Title Transfers in Michigan
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A title is a legal document that identifies ownership of a piece of property, such as a vehicle. So, when a vehicle is sold, a title transfer must take place to let the Secretary of State (SOS) office officially know who owns the vehicle. Title transfers need to occur within 15 days of the sale transaction to avoid a $15 late fee. Ideally, the transfer will happen immediately after the vehicle is sold.
Some common reasons to transfer a title include:
- Selling a vehicle
- Buying a vehicle
- Paying off a loan
- Transferring a vehicle to a family member
- Giving away a vehicle
- Donating a vehicle to charity
- Inheriting a vehicle
Most vehicles transfers involve a lot of money, which justifiably usually makes people a little nervous. Buying a vehicle history report is an excellent way for the seller to calm the apprehension of a potential buyer, as the buyer can at least get an idea of what's happened in the vehicle's past.
Once you've sold the vehicle, you'll need to:
- Locate the title.
- Fill in the applicable sections, including the buyer's name and the date of purchase.
- Complete the odometer section.
- Sign your name.
- Give the title to the buyer, who will need to finish the transaction at a SOS branch office by following the steps listed below.
If the transaction doesn't take place at a branch office or you can't accompany the buyer to the office, you should make a copy of both the front and back of the title for your records.
Also, although you're not required to do so, it's smart to complete a bill of sale, too.
When you purchase a new car from a dealer, the title transaction should be handled by the dealer. If the dealer fails to do so, call the SOS at (888) SOS-MICH.
If you haven't made your final decision on what new vehicle you're going to purchase, you can always shop online and easily see what vehicles are available.
Buying a used car is often a smart move financially, especially with so many pre-owned cars on the market. Searching for a used car online is a terrific way to efficiently see what's currently available. Of course, it's also a great way to shop for the best financing and insurance rates.
Before you purchase a used vehicle, it's always smart to buy a vehicle history report to get an indication about the vehicle's background.
Once you've made your decision and purchased the vehicle, you'll need to process the title transfer by:
- Obtaining the title from the seller (be sure to do this).
- Making sure the seller has correctly included the appropriate information, such as the odometer reading, sales price, and your name.
- Verifying that the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the title and the vehicle match.
- Confirming that the seller signed and dated the title.
- Checking that there aren't any outstanding liens on the vehicle.
- Signing and dating the title.
- Going to an SOS branch office to complete the transaction.
- Paying the 6% use tax.
- Paying the $15 title transfer fee.
After you pay off the loan, the financial institution or lienholder will release you from the lien by filing the required paperwork with the SOS. If this fails to happen, call the SOS at (888) SOS-MICH for instructions on how to proceed.
For the sake of these sorts of transfers, the state defines "family" to include:
- Parent (natural or adoptive)
- Brother or sister (including half-brother and half-sister)
- Child (natural or adopted)
- Stepparent, stepbrother, stepsister, or stepchild
- Legal ward or legally appointed guardian
When a vehicle is transferred between these family members, no use tax needs to be paid. Other than that, though, the title transfer process is the same as that between non-family members:
- Seller finds the title.
- Seller completes the applicable sections, including the buyer's name and the date of purchase.
- Seller fills in the odometer section.
- Seller signs the title.
- Seller hands over the title to the buyer.
- Buyer verifies the seller has properly included the appropriate information, like the odometer reading, sales price, and seller's name.
- Buyer checks that VIN on the title and the vehicle match.
- Buyer confirms the seller signed and dated the title.
- Buyer verifies there aren't any outstanding liens on the vehicle.
- Buyer signs and dates the title.
- Buyer heads to an SOS branch office to complete the transaction.
- Buyer pays $15 title transfer fee.
If you receive a vehicle as a gift from a family member (see the section above), you won't have to pay the 6% use tax. If you receive a vehicle from anyone else, you will have to pay the tax based upon the vehicle's retail value.
No matter who you received the vehicle from, however, you'll need to follow these steps to process the title transfer:
- Get the title from the giver.
- Be sure the giver properly included the appropriate information, such as the odometer reading and your name.
- Check that the VIN on the title and the vehicle match.
- Verify that the giver signed and dated the title.
- Make sure there aren't any outstanding liens on the vehicle.
- Sign and date the title.
- Visit an SOS branch office to complete the transaction.
- Pay the $15 title transfer fee.
Giving a vehicle to a charity is a noble gesture, but you should make sure you know exactly what you're doing and whom you're dealing with before proceeding. See our Car Donation article for more information on this matter, and if you need more help, consult a tax consultant.
These transactions are often complex, and the title transfer procedure varies according to the exact situation. You might want to contact a probate attorney if the situation merits it, or at least call the SOS at (888) SOS-MICH to inquire about you'll need to process the transfer.
Here, though, is how to handle the common situation of if your spouse left you the vehicle and there's no probate involved:
- Locate the title.
- Obtain a certified copy of the death certificate.
- Complete the heir certification form.
- Have the current registration or the license plate number with you.
- Bring everything to an SOS branch office to complete the transaction.
- Pay the $15 title transfer fee.
Don't forget about having the proper insurance coverage; check our Insurance Center to find providers.
Changing a Name
To change your name on a title:
- Go to a branch office with the legal document that certifies your name change.
- Have proper photo identification.
- Make sure everyone who originally signed the title is either present or has completed an Appointment of Agent form.
- Pay the $15 fee.
If there is a lien on the title, the SOS will need to see a letter from the lienholder allowing the change to take place.
Also, in situations like this, it's handy to have a copy of your court decrees or licenses for proof of a name change.
Consult our Changing Your Name section for additional information on name changes.
Deleting a Name
To delete a name from a title:
- The person whose name is being deleted must sign off the change on the title.
- The current owner(s) must go to a branch office to complete the transaction and pay the $15 fee.
If there's a lien on the title, you must bring a letter from the lienholder allowing the change to take place.
Adding a Name
To add your name to a title:
- Go to a branch office.
- Bring proper photo identification.
- Sign the title.
- Pay the $15 fee.
If there's a lien on the title, a letter from the lienholder allowing the change to take place must be shown at the SOS office.
Other Topics in This Section
- 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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