If a person has repaired, furnished supplies/materials for, or towed or stored a vehicle and has not been paid for the services rendered, that person has a lien against the vehicle. The lien may be satisfied by getting a court judgment or by selling the vehicle through a lien sale process outlined in the California Civil Code (CCC). To conduct a lien sale, the person/lienholder must have possession of the vehicle.
Salvage pools and charitable organizations cannot conduct a lien sale to obtain title to a vehicle.
The lien arises (becomes effective) at the time the registered owner is presented with a written statement of charges for completed work or services. If, however, possession is the result of a public agency or private property impound, the lien arises when the vehicle is transported (towed).
The legal owner must be notified before the service may be performed if the amount of any repairs or service exceeds $1,500 or the storage charges exceed $1,025.
Before conducting a lien sale, the lienholder must determine the value of the vehicle. If the vehicle’s value is greater than $4,000, see the brochure HTVR 8, “How To: Conduct a Lien Sale for a Vehicle Stored at a Self-Service Storage Facility or Valued Over $4,000”. If the vehicle’s value is $4,000 or less (CCC §3072), the registered and legal owners of record will be notified by the party conducting the lien sale. Call 916-657-7617 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. if you have questions regarding lien sales.
Determine the current market value of the vehicle
If the vehicle value is $4,000 or less, follow the steps below. These lien sale procedures cannot be used for a:
- Vehicle valued over $4,000
- Lien incurred at a self-service storage facility
- Vessel and/or a vessel and trailer combination
- Mobile home as defined in the California Vehicle Code (CVC) §396 as a trailer coach more than 102 inches wide or more than 40 feet long.
To start a lien sale for a vehicle valued at $4,000 or less
Step 1. Finding the vehicle’s owner
Within 15 days of the date the lien sale arises, complete a Registration Information Request for Lien Sale (INF 1126) form and submit it to DMV. DMV will provide a vehicle history record with the registered and legal owner(s) of record and known interested parties. Owners identified from incomplete transfers are included as interested parties.
If there is a Vehicle License and Title “stop” on record, send a copy of the printout to the Lien Sales Unit (address below) with the lien sale possession date and the name and address of the person conducting the lien sale. The Lien Sales Unit will review the “stop” to determine if a lien sale can be processed. A letter will be mailed to the company/individual conducting the lien sale to advise if it is OKAY to proceed with the lien sale or not. If the lien sale cannot be conducted, contact information will be provided so that the necessary steps can be taken to remove the “stop” and proceed with the lien sale.
Improperly identified vehicles can invalidate a lien sale and require the lienholder to reapply for a lien sale even if the vehicle has been sold.
Step 2. Starting the sale process
At least 31 days, but no more than 41 days before the sale date (not counting the day the notice is mailed), send a Notice of Pending Lien Sale for Vehicle Valued $4,000 or Less (REG 668) by certified mail (return receipt requested)* or U.S. Postal Service Certificate of Mailing to all of the following:
- Registered owner(s)
- Legal owner(s)
- Any known interested parties
- * To DMV by certified mail only
Mail the REG 668 notice to each person listed above and enclose a return envelope pre-addressed to DMV.
If DMV has no record of this vehicle, you need to send only a REG 668 to each interested party known to you and one to the DMV at the following address:
Department of Motor Vehicles
Lien Sales Unit
PO Box 932317
Sacramento, CA 94232-3170
Step 3. Posting the sale notice
At least 10 days prior to, and including the sale date, a REG 668 must be posted in a conspicuous place at your business office. If the sale occurs at a place other than your business office, a REG 668 must be posted at the sale site. When posting the REG 668, fold the document so the registered owner, legal owner, and interested party addresses are not visible.
Step 4. Opposition to the lien sale
DMV will deny the lien sale or cancel the authorization requested by the lienholder (or its agent) in possession of the vehicle if it receives a declaration of opposition (part of the REG 668 form). In such cases, the lienholder may pursue continuing the lien sale by obtaining and submitting any of the following to DMV Lien Sales Unit:
- The original signed copy of a release of interest from the opposer. This can be a letter or Statement of Facts (REG 256)
- A copy of the court judgment with a copy of the plaintiff’s claim and Statement of Facts (REG 256) stating, “A court judgment has been received in the lienholder’s favor. It has been at least 35 days and no money has been received.”
- A completed and signed Application to Continue Lien Sale After Unsuccessful Service form (REG 659) and court documents.
After receiving the documents, DMV will send a letter allowing the sale to continue.
Step 5. Day of lien sale
On the sale date, the vehicle must be available for inspection at least one hour prior to the sale. A lien sale is a public auction. Anyone may appear and bid. Sealed bids are not allowed.
Step 6A. If you sell the vehicle
Complete the Certification of Lien Sale for Vehicle Valued $4,000 or Less (REG 168A) and give it to the buyer along with the DMV vehicle record history information (Step #1) and the postal receipts or the U.S. Postal Service Certificate of Mailing and Posting (Step #2).
If excess money is received from the sale of the vehicle, make a copy of the REG 168A and mail the form with the excess money to the Lien Sales Unit within five days of the sale date at the address shown on the REG 168A.
Remove and destroy the license plates on the vehicle.
Within five days, submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) to DMV.
Step 6B. If no one places a qualifying bid
Complete the Certification of Lien Sale for Vehicles Valued $4,
000 or Less (REG 168A) showing you as both the buyer and seller.
Remove and destroy the license plates on the vehicle. Within five days, submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) to DMV.
If you sell the vehicle later, you are required to give the new buyer a bill of sale with the lien sale documents.
Registering the vehicle after the lien sale
The following are required to register a vehicle sold at a lien sale:
- Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) completed and signed by the new owner
- Certification of Lien Sale for Vehicle Valued $4,000 or Less (REG 168A) completed by the lienholder with the DMV printout and postal receipts attached
- Printout of DMV record
- Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form-Odometer Disclosure Statement (REG 262), if applicable
- Smog Certification, if applicable
- Applicable registration and/or transfer fees and use tax
- Verification of Vehicle (REG 343), if there is no record of California registration.
If the vehicle registration expired while in your possession and you are a dealer, lessor-retailer, keeper of a garage, or operator of a towing service, the buyer has 20 days from the lien sale purchase date to pay registration fees without penalty, or pay a transfer fee and a planned non-operation fee. Otherwise, a planned non-operation must be filed prior to the vehicle expiration date or penalty fees are due.
If the vehicle came into your possession with an expired registration, the buyer must pay the registration fees and penalties.
Most vehicles require a smog inspection at the time of transfer. If applicable, provide a smog certification to the buyer.
The required forms are available online. To obtain a form by mail, call DMV automated phone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-777-0133. To speak to an operator, call between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday through Friday. To order a large quantity of forms, submit your request on letterhead, indicate the form(s) by number or form title, quantity needed, street address (not PO box) for delivery, and telephone number. Submit your request to:
DMV Materials Management Section
Inventory Control Operations
4201 Sierra Point Drive, Suite 112
Sacramento, CA 95834-1998
FAX (916) 928-7900
A token supply of these forms are also available at your local field office.
The lien sale process explained in this brochure is governed by California Civil Code §3072. Disputes between a lienholder and an interested party (including the registered owner or legal owner on the vehicle history records) are a civil matter that can only be decided in court and do not involve DMV.
The department can assist a lienholder by providing:
- The names and addresses of the registered owner, legal owner, and interested parties from our vehicle history records. (Information retrieved from our records is based on the vehicle identification provided by the lienholder.)
- Mailing of written approval to hold or conduct a lien sale based on the filing of specific documents or denial to a lien sale based on the filing of a Declaration of Opposition.
For registration fees, see the brochure Registration Related Fees (FFVR 34). Because fees are subject to change, visit our website at dmv.ca.gov for the most current information or call DMV toll free at 1-800-777-0133.