Anyone who purchases a car, even if they don’t intend to keep it, has to sign the title into their name. If you’re the one purchasing a vehicle, beware if the title isn't signed, or it isn't in the name of the person selling it.

Vehicle Title Classifications

There are several classifications that car titles can fall into. But if the person selling the vehicle isn’t on the title, or the title isn’t signed at all, it’s called title jumping – or title floating – and it’s illegal in every state.

Buying a Car with the Title Not in the Sellers NameOther common car title statuses are:

  • Clean – When you’re buying a vehicle from a private party, or even a used car dealer, you ideally want to purchase a vehicle with a clean title. This is the most common type of car title. It means there are no questions concerning the legal ownership of the vehicle, the car is free of liens and levees, and that the vehicle hasn’t sustained any significant damage that resulted in it being considered a total loss.
  • Washed – Cars that hold branded titles such as flood, fire, or salvage, can be tough to sell and generally have a low market value. So, when someone wants to hide or remove the branding on a title, title washing happens. Because title designations vary by state, title washing typically involves re-titling a vehicle in a state with different regulations so a car which was previously deemed a total loss can be assigned a clean title.
  • Branded – Branding is the process used by states to let consumers know that the vehicle they’re purchasing doesn’t have a clean title. Common title brands include: salvage, rebuilt, flood, fleet, junk, stolen, and mileage unknown. If you’re buying a car with a branded title, be aware that they can be difficult to finance and insure.

To save yourself heartache down the road, it’s always a good idea to get a full vehicle history report before you purchase a used car. At the very least, do a vehicle identification number (VIN) check online at a trusted website such as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (

Finance through a Trusted Dealer

If you need a car and are looking to buy used, a good option is to purchase a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. CPO cars are typically reconditioned and backed by some sort of manufacturer warranty – there’s generally no need to worry about washed or branded titles if you go this route. Another option is to buy a vehicle from a reputable dealer, where it's also a better bet that you’ll run into less problems than if you purchase from a private seller.

If you’re worried that credit will stand in the way of finding financing, let Auto Credit Express help. We work with an extensive network of reputable special finance dealers that have the lending resources to help people in many types of credit situations, including no credit, low credit, and even bankruptcy. Don’t wait another day to get into a vehicle you need. Fill out our online auto loan request form today and we’ll get to work matching you with a local dealer!