How to Transfer a Car Title
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A document that proves vehicle ownership is known as a car title — and you might need to know how to transfer a car title when buying or selling a car.
“A car title includes information such as the the full name and address of the owner, the model and year of the car, its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the mileage at the time it was purchased,” said Stephanie Bacak, certified financial planner at Capstone Global Advisors near Atlanta.
Let’s dive deeper into the various reasons you may want to transfer a car title and what you can expect from the process.
Why would you want to transfer a car title?
Transferring a car title is necessary any time you change information on the title for any reason. You’ll be required to transfer a car title if you sell or buy a car. If you pay off a loan, donate a vehicle, inherit a vehicle or transfer a vehicle to a family member, you’ll need to undergo the car title transfer process as well.
How to transfer a car title
Both the seller and buyer are involved in the process of transferring a car title. The seller releases rights to ownership by signing the car title, while the buyer typically brings the signed title to their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and receives a new one (though in some cases, you may be able to title your car with your county). Here’s a brief overview of how the car title transfer process typically works:
- Work with the dealer: If you buy a new car, the dealership and lender will usually take care of most of the title paperwork. The lender will keep the title until you pay off the auto loan. Once you’ve paid off the car, the title will be mailed to you.
- Collaborate with the private seller: In the event you buy a used car from a private seller, the seller will need to sign the title over to you. There are certain sections on the back of the title that you and the seller will need to sign.
- Visit the DMV: Once the title has been transferred, you’ll need to visit your state’s DMV to register the transfer. Although the documents you’ll need vary by state, most states require a bill of sale that reveals purchase price, proof that the title has been signed over to you, the VIN and the current reading on the odometer. Some states, including Kentucky, also require proof of insurance.
- Pay the fee: When you transfer a car title, expect to pay a fee. That fee may be anywhere from $20 to several hundred, depending on your state, you pay the title and registration fees plus any taxes your state or county may charge.
- Check names for accuracy: Proofread the name(s) on the car title to ensure everything is accurate. If you and your spouse are buying the car, think about how you’d like your names to appear. In some states, there may be a difference between stating the car belongs to Mary Doe and Tom Doe and Mary Doe or Tom Doe. If you’re buying a car and the title says Mary Doe or Tom Doe, only one of their signatures is typically required for Mary or Tom to sell it. If it says Mary Doe and Tom Doe, both of their signatures are typically required.
- Verify the VIN: The VIN must be correctly written on the title and match the VIN that is found on the windshield of the vehicle. Double check the VIN to make sure it’s accurate.
- Check with the DMV: The DMV in your state can help you determine which line needs to be signed and how to supply the proper information.
How to ensure a car title transfer goes smoothly
These tips can help you simplify the car title transfer process and avoid any delays.
- Use blue or black ink: When signing a car title, use blue or black ink so that your signature holds up over time.
- Refrain from using whiteout or crossing items: Using whiteout or crossing items may void your title and require you to apply for another one.
- Make sure your lender has signed off on your title: Before you try to sell your car or trade it in, it needs to be signed off on by your lender if you had a lien on it.
Other considerations when transferring a car title
It’s important to understand that the car transfer process and requirements vary from state to state. The DMV in your state can explain everything you need to complete the car title transfer process.
“Once you receive a car title, don’t keep it in your actual car. If someone were to steal your car, they’d have access to the title and would be able to keep or sell it. Keep your car title in a safe place so that it cannot be damaged, lost or stolen,” said Bacak.
The bottom line
If you follow the rules set forth by your state’s DMV, transferring a car title can be a relatively quick and easy process. In the event you have any specific questions, visit your DMV’s website or call them directly. Go here for a list of car purchase requirements by state.