How to Get a Bonded Title in California in 4 Steps

How to Get a Bonded Title in California in 4 Steps

*Updates were made to this post on December 29, 2021.

A bonded title refers to the type of title needed from the Department of Motor Vehicles when the owner of a vehicle does not have access to the vehicle’s original title. Bonded titles are only required in California if the owner of a car does not have a title in their name and has no way of obtaining one as pursuant to 13 CCR §152.00.  This code states that “a motor vehicle owner applying for a California certificate of title without the required supporting evidence of ownership may submit a California title bond as authorized under Vehicle Code section 4157.” It’s also referred to as a motor vehicle ownership surety bond. 

A bonded title is unnecessary if the owner of a vehicle loses the title or has the title stolen as long as the title is in the owner’s name. In addition, a California bonded title is the best solution if he or she bought a vehicle in a private sale and the seller:

  • Did not provide a title certificate

  • Supplied a defective (altered, improperly assigned, or illegible) title

  • Provided a valid title, but it was lost or stolen before the vehicle was registered in your name. For lost or stolen titles, the applicant will need to fill out Form REG227 to get a new title. California requires bonded titles to protect the state against any dubious activity by the vehicle owner that could result in a financial loss.

How to get a bonded title in California

Step 1: Fill out a title application and the corresponding forms

The first step in getting a bonded title in California is to fill out an application on the DMV website. A REG 5057 application form is acceptable for a:

  • Vehicle or vessel when regular evidence of ownership is unobtainable and a bond is required, including a vehicle or vessel from another state or country.

  • Vessel, provided the REG 5057 correctly identifies the vessel, has a rider attached covering the vessel, and is issued by an admitted surety insurer authorized to do business in California by the Department of Insurance.

Applicants must provide information about the vehicle’s owner, odometer, and cost. The owner must also complete a Statement of Facts form that provides information about the price of the vehicle, the seller of the vehicle, its tax value, when it was purchased, and smog standards. If the vehicle is valued at $5,000 or more, the state requires an application signed by the surety title company that is providing the title bond.

 Depending on the specific details of your situation, you may also need to provide:

  • An odometer statement 

    • If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, an odometer statement will need to be submitted. If the vehicle will not be operated on any California road or freeway, a certificate of non-operation will need to be filled out as well.

  • A Weight Certificate (for a vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds or less empty) or a Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (for a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds)

  • A Certificate of Non-Operation (if the vehicle will not be operated on any road or freeway in California)

  • Proof of vehicle insurance

  • An out-of-state title (if transferring the title to California)

  • An out-of-state registration (the DMV will also accept registration renewal or letter showing registration from the DMV in the last state where the vehicle was registered)

  • Fees

    • Payment for the registration fee is $58. The California Highway Patrol fee is $25 and can be made out to the owner’s local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Step 2: Get the vehicle inspected by a DMV representative

Next, the vehicle must undergo an inspection by an authorized DMV representative. The DMV representative will fill out this form to ensure the vehicle meets the standards set up by the state of California and has the correct VIN information. In addition, the DMV representative will inspect and ensure the car passes CHP inspection, smog, brake, and light checks.

Step 3: Get the vehicle appraised to determine the value

After filling out the necessary forms, the vehicle’s fair market value must be determined by either a licensed auto dealer or by using a website like Kelley Blue Book or NADA. If it is determined that the vehicle has multiple appraisal amounts, the average between them will be used to determine the value of the vehicle. This step cannot be skipped because the bond must be obtained for the fair market value of the vehicle or vessel.

Step 4: Get a surety bond for a bonded title

After determining the fair market value of the vehicle, the applicant may begin the process of getting a surety bond. According to the California DMV Chapter 23 of the Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual, a bond form (will need to provide any DBA names of the business entity) or a bond alternative must be submitted when the required supporting evidence of ownership is not available and at least one of the following conditions exist: 

  • Value of the vehicle is $5,000 or more

  • Value of the vessel is $2,000 or more

  • Vehicle is nontransferable

  • A release from the legal owner/lien holder cannot be obtained

SuretyBonds.com makes the process of obtaining a California defective title bond seamless by allowing the bond to be purchased securely online. The bond amount is equal to the appraisal value of the vehicle. Most California title bonds can be issued instantly for $10 per $1,000 of coverage, starting at $100. However, if the amount of the bond is above $25,000, the bond will be underwritten and the financial history of the applicant will be evaluated to determine the price of the bond.

After getting a surety bond, the applicant should submit it to the DMV. Once the bond is accepted, the applicant will be issued a bonded title from the DMV. It could take as little as one week or as long as four weeks.

The graphic below summarizes the main four steps involved in the California bonded title process.

Complete application and corresponding forms, get your vehicle inspected and appraised, get your surety bond.

NOTE: The three- and five-year periods start from the date the original bonded title was issued and does not start over if the title is transferred into someone else’s name. Once the period ends, the current owner must go to the DMV and apply for a clean title.

Need more information about surety bonds?

The experts at SuretyBonds.com are available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. Give us a call at 1 (800) 308-4358 or, if you’re ready to get bonded, visit our California certificate of title page to buy your bond online in minutes.

About the Author

Jon Gottschalk
Jon Gottschalk is the Senior Marketing Director for Suretybonds.com and regularly blogs at the Surety Bond Insider to keep consumers informed on new legislation and updates in the commercial surety industry. He is also a licensed property & casualty insurance producer in Missouri.