Title Transfers in California
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Changing ownership of any vehicle requires a transfer of title in California. We can help you understand what is required to transfer a title, whether you are buying, selling, or giving a vehicle away.
Title transfers occur when there is a change of ownership on a vehicle. California considers the following transactions as changes of ownership:
- Buying or selling a vehicle.
- Adding or removing names from a car title.
- Inheriting a vehicle.
- Paying off a vehicle loan.
- Donating or gifting a vehicle.
Buying From a Dealer
Car dealerships take care of all the fees and paperwork required when purchasing a vehicle. As the buyer of the vehicle, it is your responsibility to know your Car Buyer's Bill of Rights and make sure the contract, purchase price, and additional costs are all correct before you take the vehicle home.
Buying From a Private Individual
- Make sure the seller has filled out the title.
- Verify there is no lienholder, or that the lienholder has signed off on the car title.
- Verify the mileage and the odometer disclosure statement, if required.
- Complete a smog check.
- Pay the $15 vehicle title transfer fee and all use tax fees to the CA DMV within 30 days of the purchase date (failure to do so will result in penalties).
Notify the CA DMV you have purchased a vehicle within 10 days of taking possession.
- Provide the title of the vehicle, making sure to sign it (if you do not have the title, apply for a duplicate title).
- Have the lienholder sign the title, if applicable.
- Fill out the odometer reading if the vehicle is less than 10 years old (must be verified by the buyer) and submit the Vehicle/Vessel Title Transfer Form (REG 262) (this form is printed on security paper and is only available at CA DMV offices, or by calling (800) 777-0133.
- Provide smog check certification, if applicable. The certification must be current; it cannot be older than 90 days.
- The buyer must sign the title and all other applicable documents.
- Submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form REG-138 within 5 days of the sale date. If you're up against the clock, use the online form.
Bill of Sale
If you don't need to verify the odometer reading during the sale of the vehicle, use a Bill of Sale (REG 135) instead of the Vehicle Vessel Transfer Form (REG 262). After completing, give the original to the buyer and make a copy for yourself.
If, however, you need to verify the mileage, you must complete the Vehicle Vessel Transfer Form (REG 262). This serves as an odometer disclosure form, bill of sale, and power of attorney. This form cannot be downloaded. You can get it from any CA DMV office. Or, have the form mailed to you by calling (800) 777-0133.
You may decide to give your vehicle away instead of selling it. These types of gifts fall into two different categories:
- Family or Inheritance
- Gifts or Donations
The transfer process is very similar to selling a California vehicle (see above), with minor differences for each process.
NOTE: You cannot transfer a vehicle to a family member or trust until you’ve paid all parking/toll violations that have been reported to the California DMV.
Family or Inheritance
You can transfer your vehicle to family members without providing a smog test or paying the use tax. Family members who qualify (including step, half, and adopted family members) are:
- Siblings (smog certification may be required if a smog test is due)
- Domestic partners
All other family members must follow the steps outlined in the Gifts or Donations section below.
To transfer the title to a family member:
- Provide the title of the vehicle, making sure to sign it (if you don't have the title, apply for a duplicate title).
- Have the lienholder, if applicable, sign off on the title. This allows the sale of the vehicle.
- Complete the odometer reading if the vehicle is less than 10 years old (must be verified by the buyer) and submit the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer form (REG 262). This form is unavailable online. Grab it from any CA DMV office, or call (800) 777-0133 to have it mailed to you.
- Have the buyer, which in this case is the recipient of the vehicle, sign the title.
- Complete the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form REG-138 within 5 days of the title transfer date.
Gift or Donation
To make a gift or donation, follow the same steps described directly above when transferring to a family member. The lone difference being you may need to provide smog certification. The certification must be current, no older than 90 days.
Depending on the organization, you may be eligible for a tax exemption for the value of the vehicle. Ask the charitable organization for documentation of the donation.
Whenever you receive a vehicle from a family member, both the use tax and the smog test can be waived. See the Family or Inheritance section (above) for a list of family members who are eligible for family transfers.
If you are not a family member, you can still receive a vehicle as a gift and have the use tax waived. You will, however, still need to get a smog certification.
Receiving a Vehicle from a Family Member
When receiving a vehicle from a family member:
- Make sure the seller (the person giving you the vehicle) has filled out the title properly.
- Verify there is no lienholder, or that the lienholder has signed off on the title.
- Sign the title.
- Verify the mileage and the odometer disclosure statement, if applicable.
- Complete a smog check, if applicable. In some instances, adult siblings transferring a vehicle may be required to complete an emissions certification.
- Submit a completed Statement of Facts (REG 256) for use tax and smog waivers.
- Pay the $8 smog transfer fee.
- Pay the $15 title transfer fee.
You have 10 days from the sale date to submit the transfer fees to the CA DMV.
Receiving a Vehicle as a Gift or Donation
When receiving a gifted vehicle:
- Make sure the seller (the giver, in this situation) has completed the title.
- Confirm there's no existing lienholder, or that the lienholder has signed off on the title.
- Sign the title on the designated buyer line.
- Verify the mileage and the odometer disclosure statement, if required.
- Complete a Statement of Facts, indicating the current value of the vehicle.
- Complete a smog certification.
- Submit a Statement of Facts (REG 256). This form is required for a use tax waiver.
- Pay the $15 transfer fee.
You must submit the transfer fees to the CA DMV within 10 days of transfer date.
When all the payments have been made on your vehicle, the lienholder will mail you a signed vehicle title.
Within 30 days of receiving the title, send it to the DMV, along with a $15 transfer fee, to get a new title issued in your name. Mail to:
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Registration Operations
- P.O. Box 942869
- Sacramento, CA 94269-0001
Can't find your car title? You'll need it to transfer your vehicle. Visit our Replacing a Lost Title page for step-by-step information on how to order a new one.
Need a smog check? Or are you unsure whether your county requires smog certification? Check out our Smog & Emission Checks page for the full scoop.
California law requires your correct legal name on your vehicle title. You must update your title if your name has changed for any reason, or the name on the title is incorrect.
If you have your title:
- Update your vehicle's title by writing the new or corrected name in the “New Registered Owner” section.
- Fill out a Statement of Facts (REG 256) as to why the name has changed or needs to be corrected.
- Submit both documents to your local CA DMV office.
If a lienholder has the title:
- Submit a Statement of Facts (REG 256) to the lienholder.
- Instruct the lienholder to send the Statement of Facts to the CA DMV.
You must pay certain fees whenever you receive a vehicle and transfer its title to your name.
For more information on registration fees and registering your car in general, visit our Car Registration pageOther Topics in This Section
True or False
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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