When you’re ready to transfer a car title, there are several documents that you need. Whether you’re the buyer or seller, it’s important to know which documents you’re obligated to provide or present. In general, these are the documents that you’ll need to transfer a car title:
If you’re the seller:
As the seller of the vehicle, you’ll want to provide your buyer with these documents at the time of purchase:
Current certificate of title
The most important document you can provide to your buyer is a valid certificate of title. The certificate of title assigns ownership of the vehicle and there is only allowed to be one valid title per vehicle printed at a time. To assign ownership to a new owner, the current owner should fill out the back of the certificate of title. Be sure to carefully complete this section as any stray marks or errors will invalidate the entire title.
Note: If your title has a lien on it, you must get a vehicle lien release from your lender before assigning new ownership.
Bill of sale
If the certificate of title is the most important document for your buyer, the bill of sale is a close second. The bill of sale is essentially a receipt for the transaction and should provide specific vehicle details to describe the transaction. Some states require the bill of sale to be notarized, while many do not.
Your photo ID
You’re not required to show a photo ID when you’re selling a vehicle, but it’s a good idea to do so. Only the owner of the vehicle listed on the front of the certificate of title can assign ownership to a new person. When meeting with your buyer, present to them your photo ID so they are able to verify you are the correct owner of the vehicle and that you are authorized to sell the vehicle. It may seem tedious, but taking that extra step to make your buyer feel more comfortable will go a long way.
If you’re the buyer:
As the buyer of the vehicle, you’ll want to bring the following items to the DMV after the purchase of your vehicle, typically within 10-15 days:
Signed certificate of title
The most important document you’ll need to transfer a title into your name is the signed certificate of title from the seller aka the prior owner. Without the certificate of title properly assigned to you by the prior owner, the DMV will not transfer the title into your name. If the seller did not sign over the title properly, or you don’t have the prior title, another method of title recovery may be more suitable for your transfer.
State title application
Every state has its own motor vehicle title application, most are done on paper while some can be applied for through an electronic portal. If your state requires a physical form, complete this form in advance before going to the DMV.
Bill of sale (from the buyer)
The bill of sale is your proof of purchase and the DMV will require this as evidence of ownership. Some states require this document to be notarized, be sure to check your state’s requirements before submitting it to the DMV.
Your driver’s license will be required to transfer your title and prove your identity to the DMV. Be sure that the full name on the state title application matches your driver’s license exactly.
Proof of insurance
In most states, proof of insurance is required to obtain a vehicle title and registration. Before going to the DMV, be sure to obtain an auto policy and provide the insurance cards at the time of transfer.
Fees for tax & title
Every state requires a title fee and some form of sales tax if the state requires sales tax to be paid. The state title application will explain the fees for tax and title associated with your application. If applying by mail, do not send cash.
Some states require that the odometer reading is verified. This requirement may depend on the age of the vehicle, type of vehicle, or other factors. Check with your state to see if an odometer verification is required for your transfer.
If this is the first time that the vehicle is registered in your state, or if your state requires it on registration, your vehicle may be subject to inspection. Check with your state to see if your transaction warrants an inspection.
One of the most challenging parts of a vehicle transaction and title transfer is making sure you have all of your “ducks in a row”. This article outlines the general items required for a title transfer, but make sure to check with your state before submitting your application. If it’s your car, you deserve a title in your name.
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