Planning to buy a UTV is exciting. You’re imagining how you’ll use your new vehicle for recreation, work, or with your family.
You probably have some questions, too. Do side by sides have titles? Is an MCO the same as a title? Do I need a bill of sale?
Paperwork isn’t anyone’s favorite part of owning a UTV. It’s important, though, to ensure you’re legal.
Find out more about UTV titles and some of the other documents you’ll encounter when buying a side by side. You’ll be protecting yourself and your new UTV.
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Do Side by Sides Have Titles?
The short answer is yes, they usually do. However, some states don’t require titles for ATVs or UTVs. Always check with your state’s DMV before you buy a side by side to be sure you get all the paperwork you need.
Even if your state doesn’t require a title, you may be able to file for one. A title gives you additional proof of ownership. It also helps if your UTV gets damaged or if you need to report that it was stolen.
I Have an MCO, Not a Title. Now What?
If you buy a new UTV from a dealer, you’ll get a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) or a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO). The MCO includes information such as:
- Name of the manufacturer
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Year, make, and model
- Name of the dealership
Some states require an MCO in order to get a title after you buy a side by side.
Can I Buy a Side by Side Without a Title?
There are a few legitimate reasons you may find a used UTV for sale without a title. The worst case scenario is that the side by side is stolen. Doing your research ahead of time is critical if you’re considering buying a UTV that doesn’t have a title.
It Still Has a Lien
One possibility for why a side by side doesn’t have a title is that it may still have a lien. If the current owner financed the vehicle and hasn’t paid it off yet, the lender still technically owns it. Sometimes an owner will wait for a buyer in order to pay off the loan.
In that case, you and the buyer should contact the lender to work out the details of paying off the loan and transferring ownership. These types of situations can be complicated. It’s best if you can go in person with the seller so that you know the exact payoff and can get the title or MCO right away.
It’s an Older Vehicle
UTVs and ATVs didn’t commonly come with titles until the 1990s. If you’re considering buying an older side by side, it may not have a title. A bill of sale can serve as proof of ownership for an old UTV.
Unfortunately, a side by side without a title is often stolen merchandise. The market for stolen ATVs and UTVs is huge because many states don’t require owners to register them.
One way to find out if someone has reported the side by side you want to buy as stolen is to check the VIN. It’s courteous to ask the seller first if you can run the number through a database to make sure the VIN is clear. Honest sellers won’t have a problem with this.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has a VIN database. You can also ask your local dealership to check the VIN. A dealer will be able to tell you about any recalls on the vehicle as well.
You can contact your local police station to find out if the side by side was reported stolen.
Other Signs to Watch For
Other red flags that could indicate the UTV was stolen are:
- Using the picture from the manufacturer or no picture at all in the ad
- Explaining a low ball price with an excuse like “need to sell immediately”
- Meeting you somewhere other than the seller’s home
All of these behaviors show that the seller may have something to hide.
What to Do If the UTV Was Stolen
If you discover that the side by side was stolen, call the authorities immediately. Hopefully you found this out before you bought the vehicle. If not, you’ll need to prove to the police that you aren’t the thief.
Keeping a record of your communication with any potential seller is always a good idea. In the event that you unknowingly bought stolen property, it can help clear your name.
If you’re thinking about buying a side by side without a title, finding out why the title is missing is important. You’ll be able to decide if going ahead with the purchase makes sense.
What Is a Bill of Sale and Do I Need One?
When you buy or sell a UTV, you need to document the transfer of ownership. If the seller has the title, you’ll sign the “Transfer by Owner” or “Assignment” section on the back. If the seller doesn’t have the title and you’ve verified that the side by side isn’t stolen, you can use a bill of sale to transfer ownership.
Why Use a Bill of Sale?
In states that require you to register your UTV with the DMV, you can usually use a bill of sale as proof of ownership if you don’t have the title.
If you’re paying or receiving cash for the UTV, a bill of sale provides proof of the transaction. As the buyer, you have protection in case someone claims you’re not the rightful owner. As the seller, you have protection in case someone is injured on the vehicle.
Even if the seller has the title, a bill of sale is a good idea. It documents things like the condition of the vehicle and the selling price. It includes “hold harmless” language to protect the buyer and seller.
What Makes a Valid Bill of Sale?
The bill of sale is a contract between the buyer and seller. The requirements for what the bill of sale should contain can vary by state. Check with your DMV to be sure you have all the necessary information.
In general, a bill of sale needs to include:
- Agreement to exchange the vehicle for an amount of money
- Year, make, and model
- Date of the sale
- Purchase price
- Names and signatures of the buyer and seller
The buyer keeps the original, and it’s a good idea for the seller to keep a photocopy.
Side by Side Titles
You’ll know the answer the next time someone asks you, ‘do side by sides have titles?’ No one wants to waste time on bureaucratic tasks, but taking care of the title requirements when you buy or sell a UTV is important. It protects you and your investment in case something happens later.
If you buy a UTV without a title, you know your options now too. You can settle the transfer of ownership and get on to enjoying your new side by side.
You can count on UTV Ride when you have questions about your UTV. Check out our other articles for more useful answers.