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selecus 13 Sep 2011 15:57

Title vs Registration - Please explain :)

I'm in Canada; my bike is currently financed from the dealer and of course registered in my name. I'm in Quebec and have never come across the term 'Title' before. Based on what I've read, this means proof of ownership, but isn't that the same as my registration paper which has my name and bike info on it.

I'm doing a ride down south in a few months, is my registration paper going to be sufficient to cross borders and prove ownership? I just don't understand why it matters to say the Mexico authorities whether I owe money on my bike. What exactly does a 'Title' state that registration does not?

I've heard different things and hoping someone can clarify this for me. I can pay of the bike in full, but am paying next to no interest and could use that money elsewhere...

Thanks in advance!

PanEuropean 13 Sep 2011 17:13


Originally Posted by selecus (Post 348939)
...have never come across the term 'Title' before. Based on what I've read, this means proof of ownership, but isn't that the same as my registration paper which has my name and bike info on it.

Yes, you are correct, the two words (title & registration) are generally considered to mean the same thing. In Canada, we tend to use the word 'registration' (or perhaps 'ownership'), in the United States, they tend to use the word 'title'.

In the province of Ontario, the 'registration' document (also referred to as the 'ownership' document) is given to you by the motor vehicle office as one single piece of paper that is perforated down the middle and can be split into two parts. One part is considered the 'ownership' part, it lists who the vehicle is registered to, and has provision on the bottom for signing it if you want to transfer the ownership to another person. The other part is called the 'plate' portion and it contains the record of renewal of the licence plate stickers.

Normally, the document is not split apart, but in certain cases (for example, when the vehicle is owned by a leasing company, and not by the person who drives it and who pays for the licence plate each year), the 'owner' will retain the ownership portion, and the person who uses the vehicle will retain the plate portion. The person who uses the vehicle is normally given a photocopy of the ownership portion to keep together with the plate portion. This allows the driver to show the complete document to police if asked, but because they don't have the original copy of the ownership side, they can't sell the car or re-register it to another owner.


After having said all that - I am presently riding my Ontario-plated motorcycle around in Europe, I have both portions of the registration document, and that is all that I need to prove that I own the motorcycle. I am pretty sure that the same concept applies to other provinces.


PanEuropean 13 Sep 2011 17:21

Just a follow-up remark:

You mentioned that you still owe money for the vehicle. I presume that is in the form of a loan from a bank or from a vehicle financing company. If that is the case, then that has nothing whatsoever to do with your ownership and registration of the vehicle.

The vehicle is most probably registered in your name (check the document), so far as your loan is concerned, that is a civil matter between you and the organization that loaned you the money - it has nothing whatsoever to do with your ownership of the vehicle. It is probable that the organization that loaned you the money has registered a lien on the motor vehicle with your provincial government - in other words, there is a note on the file recording your ownership of the vehicle that indicates that the title cannot be transferred to anyone else until the lien is removed - but that is likely of no interest to anyone at a border crossing point.

However - if you still do owe money on the vehicle, you might want to check the fine print of your loan agreement. It is quite possible that there is a clause in the loan agreement that states that you cannot take the vehicle out of the United States or Canada without prior permission of the organization that loaned you the money. This is because that organization would have a hard time enforcing their lien outside of the USA or Canada. But, again, that is an entirely civil matter.


motoreiter 14 Sep 2011 05:33

Pan European's comments might be correct in Canada or Europe, but are incorrect in relation to the US.

Most (actually as far as I know, ALL) US states have two separate documents for vehicles, a title and a registration. Title indicates ownership; if you owe money on the vehicle, often you will not receive the title until the money has been repaid. The title has no expiration date, because if you own the vehicle, you own it.

Registration shows that the vehicle has been properly, well, "registered" with the state to allow it to be driven on public roads. This basically means that all necessary inspections have been done, taxes or duties paid, etc. In other words, registrations have an expiration date (usually 1-3 years, and to renew it you have to show that all formalities have been complied with, including safety inspections, license plates, etc.).

It is very possible that a person will have title to the vehicle, but no valid registration, so maybe they are rebuilding it, etc, and won't be driving it around. Conversely, you might have a registration, but no title, because the vehicle is being financed.

Hope that is clear. Each us state is a bit different, but the general explanation above should give you the idea.

selecus 14 Sep 2011 05:46

All great points and very logical, but my question is, is registration enough to cross through multiple borders in Central and South America. I'm not really sure why customs would be interested in the title, as all financing arrangements are between the rider and financial institution...

Are both documents actually necessary? On our registration here in Quebec, all it says is the VIN, the plate, and "Registered to owner" follwowed by my name. Should this be sufficient?

Thanks again...

markharf 14 Sep 2011 06:44

Motoreiter gets the prize (from Moscova, no less). In the USA, title indicates ownership; registration indicates current payment of taxes, number plate, and whatever else is required by a given state, which varies greatly. When I started owning cars and trucks back in the Middle Ages or so, some states issued titles while others did; I don't know whether that's still true.

If you'd done a search on this site, you'd have come across all sorts of discussions of whether titles are necessary in Latin America. Some say no, never; others say yes, always. I've been through borders without ever showing my title, but when I go on line to tell people this others jump in to say that they crossed at the same spot a month or two later and needed to present their title.

My conclusion is that a title is a handy thing to have....once in a while. I've actually needed mine twice AFAIR, in a hundred or more border crossings. On those two occasions, I was glad I had it. I also carry authentic documents in addition to the laminated color photocopies I use at borders and traffic stops; every so often I'm glad I've got them too, though usually no one notices or cares. Same deal.

The fact that at least some and maybe all Canadian provinces don't issue separate documents must not present much of a problem, since Canadians routinely ride bikes to and from Ushuaia and other places. If you're carrying whatever your locality issues to prove ownership of the bike, you'll have no trouble at borders. If you don't carry it--maybe because you can't see why they would require it--you'll run into trouble sooner or later. Could be right away, could be ten years down the road. Do you feel lucky?

Hope that's helpful.


Bennett 14 Sep 2011 11:33

Plato Number
Hi Selecus,
On my ride down through Mexico-Central America and South America in 2007, I only had the title of my US registered bike,no rego papers,every border wanted my plate number(PLATO?),which is not displayed on title paper.Caused delays at the crossings.
My experience.
Regards Ben

selecus 17 Sep 2011 14:34

Thank you everyone for all the input, I spoke to someone from Quebec that did the trip, they were fine with the registration paper which we get here in this province. It has all the relevant information required. So it's all good!


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