used car title lien

Find Out If Your Car’s Title Is ‘Lien-Free’ With These Simple Steps

When it comes to buying a car, you'll more than likely hear terms like “lien” being talked about. What is a lien? And how do you find out if the car you are interested in is ‘lien-free'?

Well, a lien is basically like a safety net for an auto lender. When a car loan is requested, the lender will put a lien on the title until the loan is repaid. This lien allows the lender to have possession of the title.

A lienholder can either be the bank or some other form of financial assistance like a loan company. So if the loan is defaulted on, the lender can then sell the vehicle to satisfy the loan payment. 

What does that mean for you who want to buy that car? Well, a lot. You will need to have the current owner of the vehicle get that lien removed before they sell it to you.

If they don't then the lien is transferred over to you and the lender can still repossess the car. Also, if a car has a lien on it, using the title for cash is not possible in South Carolina.

Learn more about how to check the vehicle's title, ask for a lien release, check the VIN number, visit your DMV, and pull a vehicle report. So if you have a situation that requires quick cash you don't have, we cannot help you.

This is why it is important to know if a vehicle has a lien on it or not. Additionally, learn how you can get quick cash from a title loan if your vehicle does not have a lien on it.

Ways You Can Find Out About Prior Liens

Check The Vehicle's Title

When you are buying a used car, it's not enough to just check the registration. You will also need to check the vehicle's title. The registration tells the car is registered in that state and the taxes are being paid – in this case in South Carolina.

The best way to check if a vehicle has liens is by looking at the title. The title will show you the name of the owner and if the vehicle has any liens on it – whether prior or current.

If you examine this title and see that the vehicle has a lien on it, you will need more information. You will have to figure out if it is currently active or if it's been settled. If the seller tells you that the lien has been settled, don't just take their word for it. You will have to request other forms of proof to be sure that the lien has indeed been settled.

Ask For The Lien Release

If the seller tells you the lien is settled, your response should be “Okay, let me see the lien release.” The lien release is a document that states the loan has been paid and the lien is settled. The lienholder is in charge of informing the DMV when the lien is settled.

Once the DMV knows the lien is settled, it is marked on the vehicle's title – and any other important documents. In South Carolina, there is the option to do all of this electronically. The lienholder can use the Electronic Lien And Title – or ELT – if the title was done electronically.

This will send the SCDMV an electronic message letting them know the lien has been settled. Once notified, the lien is marked as settled and the title gets mailed to the lienholder or title owner.

Check The VIN

The next way you can check to see if a vehicle has liens on it is through the vehicle identification number or VIN. Checking the VIN will show you the vehicle's information and whether there is a lien or not. You can do this through a title check feature that your DMV might have.

Just check the DMV website and see if this is offered. If it is then you can input the VIN and the title information should be brought up. There you should be able to see if the vehicle has any liens that the owner has to take care of before you buy the car.

If you can't find this feature online then you may need to go to your local DMV in person to find out if the vehicle has any liens. If you don't see any unsettled liens then you should be good to go with buying the vehicle.

Visit Your DMV

Of course, if you don't want to check anything online, you could just visit your local DMV. There you will be able to speak with someone in person and check the title.

They will be able to provide you with a title report that details any unsettled liens the vehicle may have. The title report will also let you know if your vehicle has ever been involved in an accident. One thing to note is there could be a delay.

So if the seller says they handled the lien but the DMV says otherwise, ask for a lien release. Once you prove the seller has settled the lien, the DMV will fix the title and you'll be good.

Pull A Vehicle Report

The last thing you can do is pull a vehicle report. Sites like Carfax give you a full report when you type in the vehicle's license plate or the VIN. This report includes any prior loans or current liens that need to be taken care of.

There are other sites you can check out as well. The important thing is to just choose a site that will give you a full report on the used vehicle.

You also want to know if the vehicle has any prior accidents. One thing to know is sites like Carfax do charge a fee. This report is important to get before you decide on any used car as your next vehicle.


happy woman just had vehicle inspected for title loan cash

Addressing Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the total amount of the loan, including the interest and fees?

Please look at your loan agreement for all loan terms and fees. Your loan representative will go through all loan terms and fees with you before you sign the loan agreement.

Do I need a checking account?

You do not need a checking account to qualify for a title loan at Carolina Title Loans, Inc.

I have bad credit. Can I still qualify?

Absolutely! Good credit, bad credit or no credit. For most title loan amounts, any credit is welcome. Carolina Title Loans, Inc. is committed to helping you get the cash you need. We will work with you under any credit situation.

Will my personal info be kept confidential?

At Carolina Title Loans, Inc. we are committed to keeping all the information you provide confidential. Please see the privacy policy on our website for details.

How much can I borrow?

Your title loan amount depends on the value of your vehicle. You can get $601 - $15,000.

How often can I get a title loan?

Title loan terms and frequency may vary. Please check with a sales representative at the Carolina Title Loans, Inc. location for all the details.

How do you determine the value of my vehicle?

The value of your vehicle is based on the value as stated in a nationally recognized pricing guide, and the condition of the vehicle, as determined by a physical inspection.

How long does it take to be approved?

From the time you enter one of our Carolina Title Loans, Inc. locations, it could take as little as 30 minutes to be approved for a car title loan.

If Your Vehicle Is Lien-Free, You Can Qualify For A Title Loan!

Have you gone through these steps and made sure your vehicle is lien-free? Well, now you can use your title for cash. Title loans are there for you when you own your vehicle, have a lien-free car title, and need some quick cash.

If you find yourself in a situation like a medical emergency or sudden home repairs, title loans are there to help. And we don't require you to bring too many necessary items to get through the process. We just require you to bring:

  • Your driver's license or state-issued photo ID
  • Your vehicle for a quick inspection
  • Your title states you are the owner and the vehicle is lien-free

If you want more information then you can check our title loan requirements page or online title loan with no store visit.

Note: The content provided in this article is only for informational purposes, and you should contact your financial advisor about your specific financial situation.

Emma Frost

Emma Frost is a lifestyle and finance blogger with a talent for communication and a passion for financial literacy. She uses her writing talents to explore topics that help her readers gain financial stability and growth.