The DMV requires a title transfer whenever the owner’s name changes or a vehicle changes hands. The latter includes:
- Buying or selling a vehicle, whether you work with a private individual or dealership.
- Paying off your loan.
- Giving a vehicle as a gift or donating it to charity.
- Transferring ownership to a family member.
- Inheriting a vehicle.
Generally, the dealership handles title transfer requirements for any customer who buys a new or used car; however, private sellers and buyers and individuals giving and receiving vehicles as gifts have to handle the transaction on their own
Title Transfer Paperwork and Fees
Like most DMV transactions, the paperwork and fees related to title transfers vary by state. Common variations include factors like smog certifications. For example, California requires a smog certification for certain motor vehicles; Arkansas doesn’t have smog requirements.
With that being said, most states require some combination of the following requirements:
- An original copy of the car title.
- A bill of sale form. Some states provide forms; others require buyers and sellers to complete only the back of the title. Some states suggest buyers and sellers keep copies for their records, and in this case you can use a generic bill of sale.
- An odometer disclosure statement. States that require this document usually only do so for vehicles of a certain age (such as those 10 years old or older).
- A smog certification, depending on your location or vehicle type.
- A completed title transfer form.
- A title transfer fee.
Other Title Transfer Considerations
Other considerations include:
- Making sure there are no liens on the vehicle. Most states require a lien release form from the former lienholder. (In most cases, a lien is that thing banks put on vehicles when the owners still owe money on them. Technically, you don’t own a car until you completely pay off the bank or financial institution that loaned you the green to buy it.)
- Following the proper procedure for your transaction. For example, transferring a title to a family member involves different paperwork and tax requirements than selling a vehicle to a neighbor. The same is true for “gifting” a vehicle.
Do you have any tips for helping a title transfer go down as smoothly as possible?
We have one! Save some time and handle the vehicle registration and title transfer together – especially if you have to make a trip to your department of motor vehicles!