How to Get a Title for a Vehicle Purchased at a Storage Auction

Vehicle Title

Vehicles aren't necessarily common finds at storage auctions, but they are found from time to time. From cars to ATVs, boats and tractors, these vehicles pose a unique challenge to buyers. Unless you plan to simply scrap the vehicle and sell it for parts, you will need a title for it. The title is necessary when registering, insuring or re-selling the vehicle, so your hands are tied until you can resolve the matter of a missing title.

First, know that in order to buy a vehicle at auction, it must be known to be free of lien. The storage facility will check with the DMV to see whether the car is paid off. If it's still in a lien holder's interests, it cannot be auctioned off with the rest of the contents. If it is free of liens, the facility can proceed with the auction.

In Texas, there are some specific processes the storage facility needs to follow before auctioning off a vehicle. In addition to checking for lien holders, the owner must obtain a VTR-265-SSF form. This will be given to you so that you can complete transferring the vehicle to your name. Here is the material that the facility owner should provide you with so that you can give it to the DMV:

  • A copy of the tenant's lease showing that the tenant agreed to the foreclosure terms
  • The completed and signed VTR-265-SSF form
  • Verification of Texas title and registration (the facility will clear this with the DMV in advance)
  • Proof that the “Notice of Claim” letter was sent to the vehicle's owner
  • Proof of auto insurance if you plan to register the vehicle.

It's also a good idea to bring your receipt from the auction and a newspaper clipping of the auction's ad, just to be on the safe side. Although all of this can be a bit of a hassle, most of the leg-work should already be done for you by the facility owner. If you're concerned, you can check in advance that the owners are aware of this process, but most owners should be.

Also be aware that these requirements vary from one state to the next. If you're not in Texas, you'll need to check the local laws to ensure you obtain the vehicle legally and there are no concerns with obtaining a title. Also be sure to have enough money set aside to cover the costs of titling and registering the vehicle that you win at auction.


16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hello – I had a quick question I am trying to find an answer too, and since I am a paid subscriber I didn’t think you would mind me asking you.

    How big of a pain in the ass is it if you buy a car, or in my case a scooter/motorcycle, that is inside a storage ocker? I mean, to get it titled and all. Your mention of the truck and pontoon boat coming up this week got me thinking about it.

    I would appreciate it if you know the answer and would share. If not, I understand. That is not what I pay you for.


    • Paul,

      I’ll be glad to answer your question, that’s what I’m here for. Getting title is really a piece of cake as long as the storage facility does all of the paperwork correctly.

      Make sure they give you the following documents:

      Letters to the tenant/lienholder
      Notarized storage lien affidavit
      Copy of the notice of public sale
      Copy of the lease agreement
      DMV report

      If you want to keep the vehicle, just take these documents to the vehicle registration department. You will only pay taxes on the purchase price, not the value of the vehicle. If you plan to resell it, ask the facility manager to leave buyers portion of the storage lien affidavit blank. This way you can reassign it to the person you sell it to.

  • I did not realize just how important it is to get a title when purchasing a car. I have never bought one before, but I am seriously considering it. It’s interesting that a vehicle at an auction must be free of lien. I will make sure to look out for that if I choose to buy a car this way. Thanks for the advice!

    • That’s up to you to decide whether buying the boat and paying off the lien is worthwhile. I recommend checking Craigslist and boat classified websites to see what others are asking for similar boats and/or call a boat dealer and see if they can help you determine a value. Once you determine a fair market value, subtract the amount of the lien. If it’s still a good deal, buy it.

  • It is good to know that the car you find at auction should not have a lien on it. That would be super sad to find a car that you really want to buy and then find out you cannot have it. I guess it also makes it difficult if there is no title or registration, but I am glad there are companies out there to help you gather all of that information.

  • Hey I bought a car from someone who bought it from the auction but he gave me a copy of licensed vehicle storage facility lien foreclosure paper so i was wondering if i can still use please help

    • Honestly, that’s beyond my level of knowledge. I would consult with an attorney or the State to determine if you are eligible to apply for title. They may only allow the person who won the vehicle at auction to apply for title. If so, contact him/her and ask them to assist you.

    • I recently purchased a rather nice vehicle from a storage auction in Pennsylvania I am a resident of Pennsylvania so I didn’t think it would be a problem however the car came without a title I was wondering what the process would be to get a functional title on a functional vehicle and register it and drive it

      • Sean, I’m not familiar with Pennsylvania law, nor am I an attorney, so take this with a grain of salt. If laws in your state are similar to those in Texas, the facility manager would provide you with a lien sale affidavit. Take or mail a copy of that document to the registration office. Assuming there are no liens, you have a very good chance of getting title.

  • I won a bid to an online storage facility auction in Texas. I arrived, paid cash in the office and received the title and key. I asked for a bill of sale and was told I could use the receipt. I asked for any docs that would hp me get it registered and they assured me I’ll be ok. The title is signed by the seller supposedly, but they did not give me a lien affidavit, authorization from seller, etc. I didnt know I needed these docs to register. Now the storage persons says the seller is deceased and the spouse provided the title and key. How can the storage facility sell a car for a deceased person. I need to know how can I get my money back for this car I cant register?

  • hi i have a question?

    i recently bought a storage locker that had a 1969 vw bug but it was it parts not complete at all, also the storage facility had no idea as this was there first time selling one with a car inside, so there is no paper work because they didn’t know that they had to do that, so my question is how do began to sell it without paper work , kinda don’t want to sell it as parts even tho it’s completely disassembled

    • Jon, that’s quite a predicament you’re in. The short answer it’s probably to late for the facility manager to file a lien, so my advice is sell it for parts and move on. Perhaps there is a way for you to assume title or file your own lien, but that would be a question for your local auto registration office. I would ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the situation to him/her. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a loophole.

  • What happens if a storage facility auctions off a car that had a lien? Do they have the right to sell it even though it had a lien on it?

    • I’m not an attorney, nor should you consider my response reliable information, but from my understanding, if the lien-holder was notified properly and fails to recover the vehicle from the storage facility within the time specified, the lien-holder’s interest is forfeited.

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