- Since 1981, federal law states that all motor vehicles are to be titled and must have a 17 digit VIN. This applies to all vehicles built for the 1981 model year and up.
- When buying a frame for any bike that has a frame number on it, you need to get the title (or registration if it came from a state that did not have titles in place at the time. For example, NY didn't have any titles of any kind until 1973). A copy of the title or a bill of sale is not sufficient proof of ownership according to federal law. The exception to this is any vehicle that did not have frame/chassis numbers, such as 1969 and older Harley Davidson.
- When buying an engine for a bike that had frame numbers, a notarized bill of sale and a copy of the title or registration should be obtained from the seller. Again, the exception to this is any vehicle with no frame numbers, such as 1969 and older Harley Davidson. For those, you need the title or registration, depending on what was considered proof of ownership at the time it was last titled or registered.
- There are some states that do not adhere to federal law, so check with your local DMV office before buying anything with numbers on it to make sure you get the proper paperwork for registration purposes. Every state also has a website for their Department of Motor Vehicles, and most have a Frequently Asked Questions page which may or may not have the information you need.
- You may end up with a "Special Construction" title which is named differently in just about every state, but once the state gives you a number on your bike, you should never be hassled by any cop over it (notice I said "should", cops are people too and there are some real stupid ones out there).
- Keep one thing in mind. Having the wrong paperwork or mismatched numbers on your bike is the fastest way to lose it. The last thing you want is to see something you put your heart and soul into on the back of a wrecker. They do not take into consideration that this is your baby, they only see it as evidence and treat it as such (which is not very good care for it, I might add).
- Here is a website that lists all (or most) 50 states' DMV websites: CLICK HERE
- Want to check on your Harley's VIN to see what your bike is supposed to be? CLICK HERE
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