As far as your local Department of Motor Vehicles is concerned, donating a vehicle is just like selling it. You have to transfer the existing registration and/or title in order to make the process legal. When you sell a vehicle be sure to:
Carefully fill out the back of the vehicle title, including name, address, vehicle mileage and signature
That’s the basic procedure, but what happens if you’re missing some of these documents?
Your first step should be to call one of the specialists at the Car Talk Vehicle Donation program at 1-877-215-0227. They do an amazing job at helping people through their specific paperwork issues.
However, most of the paperwork is fairly easy to obtain through your local Department of Motor Vehicles. A lot of it can be done online, along with a nominal fee.
Replacing a Missing Registration
The registration is what proves to the authorities that you have, in fact, registered your vehicle for use on the road in your state. When you donate a vehicle for the benefit of public radio, you may or may not need a current registration. That largely depends on your state, and what they require for documentation to prove that you’ve sold a vehicle.
For example, in Massachusetts, you don’t necessarily need the registration at all. What you definitely want to do, though, is cancel your registration in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so that you won’t be responsible for any further excise tax.
If your state does require your registration to be filled out at the time of sale, and you can’t seem to find it, most states do offer an online registration replacement service.
For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles allows you to use the “Online Services” section of the website to obtain a duplicate registration. There’s no fee required, which is nothing short of a miracle where a state agency is concerned. You simply input your information -- you’ll be asked for specific information so you can’t just do this for any vehicle -- and at the end of the process, you simply print out a registration on your own home or office printer.
For more information on replacing a registration in your state, visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.
Replacing a Title
The other key piece of paperwork you need to donate a vehicle to public radio is a title to the vehicle you’re transferring. Titles are official documents, printed on watermarked, security paper, so you’re not going to be able to print one from home. The process requires a little more legwork and time on your end, so be sure to do this ahead of time.
The first thing to figure out is if you need a title at all. Many states only require a title for vehicle that are newer than 25 year old. If the vehicle you’re donating is from the 1980s, you may never have been issued a title in the first place.
If you do, in fact, need a title in your state and you can’t locate it, contact the customer service folks at the Car Talk Vehicle Donation program at 1-877-215-0227. They’ll likely have the information at hand and can pretty quickly point you in the right direction.
You can also check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, either online on the phone. Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, for example, has an accurate description of the duplicate title process on its website. It’s a fairly straightforward deal, but you either have to go to the County Clerk of Courts office, or provide all the requisite paperwork by mail, so the process may take a significant amount of time to complete.
States are notoriously fussy about the condition of a title, too. There was a time in Our Fair Commonwealth where even a pair of staple holes in a title would make said document “defaced,” requiring a duplicate that took forever to come in the mail. If your title has been water damaged, burned in a fire or otherwise defaced, you’ll probably need to have it replaced.