Can You Tow a Camper without a Title?

When you buy a vehicle, especially one that is big and expensive like a camper, it is always wise to check the title. A title gives you proof of ownership. It will also help you avoid potential problems when registering your new purchase with the relevant authorities.

© Action Towing Edmonton

If for some reason you do not have a title or other proper documentation proving that you are the owner of the camper, there may be ways around this obstacle.

This article will delve deeper into the subject of titles in relation to camper ownership. Keep reading.

Is It Illegal To Tow A Camper Without A Title?

The short answer is no. If you have the ownership papers, it is legal to tow a camper without a title.

What are your other options?

If you don’t have the original title, but have copies of sales receipts and other proof-of-ownership documents, you may have other avenues you could pursue to get an official copy of the title for your camper. It should also not be too difficult to obtain insurance coverage.

Why Is It Essential For A Camper To Have A Title?

If you do not own a vehicle, you probably do not give much thought to having documentation such as titles and registrations. However, they are vital in most States when it comes time to sell or trade your camping unit.

Granted, not everyone is in the market for buying or selling a used camper every month of the year. However, even if you intend on keeping your new house on wheels forever, there may be times that circumstances force you to get rid of it quickly and possibly at a deep discount because of its lack of registration papers.

Even if you are not planning to sell your any time soon, these documents could prove critical in case anything goes wrong with your unit and you need a tow truck to take it to a service station or body shop.

Sometimes, people discover that their camper has been stolen when they try to sell it and find out that the law prohibits them from doing so because of its lack of title.

If you have lost the papers for your camping vehicle, these documents can be restored by submitting an application for a replacement title along with other relevant paperwork such as receipts and proof-of-ownership forms at the DMV office in your State.

In some cases, even if you have all of the proper documentation memorized, certain States may refuse to register vehicles without titles because they find it themselves to keep track of this information.

The Legal Consequences of Acquiring a Camp without Title

© RV Life

1.       You can’t proof ownership

Without proof of ownership (title) or registration (also known as “pink slip”), it would be very hard for anyone trying to sell his/her RV (recreational vehicle). Therefore, if someone sells a camper without a title, it usually means that the person has no proof of ownership and is acting illegally.

2.       Difficult To Get Registration

Even if you have a signed statement from the former owner saying that you have bought his/her camper, it might not be enough. In some States, DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) may require more documents as proof of ownership prior to issuing new registration for an RV. For example, your State might require a bill of sale or an affidavit from the previous owner admitting that he/she sold his/her vehicle to you. If this documentation is missing, things could become more difficult.

3.       In Some States It May Be Illegal To Use It

In certain states, it can be illegal to use an RV (recreational vehicle) that has no registration. For example, in California, you may face misdemeanor charges for using your camper without proper registration.

4.       The Camper Is Deemed as Seller’s

Even if you manage to get the camp registered under your name, it does not mean that it is yours now. You still do not own it until you buy it by paying for all the expenses involved in the transaction (i.e., sales tax). If someone steals your camper and sells it back to you, technically speaking, this person still owns it until he/she receives payment from you.

5.       You Might Buy a Stolen Camper

If you buy a camper without title, it means that you are not the legal owner of the vehicle until you pay for it. If someone buys such a camper, he/she runs the risk of buying stolen property or simply donating to crime.

Why Would a Camper have no Title

While owning/towing a camper without title is not recommended, you may still find yourself in the possession of one without a title for various reasons as outlined below.

·         It’s An Old Camper

A small number of campers ever had titles issued by authorities. It is possible that your RV was built and sold before registration became mandatory in your State. This may be true even if your camper can’t be older than 5 years or so. Also, camping has been around since 1908 and about 20% of all RVs manufactured before 1978 never had titles issued for them at all. So this possibility should not be ignored.

·         Lack of Regulations Knowledge

Sometimes people simply do not know that you need to get a title for your camper and any other documentation proving ownership prior to transferring the title into your name. This is especially true if you live in a State where getting a title and registering RVs (recreational vehicles) is more of an option than obligation or requirement.

·         Loss of Paperwork for the Title

Even if you did get a registration at some point, it does not mean that you will never lose it again. If this happened before, get another copy immediately. A registration (also known as “pink slip”) was issued with a specific expiration date so when this date passes, your registration becomes invalid.

·         Bought From unauthorized Personnel

Oftentimes people want to save money and therefore buy a used camper from an unauthorized RV dealer or a private individual who does not have a valid registration for his/her unit. In both cases, the seller must provide the title as proof of ownership prior to selling his/her camper.

This usually means that someone bought this vehicle illegally and is now trying to sell it without proper documentation because he/she doesn’t have them anymore. If you end up buying such a camper, you could be in trouble with local authorities very soon.

·         DIY Camper

Some people decide to use old truck chassis for building their campers. They remove the old truck body and then mount their own camper on top of it. Since they just mounted a camper on an old frame there is no title issued for the whole unit since the new camper has no VIN (vehicle identification number) of its own. If you decide to get this kind of home-made unit registered, your State Department of Motor Vehicles might require some proof that it was legally built in first place.

Can I Get A Used Camper Without A Title?

© Kempoo

The short answer is no – most states require their titles even if they are not using them for registration purposes. There really isn’t any reason why someone would want to buy a used camper without one of these since it makes it impossible to get insurance or register at least. You also will need this document if you ever decide to get rid of the camper. Nevertheless, there are still some ways how to get one if you really want to do so.

·         You need to find out what kind of renovations the previous owner made (if any) and get an exact estimate on your own. Then, take this information with you when applying for title in person.

·         The DMV might decide that the unit is not registered because it was rebuilt using parts from more than one original vehicle, or because it has missing VIN plates or numbers. If that’s the case, you’ll need an inspection report authorized by somebody who works for a local police station. They will declare on paper whether changes were done properly and on their official letterhead they will state “this unit is roadworthy and legal to drive”.

·         If you can provide two valid proofs of ownership (for example, if you still have the title documents for both your old camper and its chassis), in some States it is possible to get a replacement certificate without paying any fees.

·         If none of these options works for you, you can always try asking someone who works at the DMV what other options are open to you. Just keep in mind that whatever they might say, all administrative procedures must be completed by following their strict regulations. And don’t expect them to give up much information over the phone or through email because they’ll want everything in writing so they won’t risk getting in trouble later on.

·         Make sure to get everything in writing and on official letterhead – even if it is a verbal explanation over the phone.

·         It’s almost impossible to get a title for an old camper without one (if you do not own it) unless you have above mentioned proofs of ownership with vehicle ID number, etc.

·         If you have a copy of the original documents that got lost, bring them with you when applying for a replacement. You might also want to take a photocopy just in case.

·         Make sure that the DMV officer is informed about all your previous dealings regarding your camper so they can check their database. Otherwise, they will have no option but to ask somebody from within the DMV can access such data or refer to the Federal Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

·         Finally, make sure that if you get one or more of your documents (for example, the inspection report) back by mail, do not lose them again. The DMV can issue replacements but it is very unlikely that they will do so more than once.

Good luck with all your future transactions and remember that buying a second hand camper without title is not only illegal according to various State laws – it also makes you a target for all sorts of criminals. You might be ripped off or get into trouble with the law because of something that happened in the past.

How to Get a Title for your Camper

Most States issue titles only to vehicles that are currently registered with them. So, if you buy an old vehicle (and most campers are considered “old” after 20 years), the DMV wants to make sure that you still have the right to use it. In many States, when a recently manufactured camper with an attached title goes through a major renovation project that changes its appearance considerably, the DMV considers the unit as a whole new vehicle and issues a new title in addition to your original registration documents.

First, determine whether your camper has a VIN, which would indicate that it was made after 1977 and therefore requires a title. If not then you are clear to go. If yes, do not worry about using the vehicle without registration right away. Just get in touch with DMV and explain your situation… Make sure there are no outstanding fines or tickets on this vehicle first. Moreover, if the title is not available at this moment then give the DMV a statement that you will submit it within 30 days.

Then, gather all your official documents together and go to DMV with the vin number on the camper. In some States, they would require a bill of sale from when you bought it or maybe not depending on your State laws and policies at this moment. If you do not have one, then try to explain everything in detail.

Of course, if possible, get pre-approval from the DMV before starting a trip to transfer a used title into your name, but make sure that you’re 100% certain about this seller’s identity and situation (if there’s no insurance or registration for this camper then maybe it’s stolen).

Some countries do not have a DMV system at all, but I cannot say anything about them for now. However, if you follow the procedure from your State laws and policies then there should not be any problem with getting a title.

Bear in mind that it might take up to 30 days even for a pre-approved process. And without one you should probably think twice before using such a camper off-road or on roads (and don’t forget, registration and insurance is not only important for traveling but also for proving your identity in case of an unexpected stop etc.)

If you want to get into more detailed info then try searching online for your State DMV website, but the summary of this information is that you should always contact and follow their policies in order to get a title and registration before using any camper without them.

Therefore, I hope it is clear now what to do when buying an old used camper with or without title.

When Will My Title Expire?

© The Spruce

The validity of titles varies from State to State, but many follow the same general rules about timing. Titles issued in the United States are often good for several years before they must be renewed. Most car registrations expire annually, so if you purchase insurance for your vehicle on an annual basis, you do not need to worry about renewing your registration or riding around without proof that it’s valid.

If you have no reason to suspect that your vehicle has lost its original documentation and you want to avoid trouble at tax time, you should be proactive and renew your documents promptly once they approach expiration. It is advisable not to wait until just weeks before the expiration date because the DMV may take weeks or months to process your request.

If you are not in a rush to renew your registration, there is no penalty for waiting until the last minute before submitting your renewal application, which you can do online or in person at an office of your State’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, if you try to renew in person on the same day that your documents expire, you may be forced to wait until the next business day in order for DMV employees to process it.


Although some campers may lack titles for reasons mentioned in this article, it is a requirement to acquire a title for your camper. Legally, you can tow it without the title as long as you have the legal documentations of ownership, but still you are going to need the title to prove ownership in case of incidences such a theft or for insurance purposes.

All in all, just ensure to process the title before towing or using your camper to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law and to shield your property against theft.

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