Three cars at the tip with a "missing" stamp above them. The California State flag is below with words that say, "California Lost Car Title Bond".

California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bond

California allows vehicles to be titled by obtaining a California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bond. These titles can be referred to as bonded titles, defective titles, lost titles, etc.These bonds can be easily purchased online. Learn about what these bonds guarantee and how to get a California Bonded Title.

What is a California Motor Vehicle Title Bond (Lost Title Bond)?

A California Motor Vehicle Title Bond is a surety bond that helps protect owners, purchasers, lenders and other interested parties of vehicles for which the state cannot obtain regular evidence of ownership. The bond provides a third-party financial guarantee to protect parties harmed by issuing a duplicate title. 

What Does a California Lost Title Bond Guarantee?

A California Lost Title Bond guarantees that if a seller, purchaser, lender or other interested party is damaged by the state’s issuing of a duplicate title, the bond company will reimburse them for damages. This allows the state to reduce the risk to parties buying or selling a vehicle with a duplicate title. 

The bond further guarantees that the applicant and surety will honor all of section 4157 and 4307 of the California Vehicle Code, and comply with the bond requirements of California chapter 2, title 14, part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

How Does a California Motor Vehicle Ownership Surety Bond Work?

The applicant applying for the title is referred to as the principal on the bond. The principal pays bond premium and provides indemnification to a surety bond company, called the surety. The surety then provides a financial guarantee to the state of California, called the obligee. If a party suffers a loss because of the principal obtaining a duplicate vehicle title, the damaged party can make a claim to the surety or the state of California. The surety will then investigate the claim and pay it if it is valid. The surety can then go back to the principal and seek reimbursement for any amounts paid. 

The bond is valuable by providing protection to all parties involved in buying, selling or lending on a vehicle with a replacement title. If a party is damaged, it may be quicker and easier to collect from a third-party bond company than trying to pursue payment from the principal. 

Who Needs a California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bond?

Any party that cannot prove ownership of a motor vehicle by traditional means may apply to the state for a bonded title. Motor Vehicle in California means any self-propelled vehicle excluding wheelchairs, motorized tricycles, or quadricycles. It does include recreational vehicles. Chapter 4157 of the California Vehicle Code states: 

“In the absence of the regularly required supporting evidence of ownership upon application for registration or transfer of a vehicle, the department may accept an undertaking or bond which shall be conditioned to protect the department and all officers and employees thereof and any subsequent purchaser of the vehicle, any person acquiring a lien or security interest thereon, or the successor in interest of such purchaser or person against any loss or damage on account of any defect in or undisclosed claim upon the right, title, and interest of the applicant or other person in and to the vehicle.”

The same rules apply to vehicles from outside the state referred to as Foreign Vehicles. Chapter 4307 of the Vehicle Code says:

“In the event application is made in this state for registration of a vehicle and the department is not satisfied as to the ownership of the vehicle or the existence of foreign liens thereon, then the department may register the vehicle and issue a distinctive registration card and appropriate license plates but shall withhold issuance of a California certificate of ownership unless the applicant shall present documents sufficient to reasonably satisfy the department of the applicant’s ownership of the vehicle and sufficient to identify any liens thereon or the applicant shall post a bond pursuant to Section 4157.”

What is the Required Amount of a California Vehicle Title Bond?

California requires the defective title bond to be equal to the vehicle’s fair market value. The market value of the vehicle is based on the cost price to the purchaser as evidenced by a certificate of cost, bill of sale, titling document, or Kelley Blue Book value. The market value includes any trade in or down payment amount but does not include the taxes.

An image of the State of California on the left. On the right, a California Vehicle Title. In the middle, white text showing the required amount of a California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bond.

The surety bond amount is the most the bond company will have to pay out on the bond, regardless of the dollar amount of the claims or the number of claims filed. It is also the most the bond company will have to pay regardless of how many years they have written the bond.

What is the Cost of a California Motor Vehicle Title Bond?

The cost of a California Motor Vehicle Title Bond is 1% of the bond amount or less for most applicants. For example, a vehicle with a value of $30,000 will cost $270. The chart shows the pricing for many common bond amounts.

$10,000 - $100
$20,000 - $180
$30,000 - $270
$40,000 - $360
$50,000 - $450
$60,000 - $540
$70,000 - $630
$80,000 - $720

How Do You Obtain a California Motor Vehicle Title Ownership Bond?

California Motor Vehicle Title Bonds can be purchased directly online in a matter of minutes. These bonds do not require a credit check for most amounts. In addition to the applicant's contact information, they need to provide the vehicle’s make, model, year, vehicle identification number (VIN) and license plate number. An applicant will also need to know the vehicle’s fair market value to enter the bond amount. Once the information is entered, a customer can submit, and purchase their bond. The bond will have to be mailed to meet California's requirements, however. 

Can I Obtain a California Title Bond with Bad Credit?

Yes, almost anyone can get a California Title Bond from Axcess Surety because most of these bonds do not require a credit check. However, contact us anytime if you have concerns. Our people have the experience, products and surety markets to help individuals and businesses in most circumstances.

What is the Length of a California Title Bond?

California requires a bond to be in place for 3 years on bonded titles. If the vehicle is no longer registered in the state of California and the Certificate of Ownership is returned back to the state, the bond may be canceled. The surety may also cancel the bond by providing a 30 day notice to the state. In such cases, the bond principal will need to submit a replacement bond. 

An image of a California car title. To the right, a vehicle and a checked flag. In the middle, text showing the required length of a California Title Bond.

Process to Obtain a California Bonded (Replacement Title)

Complete an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title

Each applicant will need to complete an application and bring it to the DMV.

Obtain Supporting Documentation

Several other documents will need to be completed and brought with the applicant to the DMV. These include: 

  • Complete a Statement of Facts.
  • Bring a Bill of Sale.
  • A lien and title holder release for vehicles more than two years old. 
  • Complete a Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight.
  • A Smog Inspection Form. The following vehicle are exempt from this requirement:
    • Gas powered vehicles that are 1975 model year or older. This includes both motorcycles and trailers.
    • Diesel-powered vehicles that are 1997 model year and older, OR with a Gross Vehicle Weight of more than 14,000 pounds.
    • A vehicle powered by natural gas and weighing more than 14,000 pounds. 
    • An electric vehicle.
    • A gas-powered vehicle that is less than 8 years old.

Obtain a California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bond

As discussed above, each applicant will need to obtain a surety bond for the vehicle’s fair market value. Fortunately, these can be purchased online quickly and easily.

Obtain a Verification of the Vehicle

Each motor vehicle needs to have a vehicle inspection performed by an authorized DMV representative, a California licensed vehicle verifier, an authorized auto club employee, or a peace officer who has been properly trained to perform vehicle verifications. The authorized party will need to complete a Vehicle Verification Form (Reg 31). Only complete and assembled vehicles are allowed to be inspected. 

Bring All Information to a California Department of Motor Vehicles Office

The applicant will need to bring all the above information and forms to a California DMV office. Additionally, the applicant will need to pay all fees for title and registration. 


California Motor Vehicle Ownership Title Bonds are common, and needed when the state cannot property confirm vehicle ownership. These bonds are very inexpensive and easy to obtain online. Learn more about surety bonds including many frequently asked questions by visiting our Surety Bond Guide. Additionally, contact the bond experts at Axcess Surety anytime for all your surety bond needs and questions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There Anyting Wrong with a Bonded (Defective) Title in California?

While there is some risk in purchasing a vehicle without an original title, a valid surety bond protects the party against damages. Bonded Titles are common in California and claims against these bonds are very rare. 

Can I Sell a Vehicle without a Title in California

Yes, you can sell a vehicle without an original title by applying for a replacement title. The state of California may make you obtain a Title Bond to protect the purchasers of the vehicle and other interested parties.

How Long Does California Require a Defective Title Bond?

The Title Bond must be in place for 3 years. After that the bond is no longer needed. The bond may also be released if the vehicle is moved out of state and the duplicate title is returned back to the state.

Is a Defective Title the Same as a Bonded Title?

Generally, yes. In California, a Defective Title does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with a vehicle. It means the original title is being replaced with a duplicate because it was lost or stolen. Other common names are lost title and DMV title.

Does California Allow Bonded Titles?

Yes, California is one of many states that allow a duplicate title to be issued for a motor vehicle by applying to the state and obtaining a surety bond to protect interested parties. 

Where Can I Obtain a California Title Bond?

These bonds can be purchased online from Axcess Surety. Most licensed property casualty brokers licensed in the state of California can also sell and issue these bonds. 
Contact Us

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