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How to Transfer a Car Title

A car title provides proof of ownership of a vehicle. It’s equivalent to a deed for a house — it’ll have information about the car, like the make, model and year, vehicle identification number and mileage. It may have your name and address and the lien holder that financed the car purchase if the loan has not been paid off.

Here’s what you need to know about a car title transfer when you sell or trade in the car, and the process you’ll follow.



How a car title transfer works

Both the seller and buyer are involved in the process of transferring a car title. The seller releases the rights to ownership by signing the title in the designated area on the document. The buyer takes the title to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or the appropriate authorized office in their state or county, to register ownership of the vehicle in their name. The agency will issue a new title in the buyer’s name.

Some states, like Arizona, are moving to electronic titles. You may have to pay a fee if you want a paper copy of the title.

Here’s a brief overview of how the title transfer process happens — check with your state DMV to find out the specific details of transferring a title in your state.

If you’re working with a dealership

If you’re buying a new or used car from a dealership, the dealership will take care of most of the title paperwork. The dealer will charge you the title and registration fees as part of the transaction and pay those on your behalf, and the cost of this will be part of the doc fee that dealers charge. The lender will then keep the title until you pay off the loan. Once you’ve paid off the loan, the lender will mail the title to you or send a lien release letter that you can use to get a new title in your name without the lien or use to verify the pay off when you sell the car. It’s also possible to sell a car when you still have a loan.

The seller signs in the seller’s section on the reverse side of the title.

If you’re working with a private party

If you’re selling to a private party, create a bill of sale with the necessary information:

  • Date of sale

  • Buyer’s name and address

  • Sale price

  • Odometer reading

Some states require the seller to sign a car title in front of a notary public. If the seller and buyer go to the DMV office together, the clerk can take care of that.

The buyer must sign in the designated spot on the title with their full name, date of birth and address; some states will also require your Social Security number or equivalent. The buyer must disclose if the car is being purchased with a loan so the title will indicate the lien.

In addition to signing the title, you’ll likely have to fill out an application for title transfer and registration form with all your personal information.

When you register the title transfer, be prepared to pay transfer and title fees, registration fees, sales or use tax and property or other taxes that your state or county may charge. Titling fees often vary by state: As an example, in Minnesota, the filing fee is $11 for each title transaction plus $8.25 for all title transfers, while in New Jersey, it ranges from $60 to $110, depending on whether the vehicle’s financed and the number of liens it has on it.

A vehicle title is a legal document — so if you make a mistake, don’t scratch through or mark out information on the title, and don’t use Wite-out or an eraser on it either. Instead, create an affidavit or correction form with the accurate information and have it notarized. You may otherwise have to order a duplicate title and start over.

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