how to read an az title
Arizona titles require that the seller’s signature be notarized on the back of the title in order for the transfer to take place!
Any alterations (scribbles, whiteout, etc.) will invalidate your document, and a new document from the seller would have to be obtained.
Check the front of the title carefully. Look at the VIN number (located at top of title) and odometer (usually around the middle) and ask yourself the following questions:
Does it look like the numbers have been altered or erased?
Has there been a spill that has blurred the numbers?
Does it look like different fonts have been used to type up different sections of the title?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you should walk away from the sale. Altering vehicle titles is against the law. If the title does in fact turn out to be altered, you will not be able to get the vehicle put into your name. Additionally, you may lose money, and you might be stuck dealing with the repercussions of having an illegally altered title.
Make sure to check the BRANDS section (usually next to the odometer) on the front of the title as well! This is another section people like to try to erase off of a title. Also be aware that if it says SALVAGE or DISMANTLE you will NOT be able to legally drive this vehicle until you receive a level 2 or 3 inspection from the state.
Another important thing to look at is how the owner’s names are separated on the title (if the vehicle has more than one owner). This will impact how the title will need to be signed off on the back.
If there is an “AND” separating the owner’s names then they will BOTH need to sign off on the back of the title.
If one of the owners is deceased, then you still have options. The vehicle may either have to go through probate, or the other owner may have to claim non-probate. In cases involving probate, a Personal Representative appointed by the court will have to sign the title or the title transfer bill of sale, in place of the deceased. The original or certified true and exact copies or the Personal Representative must be present at the time of the transaction in order for it to be valid.
If the owner’s names are separated by “OR” then only one owner is required to sign the back of the title. This is generally considered to be the least complicated form of ownership, as either owner has full authority to sell the without the other present.
If “AND/OR” separates the owners names, BOTH owners will have to sign the back of the title. “AND/OR” functions essentially like “AND” status, with the “OR” representing each owner’s rights of survivorship. Upon the death of one owner the surviving owner may take title using a death certificate for the deceased owner. They can also choose to sell by signing the back of the title and providing the buyer with a certified copy of the death certificate.
At the bottom section of the title there is a Lienholder section. Either an individual or a business may be the lienholder of the vehicle. If a lien does appear in this section, either the bottom “LIEN RELEASE” section of the title must be filled out or a Notarized Lien Release with the vehicle’s information must be included with the title.
One exception to this rule is if the lien is over 12 years old, it is no longer valid. This exception, however, applies to vehicles ONLY. It does not apply to trailers, travel trailers, motor homes or mobile homes. Rules concerning out of state titles may vary.
Last but not least, check the back of the title. As previously mentioned, Arizona titles MUST be signed by the owner(s) and notarized! No alterations or cross-outs may be made to the signatures or notary section. Any alterations of this kind will void out the title and a notarized ‘Bill of Sale’ will be needed.
If there are multiple owners, make sure that every signature is accounted for!
It is also important to check the notary section for errors. We have seen many cases where the notary’s signature is present, but the owner’s is absent. Sometimes a notary will stamp a document, but forget to sign it. You WILL be turned away and be required to contact the seller if either one of these signatures are missing.
For more information about buying a vehicle, check out this page!