New owners in the world of motorcycles are faced with a world quite different from that of cars.
While you can customize both vehicle types, it’s rare for a car to get a new frame.
This is not the case for a motorcycle, and that can sometimes mean additional steps need to be taken with regard to getting a proper title for a new motorcycle frame.
This article answers most-common questions about “motorcycle frames with & without titles”…
What Are Titles On A Motorcycle Frame?
The motorcycle frame title is the core identity of the motorcycle itself.
First, the title is the ultimate proof that you are the registered owner and keeper of that motorcycle.
Second, the motorcycle frame title acts in nearly all cases as the title for the entire bike.
The VIN is an important part of the title, too. A motorcycle frame without a VIN is essentially a frame without a title.
What Motorcycle Frames Come With Titles, And Which Ones Do Not?
Custom-built frames, aftermarket frames, and homemade motorcycle frames typically come with no title.
A new frame bought individually will typically arrive manufactured with no title on it. The only frame that will be titled is one that is manufactured and sold by an OEM, with the frame receiving the VIN stamp and thus arriving ready to be sold by a dealership as a titled motorcycle frame.
Do Motorcycles Need A Title?
Yes, for the most part, they do with very few exceptions.
Most states require all motorcycles to possess a title and full registration documents.
In California, miniature motorcycles are exempt, as are scooters.
Even if a title is not required by law, a title should be required by good consumer common sense.
What many riders and enthusiasts say is the same: never buy a motorcycle without a title.
The prevalence of this attitude prompts many to title their motorcycle whether they have a legal obligation to do so or not.
What To Do If You Bought A Motorcycle Frame Without Title?
If buying an entire motorcycle without a title, there are definitely risks involved, but when buying a frame, it is far less problematic.
The fact is that the majority of new frames when bought does not come with titles, so it is more like regular practice.
If you bought a motorcycle frame and it – as expected – doesn’t have a title, then you have to take the steps to apply for one.
What happens is that for most motorcycles, the frame title becomes the title for the whole bike.
Therefore, if you are replacing the frame on an existing bike, then you need to apply for a new title, and update the record/registration of your motorcycle with your local DMV.
Can You Get A Frame Title For A Motorcycle Without one – And How To Get It?
Yes, you can.
There are numerous steps to take, and it can feel like a laborious process at times, but it is possible.
Below we will reveal the general steps needed for those who have purchased a new frame with no VIN stamp and no title.
Exact procedures will vary somewhat from state to state, but overall this is the procedure you will need to follow:
Step 1: Prepare the bill of sale. Make sure you have the bill of sale for the new frame. There is no VIN on it yet, so that will be an important part of the process, too.
Step 2: Get on your state DMV website. Visit your state or local DMV website and get the forms needed for titling a motorcycle.
If you don’t want to do this portion online, you can get all the forms at the DMV itself.
Step 3: Prove that you own the engine and transmission.
This could be the original bill of sale for the motorcycle, or for the engine/transmission if you also bought them separately.
This will include a manufacturer’s certificate of origin.
Step 4: Apply for a new VIN.
This is the critical step when the frame is one that you have bought new.
As part of this process, the DMV will carry out a theft inspection on the bike to determine if it was stolen.
Step 5: Get safety and emissions inspections.
The bike’s tires, mirrors, horn, brakes, and other critical systems are tested for viability, and the emissions levels will be checked to ensure that they meet the standards of your home state.
Step 6: Ensure all steps are done and documentation is ready for final submission
- A completed title application
- Ownership proof documents like the bill of sale
- Smog check and safety check certificate
- Titling fee ($100 on average)
How Old Does A Motorcycle Have To Be To NOT Have A Frame Title?
Rules vary from place to place, even county to county, but in general, when a motorcycle is more than 15 years old it may be considered as eligible for no title being needed.
For bikes that are much older – what we would call classic or antique – they will get a registration receipt.
This receipt is all you need, and no additional titling is required on that bike.
If your bike predates 2000, then you can safely assume it doesn’t need a title.
If it is from 2005 onwards, it’s best to check with your DMV.
How Do You Get A Frame Title For An Old Motorcycle?
If you want to get a frame title on an older motorcycle, it is possible but will be more troublesome depending on the exact circumstances of your ownership. If you are the first and sole owner of the bike, and you have all the corresponding paperwork, you can apply for a title, as described above.
If you are purchasing an older motorcycle with a mind to modify or restore it in some way, including getting a new frame, then you can get around many of these problems by simply titling it using the new frame that you purchase.
Even using this method, however, you will need to prove that you own the rest of the bike.
Replacing the engine and transmission along with the frame can also solve this issue as you’ll have all receipts/bills of sale for purchases made for new equipment on the bike.
Having the original documentation is the easiest way to get a frame title for an old motorcycle.
How Much Does A Motorcycle Frame Title Cost?
On average, the cost of a frame title is the same as any other titling process, which is about $100 on average.
You should have a budget of $150 for this process, especially if it’s a customized motorcycle or one that you have built or rebuilt yourself.
The cost can come under $100 if you have purchased a replacement frame and are getting a new title on that and you have the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin on the frame.
Why Can You Not Sell A Frame With A Title? (Or Can You?)
There has been some confusion created with certain online selling platforms like eBay making rules that say sellers cannot sell a motorcycle frame with a title.
The confusion stems from the fact that most state laws require that you sell the frame with its title.
It’s different with brand-new frames since they come without VINs and titles as a default setting, but it’s not true of existing frames that have already been titled.
So, the idea that you can’t sell it with the title seems to conflict with some company’s policies and actual law in many states.
Are Harley Frame Titles Different Than Other Motorcycles?
Harley-Davidson used to print its motorcycle numbers on the engine but then later switched to putting them on the frames. This is rarely a problem but can create some confusion with law enforcement.
Imagine, for example, a 1945 Harley-Davidson frame that was part of a bike titled in 1975, then it will look odd to law enforcement.
A motorcycle titled “1975 Harley-Davidson” should have its number on the frame, but in this case, it wouldn’t because the frame is from 1945.
These kinds of errors have happened in real life and created problems for people.
Cheap Motorcycle Frames With Clean Titles
There are a number of sites, here in the US, through which you can explore options for purchasing affordable motorcycle frames with clean titles.
Below you’ll find a selection of sites:
Always explore the market and find sellers that are as open and transparent as possible.
It’s always a red flag when existing frames or whole bikes are sold with no title.
The absence of a title should only apply to brand-new frames.
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