How to Transfer a Car Title


The purchase or sale of a vehicle requires transferring its title, the document that confers ownership. It is issued by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A vehicle's title states what type of car it is, its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the mileage at time of purchase. Although it might sound complicated, transferring a title is a simple two-step process. The owner releases his/her ownership, then the buyer transfers the title and registers the car. There's usually a fee involved. Depending on the state, a bill of sale or transfer of ownership form may be required to finalize the transaction, and sometimes the signatures have to be notarized.


There are several instances when transferring a car title is required. These are some:
  • Selling or buying a car
  • Paying off a loan
  • Transferring a vehicle to a family member
  • Inheriting a vehicle
  • Gifting or donating a vehicle


If you buy a car from a dealer, they often handle the paperwork. If it's a private party sale, the owner signs the title releasing his/her ownership and then the buyer signs and takes it to the DMV to apply for a Certificate of Title for a Vehicle: a state-issued registration under the new owner’s name; this may entail a fee.


Generally, the lienholder takes care of the removing his/her name from the title, signs the release and mails it to the individual. Once again, the owner takes the release to the DMV for processing and usually pays a fee.


If you qualify as a “family” buyer, you may be able to avoid taxes when transferring your title. "Family" usually includes spouses, partners, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. Family members follow the same two-step process as in a regular private party transaction.


Establishing the legality to inherit a car may call for proof of such relationship whether birth certificates or a will. In some cases, it is best to consult a probate attorney. 


The same two-step process follows after signing a Gift Affidavit for a motor vehicle transference. According to the IRS, if the gift is made to a charitable organization, then it is exempt from taxes.


Along with updating your driver’s license and registering to vote, the moving process also requires that you register your vehicle in the new state of residence. Fees will have to be paid, but you may be eligible to request a registration fee refund from your previous state. These are the documents required when titling your car in a new state:
  • A title under your name
  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of insurance coverage
  • Depending on the state: pass an emissions test or smog check and a vehicle safety inspection 


Title transference has to take place within 20 - 30 days (depending on the state) of a vehicle’s purchase. If you wait longer, you may have to pay a penalty.
New residents are required to register their vehicle(s) within 20 - 30 days of establishing residency. This happens when any of the following take place:
  • Begin working in the state
  • Register your children for a state school
  • Establish state residency through rental, lease, or purchase of an apartment or house
  • Apply for state documents: driver’s license or voter’s registration


Schedule your DMV visits at the most convenient times:
Avoid lunch hours (Noon - 2 pm), Mondays or Fridays, as well as the first and last days of the month and the day before a holiday.
While in the process of transferring the title of your car, it might be an excellent time to study the car insurance options available to you. Call us for a free quote today at 1-800-INFINITY or Click Here for a free quote today!


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