A lien is a legal claim on an asset that is usually used as collateral to pay a debt. Liens are applied to a vehicle title when you first purchase it unless you pay the full cost with your own funds. A lien may also be placed on a vehicle if you refinance it.
Once you title your vehicle in Virginia, DMV will forward your title with the lien recorded to your lender (lienholder). You will receive the registration card and license plates if you have also registered the vehicle.
Obtaining Your Title After Paying Off Your Vehicle Loan
When you pay off your vehicle loan, the lender has 10 days to notify you and must send you the title showing your lien as satisfied.
Most lenders participate in DMV’s electronic lien program and will “release” the lien automatically, which triggers DMV to mail you a new title to your address listed in DMV records. This will be a “clean title” that states “no liens.” Call DMV if you don’t receive your title within seven business days of paying off your loan.
For lenders who don’t participate in the electronic lien program, the process works a little differently. The lender will manually release your lien by signing and dating the lien release section on the title and mail the title to you directly. When you receive the title, you need to visit a DMV customer service center to apply for a substitute title and have the lien removed from DMV records. If you do not get a substitute title at DMV, you’ll need to get a lien release letter from the lender and a new title from DMV if your title is ever lost or destroyed.
Inability to Obtain a Release of the Lien
If you are unable to obtain a lien release because the lender has gone out of business, or merged with or been taken over by another business, you must submit evidence of this, along with evidence that the lien has been satisfied. This includes: