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How To Transfer A Car Title Into Your Name

Congratulations on your new car! When buying a car, it is important to be knowledgeable about how to properly transfer the title from one individual to another. Not only is a successful transfer of title important for securing the transaction, but an unsuccessful transfer may result in the denial of the DMV application. A vehicle title, also known as a certificate of title or car title, is the most important vehicle-related document because it assigns legal ownership of a vehicle. The individual whose name appears on the front of the title is considered to be the sole owner of the record with the DMV. The steps necessary to complete a successful transfer of vehicle ownership are very specific and include filling out any necessary forms and paying any taxes and fees associated with DMV processing.

How to transfer a car title from seller to buyer

Step 1: Obtain the original title from the seller

The first step in transferring a car title is to obtain the original title from the seller. The seller should be the prior owner or present when you pick up the car. The front of the title should contain watermarks, background patterns, and scrollwork that are difficult to recreate; it should also include both the current title holder’s name and the year of issuance. When signing over a car title, make sure that the person transferring ownership is the person listed on the car title document. The back of a car title serves as a form that assigns ownership of the title.

Step 2: Verify the information on the title and the seller’s identification

When presented with the original certificate of title from the seller, make sure that the information provided on the document matches the VIN plate and vehicle specifications of the particular vehicle you’re buying. Additionally, only the legal owner listed on the front of the title can sign away ownership to the buyer. If you’re buying from a private seller, make sure to check the photo ID to make sure this person is also the legal owner. Purchasing a vehicle with an incorrect title or from someone other than the legal owner will cause you significant problems with the DMV.

Step 3: Seller signature & bill of sale

Once you’ve verified that the information is correct on the title and you’ve verified the seller’s identity, complete the back of the vehicle title with the seller. The back of the car title is where the seller assigns the new ownership. Additionally, make sure you also have a bill of sale, or proof of purchase, to provide proof that you’ve purchased the vehicle legally from the prior owner. Need assistance writing your bill of sale? Check out our article 9 Components of a Bill of Sale.

Step 4: Complete and submit state applications and fees for title and registration

Congratulations! Now you’re ready to officially transfer your car title. Every state has its own title and registration application, as well as fees required for the transaction. State title applications can be found on every state motor vehicle division or secretary of state website. Most title and registration applications can be submitted via mail. The amount of fees due will vary by state according to sales tax requirements and tiered fees for specific types of vehicles.

When you get to the DMV, make sure you have the following items:

  • Original certificate of title signed over by the prior owner
  • State title application
  • Bill of sale (notarized, if applicable)
  • Fees for registration, tax, and title
  • Driver’s license
  • Other specific documents or items as specified by your state (if applicable)

Step 5: Keep your title in a safe place

The vehicle title is the most important document a vehicle can have and it’s important to keep it safe from damage and theft. Do not keep your title inside of your vehicle. By transferring your car title into your name, you are protecting your property. If you lose your vehicle title after it has been printed by the DMV with your name on it, you are eligible to apply for a duplicate title. However, if you lose the original title signed by the prior owner before getting a new one printed by the DMV, you are not eligible for a duplicate title. Only the registered owner in the DMV system can apply for a title and if you didn’t transfer it, it’s not in your name.

How do I transfer a car title without the prior title?

If you’ve lost the title before you could transfer it, or you didn’t receive the old title at all, there are still methods available to get you a title.

Contact the prior owner

If you are able to contact the prior owner, try asking them to apply for a duplicate title and sign over that duplicate title to you. Since you’ve already completed the transaction, they may not be willing to do this, but if you offer to cover the duplicate title fees they may be more inclined to help. Most duplicate title fees range from $2-$20.

Vermont title loophole

The Vermont title loophole, also known as the Vermont registration process and bill of sale only title process, is a method for out-of-state residents to obtain a title for a vehicle that is 15 years old or older using a bill of sale. The Vermont registration for a vehicle that is 15 years old or older is equivalent to a vehicle title in the other 49 states and can be transferred.

Bonded title

A bonded title requires you to obtain a surety bond in order to back up your claim of ownership. The surety bond protects the DMV should there be a dispute over ownership of the vehicle once they have been issued a bonded title document.

Court-ordered title

Court-ordered titles are issued by the court system and can be issued for vehicle owners who do not qualify for title recovery because of missing paperwork, damaged or mutilated title documents, or other circumstances. If you have attempted to recover your own title and failed, a court-ordered title may be an option.

To transfer a title, the former owner must sign it over to you directly. If you have the signed title in hand, take it to the DMV as soon as possible to avoid late fees. If you lost the original title, it’s damaged, or you never received it at all, there are other options available for title recovery. If you own the car, you deserve a title in your name.

Want a professional to do it for you?

For as little as $159 for most processes, we will save you the headache and prepare all of the car title paperwork needed to get you a new title. Simply choose the title recovery method you’d like to use and we’ll get started!

Select your title recovery method:

Order Vermont Title LoopholeOrder Deceased Owner Title TransferOrder Bonded Title ProcessOrder Abandoned Vehicle ProcessOrder Prior Owner ContactOrder Lien Release Request Letter×90.png

Looking for advice on your car title, mechanic’s lien, storage lien, abandoned vehicle, or another type of title problem? We’ve got you covered. Get professional advice from our title experts through No obligations, no sales pitch, just answers.×90.png

Have Title Questions? Talk to a Car Title Expert.

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Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. If it’s your car, you deserve a title.

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