Contact the entity that loaned you the money to buy the car, be it a bank, loan company, etc. If the selling dealer personally loaned you the money then you need to speak to your local DMV and see what you need to do if you cannot contact the seller.
A lien title means that the car has a loan against it. If you do not have a "clear" or non lien title, the lender who hold the clear title can and does have the right to get the balance of the loan from you. The purpose of the lien title is to enable the car buyer to get the legal requirement for driving the car from the state. It's like renting the car in essence; the lien title is almost like the lease agreement for an apartment.So if a lien title is all there is...don't buy the car. It's not his to sell.Somebody has to settle the lien before you can legally own or register the vehicle.
A lien holder on a car title or car loan just means that person is the full owner of the car. If your car gets totalled or goes into default, the lien holder can retrieve the car from you because they have full ownership of the car. Lien Holders are used for lending purposes. This means the lien holder has no liability responsibility. The registered person on the car is required to have liability coverage on the car according to law and not hold the lien holder liability on the car if the car gets damaged or totaled. Lien Holder means they fully own the vehicle until the loan is paid off.
At minimum, you must satisfy (pay off) the lien. Talk to a dealership---NOT the one you plan to do business with, but call a different one---they can give you information. When you go to sell the car, keep in mind the lien amount in your overall price you want for the car. Make sure you get paperwork when you pay off the lien.
I would be very leery to purchase anything from anybody while there's still a lien attached. As you probably know, this entitles the lien holder their right to however much was loaned against the vehicle, which must be cleared at the time of title transfer. The dealer should have taken care of this when they purchased the car from the prior owner. Assuming the vehicle is worth pursuing, try making an arraignment with the dealer where they will allow you to accompany them to the lien holder's business, at which point the bill can be settled. Under no circumstances should you pay for the car without them first taking care of the lien.
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