How do you buy a car from someone if there is a lien on the title?

Asked by Guru541YH Dec 16, 2017 at 05:17 PM about the 2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata SE

Question type: Shopping & Pricing

I am thinking of buying a car from a private party.  There is a lien on the title.  
How do I handle the transaction?  Do I pay off the lien myself and pay the rest
to the seller?

5 Answers


You or the owner pays off the lender and they release the title to you. I would pay it off at their bank, don't give them the money!

2 people found this helpful.

Different states have specific forms required, such as the MA serialized "Assignment and Authorization for Payoff" document that must be signed by both the seller and buyer, and then attached to the original Title for registration and new title. Check your state's requirement.

1 people found this helpful.

Ernie - That is another reason to pay off the loan at the lender because they will do the necessary paperwork.

2 people found this helpful.

Lawyer here: Michigan is a "Title State" which means the guy with the title owns the vehicle. Leins showing on the title are presumed to be valid. If a lein appears on the title, the SOS will not transfer the title to you. While this may seem painfully difficult, considering that you want the car NOW, do whatever you have to do to end up holding a title stamped by the lender RELEASED. Absent that, any promise by the seller (written or oral) to pay off the lease is worthless when the lender comes looking for their colateral (read: your recent purchase). And one more thing...checks marked CERTIFIED are not treated as cash by most major banks anymore. The best bet is always cash. Cash is KING you know?


What are "leins"? ( must mean "liens"?) In Mass, for one, liens can be electronically, as well by simple attachment of a lien release letter. But if a seller states a lien has been electronically released it's best to exercise due diligence and either get it in writing, or at least check with your State's bureau to see that Title is now clear,

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