How to Transfer a Car Title

Posted by Frank Gogol

Buying a car is an exciting journey! However, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to keep track of all of the admin that goes along with the decision.

You may have heard about the “pink slip” – the car’s title. But what is a title? And how do you transfer a car title when you are privately buying a car?

Car titles are important documents because they are official proof of who owns a car. When someone sells a car, they must transfer the title to the new owner. Transferring a car title usually involves signing the old title so the buyer can have a new title issued in their name.

Here we take a closer look at how to transfer a car title

What Is a Car Title?

Before considering how to transfer a car title, it’s important to first understand what a car title is.

A car title is a legal proof of who owns a car. In the past, a car title was also called the “pink slip”, although now it isn’t always pink anymore. Regardless of its color, the title is issued by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Along with indicating who owns the car, the car title also includes the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), what type of car it is, and the mileage at the time of sale.

If you are buying or selling a car, one of the most important steps is transferring the car’s title. The seller must know how to transfer a car title so the new owner can legally complete the registration process. 

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How a Car Title Transfer Works

Transferring a car title consists of two steps – one for the seller and one for the buyer.

The seller has to release ownership of the car by signing the title. The buyer then takes the signed title to the DMV. The state will issue a new registration and title in the name of the new owner. It is only at this point that the buyer legally owns the car.

When you are buying a new car, the dealer will handle the paperwork. You will usually receive the vehicle title from your state’s DMV in the mail. When you are buying or selling a car privately, it is up to you to transfer the car’s title

What You Need to Complete a Car Title Transfer

The requirements for transferring a car title vary by state. Some states might require additional paperwork to complete the transfer of a car title.

Here are the basics on how to transfer a car title:

Before you start the process, do your homework. It’s easy to make simple mistakes during the transfer process that will cost you time in the long run. Check with your state’s DMV which line you are supposed to sign on. Call or go online to verify the documents you’ll need before you go to transfer the title. Also, make sure how to supply the correct information once you get to the DMV. Check what fees or taxes you will have to pay and have the money ready.

All of these will make transferring your car’s title much easier and the process much smoother.

How to Transfer a Car Title

Transferring a car title is usually fairly straightforward.

For the seller, the first step is to look at how your name is listed on the car’s title. If your name alone is printed on the title, this means you are the only owner and can easily transfer ownership.

The seller will release their ownership of the vehicle by signing the existing car title. Do your homework to ensure you sign on the correct “dotted line” on the title.

Once the owner of the car has signed the title, the buyer can take the signed title to the appropriate state office to have a new title issued in their name.

Depending on the state you’re in, you may have to complete additional information such as your car’s odometer reading, the buyer’s name, contact information, sale price, etc. Do your homework to ensure you have all of the information as required by your state before trying to transfer the car’s title.

More Complicated Car Title Transfers

There are some situations in which it’s slightly more complicated to transfer a car title.

In some cases, a car is owned jointly by two people. In this case, there are two ways the vehicle title can be written. The two names might have been written with an “or” between them. This generally means either person can sign the title when transferring a car title. 

Alternatively, the two names might have been written with an “and” between them. This generally means both parties have to sign the title to release ownership. In some states, the signatures need to be witnessed by a notary. Check your state’s rules before signing.

If you have a car loan, your lender may be holding the car’s title. In this case, there will also be a bank or lender’s name on the title (referred to as a “lienholder”). Call your lender and ask how to sell a car that has a loan and how the transaction should be handled.  In most cases, the lender will require you to pay off the existing loan in full before you can transfer the car title. In most states, the DMV will require you to include a lender affidavit when registering the transfer of a car title. This shows the lender is aware of the change in ownership.

It is important to note the car does not legally change hands when you sign the title and give it to the new owner. The buyer takes the signed title to the DMV. The state then issues a new registration and title in the name of the new owner. It is only at this point that the buyer legally owns the car. 

Until the buyer takes title to the car in their name, the seller is still legally responsible for it. It is often recommended that the seller accompany the buyer to the title office. That way, you can make sure the legal transfer occurs.

Conclusion

Car titles are important documents because they are official proof of who owns a car. When someone sells a car, they must transfer the title to the new owner. Transferring a car title usually involves signing the old title so the buyer can have a new title issued in their name.

Understanding how to transfer a car title is easy. Use the tips and information we provided above to ensure your transfer of title goes smoothly.

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