Short Liens (Under $4000)

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 as outlined in the California Civil Code. To conduct a lien sale, the person/lienholder must have possession of the vehicle.


NOTE: A salvage pool 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. However, if 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 $750 or the storage charges exceed $400 ($500 for vehicles valued over $4,000).


If the vehicle value is $4,000 or less, follow the steps below. These lien sale procedures cannot be used for a:

In This Section

arrow arrow

Contact Us

Middleman Liens

PO Box 675


CA 94044



Tel:(650) 557-0500

Email: [email protected]

social_facebook_box_blue social_rss_box_orange social_twitter_box_blue arrow arrow arrow arrow

The following items are required to register a vehicle sold or retained at lien sale.


Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) completed and signed by the new owner.

Certification of Lien Sale (REG 168) completed and signed by the lienholder or agent.

A copy of the letter from DMV authorizing the lien sale, with the postal receipts attached.

Verification of Vehicle (REG 343), if there is no California registration record.

Smog certification, if applicable.

Applicable registration and/or transfer fees and use tax.

Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form – Odometer Disclosure Statement (REG 262) is required for vehicles less than 10 years old.

Other documents as needed, such as bill(s) of sale.


NOTE: Many times a vehicle that is involved in a lien sale is not currently registered. If the vehicle registration expired while in your possession, the new owner has 20 days from the lien sale purchase date to pay registration fees without penalties, or to file a certification of planned non-operation. The buyer may be subject to registration fees and penalties in other instances. The lienholder should advise the buyer in writing of any fees that may be required to register the vehicle.


Most vehicles require a smog inspection at the time of transfer. If applicable, provide a smog certification to the buyer.

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.

arrow arrow arrow arrow sanfrancisco skyline