RVing is so hot right now that older RVs are being renovated and put back on the road.
But, what about title work that is missing? Is there an easy way to replace a camper title so you can plate the vehicle?
The answer is yes, and down below, I tell you how. Once you have a clear title to an old camper, you can either sell it or use it yourself to create incredible vacation memories!
Why RVs Need a Title
The majority of campers are by DMV definition a regular vehicle that travels, not sits in one location. To move on the highways, they have to be built and maintained to be legal and safe to drive on the road.
To make an old camper legal, so the police don’t pull you over while taking the family to your favorite campground, you will need to make sure it has a valid license plate.
To purchase a license plate, you need to have a title to prove ownership. Any camper on the road will also need insurance, and a valid title can help you secure proper insurance coverage.
Even after you have done all the legal legwork to get your RV titled, registered, plated, and insured, there may be a time you wish to sell it.
What if you can’t find the title to your old camper?
Without a title, you will have great difficulty making a sale as the transfer of title to a new owner is proof of a legal transaction.
To avoid any issues with an old camper that needs a title, you need to gather proper documentation to prove origin and ownership. Luckily, getting a new title for an old camper is not that uncommon or complicated.
Do All RVs Need a Title?
Yes, all campers will need a title if you plan to travel in it.
Many jurisdictions may require you to furnish one even for stationary units you may set up in your yard as a hideout or guest quarters for permitting or insurance reasons.
A title is proof of ownership, which alleviates any hassles if you ever get questions about the camper.
If you have an old untitled camper and aren’t planning on ever driving it, you could instead park it on personal private property, as some people do for a hunting shack or “cabin” escape.
In this instance, you can get away with not plating it, which then wouldn’t require worrying about a title as long as no one is snooping around (aka trespassing!) looking for something to complain about.
Without a title, the problem is that if you want to sell or scrap it, it would then be necessary for you to procure one using the steps in the how-to section down below.
Some salvage yards want a title before towing away an old camper.
Why a Camper May Not Have a Title
Here are the three reasons a camper won’t have a title:
For very old campers, the title work can just get lost as the owner moves from one home to another, or a fire or flood ruins their files full of essential papers.
Often getting a new one isn’t a pressing matter for the owner, and as time passes, they forget about it altogether.
Even newer titles can get lost if owners aren’t keeping good track of paperwork, but getting a replacement is much easier than starting from scratch.
Camper Is Stolen
There are instances where the “seller” can’t provide a title because the camper is stolen.
Many people store a camper in an unsecured area or leave their campers onsite at a campground where they could be stolen when you aren’t around.
RV theft is more prevalent in destinations where camping is a bustling industry, such as near beaches or tourist attractions. Even RV dealerships are reporting theft from their sales lots.
With the high demand for RVs, a stolen camper may sell quickly, as the price will probably be too good to pass up.
Even without a title, some people may agree to a sale under promises that they will send it to you or get a new one. By the time you pay and realize no title is forthcoming, the seller is long gone with your cash.
Never buy a camper through a private sale without upfront proof of a title of ownership, as the risk is just not worth it.
If you are seriously interested in the RV, wait for the current owner to replace the title first. Make sure you verify the VINs of the new title and camper before you finish the sale.
Make sure they sign the title over immediately so you can take it with you. Register the title transfer as soon as possible with the DMV.
The RVing and tiny home movement create thousands of campers that are self-built. Most of these start with a flat-bed trailer base or custom-built chassis, which may or may not need a title depending on state regulations if they are under a certain weight.
Other states do not require a title, but only for you to register the trailer with the DMV by showing proof of ownership with a bill of sale.
Some new trailer purchases require the buyer to fill out an application to send in for an official title. If the buyer forgets to take care of this task, there will be no title.
For homemade campers, you can start the title process by visiting a Department of Transporation inspection center with your completed trailer. Some states allow the police department to make the inspection.
Both will check for working head, running, tail, and turn lights and that the braking system works correctly. They will also inspect wheels and tires, mirrors, and other systems that allow the vehicle to travel safely on the roadways.
Once the camper passes inspection, you will get a form to take to the DMV, along with all other standard title paperwork requirements from the DMV to apply for a title for the vehicle.
Steps to Get an RV Title For an Old Camper
Follow these steps to get a title for an old camper or a DIY-built RV that never had a title. Be aware that each state, and sometimes each county, may require different forms of proof to get a title.
Step 1. Gather Important Papers
You will need these following documents to prove ownership:
- Bill of sale
- Valid drivers license
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of residency
- Clear emission’s test if a motorhome and DOT inspection if necessary in your state or county
Always call ahead or visit your state DMV website to verify you have all the correct documents to secure a new title.
The bill of sale will be critical for a new title on an old camper. Print out a form found online, or check the DMV website for a printable.
The information written on the bill of sale should include:
- Date of sale
- Final price
- Contact information of both seller and buyer
- Whether or not an inspection is necessary
- Any identification number on the camper outside of the VIN
- Previous tax status (if needed)
Some states will require you to bring in a Certificate of Inspection from the Department of Transporation for the old camper. There are inspection sites throughout each state where you can bring your camper for them to check for general safety of the vehicle.
Some RV dealerships are authorized to inspect campers and give out a certificate of inspection that the DMV will accept. If you have a dealer near you, call them to see if they offer this service.
An inspector will need to check and sign off all safety equipment before allowing the camper to get a title.
Many counties need emissions testing for all vehicles, so if required, you will need to drive any motorhome to a testing center where you will get a print out if the RV passes inspection you bring to the DMV.
If the motorhome does not pass the emissions test, you will have to repair the exhaust system and return for another test.
Step 2. Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles
Bring all your documentation and your camper, if required, to your local DMV. Request a title and tag application form.
Fill in the form as directed, then wait for assistance from an employee to complete the title documentation process.
Many states allow you to download and print an application from the state DMV website, or you can pick up a copy direct to fill out at home. Some states will require a notary to sign off on the application, which you will need to complete before your DMV visit.
The application will require mileage, length, height, weight, make, model, and year. If you are unsure about a topic, leave the box blank.
Some states allow title registration through online applications through the DMV, but you will be required to mail all your paperwork and payment for fees.
As original documents are necessary, it’s best to go in person and not risk losing such vital papers in the postal system.
Step 3. DMV Inspection
The DMV will run the VIN, make, and model through their databases to ensure the camper is not stolen or has a lien.
In most states the DMV will do a visual inspection of the camper to make sure that:
- The VIN number is recorded correctly
- There is no safety issues for legal road use
Step 4. Pay the Fees
Pay the fees for both your title and tag if you wish to plate the camper right away. The tag you should receive on the spot, and the new title should be sent to you in the mail in the next week or two.
If you don’t need to bring the camper in for a visual inspection, you can wait for your new title to arrive via mail and then go in and register for your tag.
Old campers have a high chance of having the title damaged or lost over time, so being able to replace them allows you to get them back out on the road legally and safely.
Thankfully, getting a title on an old camper is not that difficult with the right paperwork and following the steps above.
With a new title in hand, you are free to sell the RV without hassles or, better yet, use it to create incredible camping memories for you and your whole family!