must complete when they sell their car, and it will contain a section where they must fill out the information of the buyer.  If they fill out and submit this form on a car you bought from a third party via an Open title, the state will know the title is being jumped.


What Does Curbstoning Mean?

Essentially, Curbstoning is where a Car Dealer presents themselves as a private seller to make the sale of a car.  This is usually made possible by someone innocently selling/trading in a car at a dealership and leaving the dealer with an open title (A title they signed as the seller with the buyer section remaining blank).

Why Would Someone Want To Jump Or Skip A Car Title?

The main reason people jump car titles is that they are trying to flip a car (Make money selling cars quick and easy), and not registering their purchase with the DMV not only allows them to avoid regulation but also helps them to avoid Sales Taxes (Make more money).  

Title Flipping actually used to be a problem confined to small used car dealerships that were just trying to cut the cost of doing business and increase the turnover rate on their inventory.  

Today, because of the internet, the problem has spread to individuals operating without regulation or license, whom I affectionately call “Flippers.” 

These Car “Flippers” get very big discounts on used cars by sending out massive amounts of lowball cash offers to desperate car sellers on websites like Craigslist and Cargurus. 

They don’t get a ton of cars this way, but the cars they do get are so cheap that they can usually sell them very fast, and when combined with not having to pay any govt fees or taxes, they typically turn a decent profit.

Because people are always craving a deal, they don’t look the gift horse in the mouth and are satisfied that everything is on the up and up with the sale when they are handed a legit car title.  

Is Title Jumping Really A Felony?

Yes,  Jumping Titles is a felony, and it is also illegal in all 50 states except in certain cases, such as when someone has passed away, and the family or next of kin wishes to sell the vehicle.  You will face Fines, Penalties, and Possible Jail Time if you are caught Jumping or Skipping Vehicle Titles.

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Steve is a former licensed car dealer located in the State of Florida.  He has many years of experience buying, selling, and working on cars mechanically and started Autohitch to help buyers and Sellers navigate the complex lands of Car Buying.