If you're into building, restoring or fixing up old motorcycles, classic cars and other motor vehicles you're going to run across lots of vehicles without valid titles. Old barn finds, the junker in your neighbor's back yard and bikes abandoned might seem like great deals but before you shell out your hard earned money, run by your local DMV office with the Vehicle Identification (VIN) number and Engine Number if they're not the same. Then check with StolenMotorcycle.net and see if the motorcycle has been stolen. If the numbers come up hot at either place then tell the cops who has it and look for another.
Seriously. Sometimes the title becomes the hardest and most expensive part. And laws vary greatly from state to state.
If it comes up clean there are still hoops to jump through depending on what state you're in and what state the bike was last registered or titled in. Your local DMV can help you with that as well. A lot of information can be found at DMV.org as well as your state DMV website. For example, all the information you need to title any motor vehicle in North Carolina can be downloaded in the NC Title Manual.
Other possible problems include leans against the bike, stop orders issued by local tax authorities, salvage issues, judgements, bonding, emissions standards and more. I've seen people trying to pass off what are strictly off-road vehicles as being street legal. Simply adding lights and mirrors won't get it titled. Previous owners who are trying to get around the rules can cause all sorts of issues so be prepared for surprises and get a clear title before you go spending your money.
Even bonding a title won't stop you from having the bike, car or truck seized by previous owners, banks and finance companies, tax authorities or the police. The bond simply pays the lawyer bills on behalf of the DMV should they screw up. Trust me, I lost several thousand dollars that way.
In North Carolina, as well as in most states, it is illegal to sell a motor vehicle without a title or a manufacturers certificate of origin with exceptions for vehicles over 10 years old that are being sold to liscensed junk yards. And remember, if getting a title for that old junker was as easy and cheap as the seller wants you to believe, then he or she would already have a title.
Like I tell 'em all, if it ain't got a title in the name of the seller then it's only scrap metal.
What? I never said it was easy.