Title Jumping

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” (Definition below), 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.

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What To Do If You Bought A Car With A Jumped Or Skipped Title

Skipped Title

If you purchased a skipped title to may 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 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.

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 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 Sellers name (The person physically selling you the car) isn’t on the title, both you, this individual, and the original owner are jumping 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.

Click the this purple title to find out exactly how you should transfer a Car Title.

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…

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- Apparently, 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 and the bill of sale doesn’t even need to be in the original owners name!  That being said, this does not override the claim to ownership that the original title owner will have.

What Is A Skipped Title Vs A Jumped Title

A Skipped title is actually different from a Jumped Title in that the first buyer and seller of the car HAVE filled out their information, however, they have still failed to register the purchase of the vehicle with the state before selling it for a second time.

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 signatures of the buyer and seller but was never transferred.  (The state will ALWAYS issue you a new title after a 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 Title 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 in 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 (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 because 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 it also helps them to avoid Sales Taxes (Make more money).  

Title Flipping actually used to be a problem confined to small used car dealerships who 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 with no regulation or license, who 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.  

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 when they see a legit vehicle 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.  If you are caught Jumping or Skipping Vehicle Titles you will face Fines, Penalties, and Possible Jail Time.