Most people will inevitably come across a car title in their life. Whether you buy a new car or inherit one, a car title plays a significant role because the document indicates who owns the vehicle. A car title is a legal document identifying a vehicle’s owner; thus, when someone buys or comes into possession of a car, the vehicle’s title needs to go under their name.


A vehicle title is a form of identification for the vehicle. Usually, a title contains the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the vehicle’s year, make, and model, and the vehicle’s mileage from when it was last titled. In addition, most titles have several lines to allow for multiple transferences of titles – each time a car transfers owners, the new and old owner’s names and signatures get added to the title.


Transferring a car title is not difficult, but it is a legal process and requires some jumping through hoops with your county clerk’s office in most states. Typically, the process involves gathering documents from the vehicle’s seller, including the original title, receiving a bill of sale, the actual transference of the title with the clerk of court, and insurance-related changes.


In this article, we’ll break down each step of transferring a car title and provide helpful tips on making the process run smoothly.

How to Transfer a Car Title?

Step One: Gather Required Documents

Before transferring a car title, you’ll need to gather several documents. Note that the documents necessary for a vehicle title transfer may vary depending on state and county rules. However, most title transferences require the following documentation:


  • The current car title.
  • A signed bill of sale – if multiple names are on the car title, it’s best to have permission from each owner in writing to avoid legal disagreements over ownership.
  • Proof of ownership – if there is no bill of sale and the vehicle is gifted or inherited, you’ll need proof of ownership, such as a will or a copy of a death certificate.
  • Proof of residency – Typically, utility bills or a driver’s license will do.
  • A completed transfer of title application from your county courthouse.
  • A completed VIN verification form.


When transferring a car title, it’s best to get your documents together before heading to the courthouse. It will save you time and ensure a smoother process. And it will prevent any need to return to the long lines of the courthouse or DMV.

Step Two: Complete a Bill of Sale

If you are selling or purchasing a vehicle, a correctly completed bill of sale will ensure an easy transfer of the car title to its new owner. The bill of sale is a legally binding document that shows a vehicle has passed on to a new owner.


Some states require you use a particular bill of sales form found on the DMV or county courthouse website, while others will accept a handwritten piece of paper signed by both parties and witnesses. Not all states require a bill of sale, but it’s a valuable document for indicating the day a vehicle was sold, regardless of if it’s needed for the transfer of a title.


How to Make a Legally Binding Bill of Sale:

You usually don’t have to worry about drafting a bill of sale if you choose to purchase a new vehicle or are receiving a title after paying off a car loan. The dealership typically gives buyers a bill of sale the day they purchase a vehicle.


However, when purchasing a used car in a private sale, drafting a bill of sale with the correct information will protect both the buyer and the seller from any legal disputes over the vehicle. A bill of sale releases the previous owner from any liability over the vehicle while confirming the new ownership of the buyer.


A legally binding bill of sale should include the following:

  • The date of the sale.
  • The purchase price of the vehicle and payment details (i.e., installment schedule, paid in full, etc.)
  • Any warranty information (i.e., lifetime warranty, sold as is, etc.)
  • The odometer reading at the time of sale – this is the mileage that will go on the title.
  • Vehicle details, including the year, make, model, and color of the car.
  • The names, signatures, and legal addresses of the buyer and seller.
  • The signatures of witnesses if required by state law.

Step Three: Transfer the Title to the New Owner

Once you have all your documentation gathered together, you can head to the DMV or county courthouse to submit the request for an exchange of title. If you don’t know where to change your vehicle’s title, call your local DMV for the information.


Provided you have the application for a title exchange filled out and all of the corresponding documentation proving your new ownership, you shouldn’t wait long for a new title. Usually, a title specialist will review your packet and fees and approve the transfer on the same day. However, if your packet needs more documentation, you’ll have to return it to the title clerk with that information before receiving the title.


How Much Does Transfering a Title Cost?

Fees for transferring a car title vary based on the county and state you live in; most titles cost between $15 and $30 to transfer.

Step Four: Cancel Any Insurance and Registrations

For Buyers:

You can now add the vehicle to your insurance if you have just bought a new vehicle and finished transferring the title. Don’t wait to add the car to your insurance; it’s essential to have coverage in the case of an accident.


Additionally, after transferring your vehicle’s title, you’ll need to register it for license plates. Most states allow a buyer 30 days to register their vehicle. If you don’t have registration or plates, you’ll need to keep the bill of sale in your car for proof of ownership until then.


For Sellers:

Once the title has passed to the new owner, you can remove the vehicle from your insurance. You may need to submit a copy of the bill of sale to your insurance to prove the car is no longer in your possession.


Provided you complete the four steps of transferring a title (gathering documentation, completing a bill of sale, transferring the title, and registration,) you’ll have no trouble transferring a vehicle title. If at any point you have questions about transferring a title in your state, reach out to the DMV for clarification. The more information and documentation you prepare, the less likely you will face obstacles in the transfer process.


Featured Image Credit: Kars For Kids / flickr

In Post Image Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors / flickr