If you purchase a vehicle with a lien, the lien must be paid or lienholder permission obtained before you can transfer the title into your name.
A service is available on AZMVDNow.gov to check for liens and unresolved financial obligations on an Arizona titled vehicle.
Liens fall into two general categories: financial liens and other liens.
Financial liens either appear on the front of the paper title or are held electronically and are generally for a defined period of time.
Liens on Paper Certificates of Title
If a lien is on a paper title, it will appear in the space marked "Lienholders." When the lien is paid/satisfied, the vehicle owner receives a "lien release" from the lender. The owner may take the lien release to an MVD or Authorized Third Party office to obtain a new title or give the buyer the signed and notarized title with a lien release from the lender.
Electronic Lien and Title
An electronic lien and title (ELT) is an electronic method by which MVD and authorized lienholders exchange essential vehicle, lien and title information. Lienholders are required to perfect or release liens electronically using the current ELT process through an approved ELT service provider. This process eliminates the need for printing and mailing individual paper titles. Once the lien has been satisfied, a lienholder sends an electronic message releasing the lien. MVD then forwards the title to the vehicle owner or to the next lienholder of record. This method results in faster service to vehicle owners.
If you fail to meet the conditions of the loan and fail to return the vehicle to the lienholder, a lienholder may initiate a suspension of the vehicle’s registration. When the vehicle’s registration is suspended, the vehicle should not be driven on roadways. Because of the suspended vehicle registration, other registration and titling services for the vehicle will be prevented until the lienholder has removed registration suspension.
Other liens can be added electronically and are not shown on the title. They are not for a defined period of time and can be added or deleted at any time. For example, if a vehicle owner owes child support fees (Child Support lien) or court fines/fees (Operation of Law lien), a lien can be placed on the vehicle record that prevents the title from being transferred to a new owner until those fines/fees are paid. These liens must be paid before you can transfer the title into your name.
Protecting Yourself from Purchasing a Vehicle with a Lien
Check for liens and unresolved financial obligations on an Arizona titled vehicle online.
The buyer and seller should go to an MVD or Authorized Third Party office together to transfer the title. Many third-party offices are open evenings and weekends.
Do not pay for the vehicle until you have verified the title can be transferred.
Please note: New liens are added to vehicles every day; therefore, you are taking a risk if you check the record and pay for the vehicle a later time.
See also the page Buying a Vehicle.