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  • Title Transfers in Washington

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    What is a Title Transfer?

    A title, or Vehicle Certificate of Ownership, or pink slips (though they’re no longer pink) proves who owns a vehicle.
    Reasons for a title transfer can include:

    • Buying or selling
    • Inheriting
    • Donating
    • Gifting

    The seller has five days to report a sale; the buyer has 15 days to record a transfer.

    Selling a Vehicle

    When there are so many options competing for a buyer’s attention, how do you set yourself apart? Consider getting the buyer a Vehicle History Report of your car. This transparency means you have nothing to hide and may be just what the buyer needs to select your car.

    After the buyer cuts your check or hands you a big wad of cash, it’s time to transfer the title.

    1. Get out your title and flip it to the back.
    2. Sign your name, date, and odometer reading (if the car is less than 10 years old) in the proper spaces.
    3. Hand it to the buyer to sign.
    4. Fill out a Bill of Sale. The buyer needs it to get a new title. For you, it proves that you sold the car. The document covers you if there are any questions later, or if your buyer never turns in the new paperwork.
    5. File a report of the sale within 5 days. You can do this online for free or in person at a vehicle licensing office.

    Buying a Vehicle

    New Cars

    Transferring a title when you buy a new car is the easiest, because the dealer takes care of it for you.

    If you’re shopping for a new car, you should compare prices online to see your options.

    Used Cars

    Shopping for a used car is the best way to get more car for your buck. Look for cars online; it saves time.

    Once you have an idea of how much you want to spend, you should then shop for a good car loan. Rates and terms vary, so ask around for the best price.

    After you have a car loan in place, you can get serious about how much you’re going to spend and which car you’ll buy. Now is the time to get a Vehicle History Report. For one fee, you get unlimited access to cars, providing you with information about whether a car was a flood or salvage title.

    Finally, when you’ve narrowed it down to a car or two, get an insurance quote on the exact car you want to buy. The premium payments need to fit into your overall budget with your loan payment.

    1. Have the seller sign, date, and fill in the mileage (if the car is less than 10 years old) on the back of the title.
    2. You sign and date it.
    3. Get a Bill of Sale from the seller. This is used to calculate use tax.
    4. Fill out a Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420001).
    5. Get an emissions test, if needed in your area.
    6. Take all these documents to a vehicle licensing office.
    7. Pay $25.50 plus any use tax fees.

    If you don’t want to go in, you can get your Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420001) notarized and mail it with your fee and documents to any DMV vehicle licensing office, or:

    Refunds and Title Services
    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9909
    Olympia, WA 98507

    Be prepared to register your car at the same time.

    You must have the title transferred within 15 days of buying a car. If you wait any longer, you will be fined $50 if you transfer it 16 days late and $2 for each additional day, up to a maximum of $125.

    Removing a Lien

    Paying off your loan is exciting, but how you get your title depends on whether your lienholder has it held electronically (a paperless title) or on paper (physical title). You’ll need to call your lienholder for information.

    Paperless Title

    1. After your loan is paid off, your lien holder will notify the Department of Licensing.
    2. The lienholder charges a varying fee on your account for the service.
    3. The Department of Licensing sends you your physical title.

    Physical Title

    1. The lienholder sends you your title after your loan is satisfied.
    2. Take the title to a DOL office for a lien release.
    3. Pay the $19 lien release fee.

    Gifting a Vehicle

    If you're giving a vehicle as a gift, whether to a family member or friend, you need to:

    1. Have the giver sign off in the seller’s area of the title, noting mileage if the car’s 10 years old or newer.
    2. Have the giver provide verification that the vehicle's sales tax has been paid if you have owned the car less than 7 years, so you won’t have to pay tax again.
    3. Have the giver provide a "Letter of Gift" stating his intent along with the vehicle's description, your name, your signature, and the date
    4. Take all of this evidence to a vehicle licensing office and complete a Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420001).
    5. If you can provide proof that the person who gifted you the vehicle paid sales or use tax, no use tax is due. If, however, the person who gave you the vehicle owned it for 7 years or more and resides in a state with sales tax, it will be assumed sales tax was paid, freeing you from providing proof.
    6. Pay a title transfer fee of $25.50, plus any other fees that might be due at registration. Contact the office to find out the exact cost and whether you need more documentation.

    The vehicle can only be given as a gift every other time it passes hands.

    Donating a Vehicle

    Donating a Car is both charitable and beneficial. You get a nice tax break while the charity of your choice gets a car.

    But tax laws can be confusing and change from year to year. It wouldn’t hurt to consult a tax attorney to take full advantage of this large donation.

    Inheriting a Vehicle

    If you’re the rightful heir to the vehicle, you may claim the new title at a vehicle licensing office, with the right documentation. Because probate laws can get complex, think about consulting a probate attorney with any questions.

    1. Surviving spouses with joint ownership of the vehicle take a certified copy of the death certificate and the title to a vehicle licensing office.
    2. If you were appointed the owner through power of attorney, you must also bring the certified letter of testamentary or letter of administration.
    3. If you inherited through a community property agreement, bring a certified copy of the death certificate, copy of the community property agreement, and the title to a vehicle licensing office.
    4. If you inherited the car from an unadministered estate, bring the certified copy of the death certificate, Affidavit of Inheritance or succession, and the title to a vehicle licensing office.
    5. Pay $25.50 to transfer the title. Contact a licensing agent for more fee information.

    When you go in, be prepared with the proper paperwork to register the car, too. You’ll need to show valid insurance. If the car needs new insurance, consider stopping by our Insurance Center.

    Making Name Corrections

    Changing a Name

    1. Get proof of name change: the court order or an Vehicle/Vessel Owner Name Update Affidavit for Individual (Form 420047) if it wasn’t court-ordered.
    2. Provide a certified copy of the divorce decree or marriage certificate, if applicable.
    3. Fill out a new Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420001).
    4. Take these documents and the title to a vehicle licensing office.
    5. Pay a $19 transfer fee. Some offices may also charge an addition $12 fee.

    You can also send this by mail to:

    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9909
    Olympia, WA 98507

    Expect the new title in 8 to 10 weeks.

    If you’re missing any of your documents, you can order a new copy.

    For more questions, see our changing your name article.

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