Missouri Title Problems

Missouri is one of those unique states where a motor vehicle dealer is required to provide title at the time of sale. If the dealer fails to provide title, the buyer can void the transaction and get his or her money back. Sometimes, however, the buyer is not interested in voiding the sale, but instead prefers to keep the car. In this case, there are steps you can take to obtain the title through the courts.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Securing Title

Clearing up a car title is time-consuming and laborious. It often requires hours of research, document preparation and court appearances. You will find it well worth the money to allow a professional to handle this work for you. However if you have no choice and must do the work yourself, this outline will assist you. Of course, this outline is only a “guide,” NOT a substitute for legal advice.

Where to Begin

The first step is to figure out who you need to sue. There will often be three defendants you need to name in your lawsuit: (1) the prior owner(s) of the vehicle; (2) the last lienholder; and (3) the Missouri Department of Revenue (if you are seeking a Missouri title). If the prior owner(s) never financed the vehicle, you can skip the finance company. You can get the name of the prior owners and the finance company by obtaining a title history from the DOR. You can call the DOR at (573) 751-4509 for information on how to obtain a title history. If it turns out the vehicle was never titled in Missouri, you will need to obtain a Carfax report, which you can do on-line. The Carfax report will tell you each state where the vehicle has been titled throughout its history. You will then need to contact the appropriate department of the state where the vehicle was last registered in order to request a title history from that department. You should then have all the information you need to commence your lawsuit.

If I purchased the vehicle from a car dealership, is it safe to assume the dealership is the “prior owner?”

The answer is “no.” In fact, the dealership probably never actually “owned” the vehicle at all. The prior owner is the last person who actually had title issued in his or her name. The only way to find out this information is to do a title history search.

Preparing the Lawsuit

The type of lawsuit you need to file is called a “declaratory judgment” action. You need to remember that you are not suing for money, but rather you are asking the court to award you title. If you are successful, the court will order the Department of Revenue to issue a title in your name. Your petition will need to identify each of the parties and describe the nature of their relationship to the vehicle (e.g., “prior owner” or “current lienholder”). The lawsuit will need to state how you came into possession of the vehicle and why you were not able to obtain the title.

Once you have prepared your lawsuit, you will then need to file it with the Court. The clerk will issue a summons for each defendant, and you have to get the summons served on that defendant. Once you get service on each defendant, you will need to ask the judge to set a trial date. On the trial date, you will then ask the judge to order the DOR to issue you a title. If any of the defendants objects to title being issued, you will have to explain why the objection is unfounded. In general, you will want to bring the following documents with you to court: (1) your original Bill of Sale; (2) a copy of any cancelled check(s) showing how much you paid for the vehicle; and (3) a certified copy of the title history. If you win at trial, the judge will order the DOR issue a new title in your


By making it difficult to obtain a Court-ordered title, the State is insuring that stolen vehicles cannot be easily resold. Be wary of any car sales transaction, especially a private one, where the seller is unable to provide title at the time of sale. Although it is possible to obtain a title yourself, it will probably not be practical and you will need some help. We charge a flat fee of $1,500.00 plus costs to obtain a new title. In many instances, you will even get your money back.