Guide to car titles: everything you need to know


You may have heard the saying “You can’t tell players without a program”. When it comes to owning a car, its certificate of title is this program. For interested parties, such as the government and potential buyers, a title identifies the vehicle and its owners, present and past. Basically, the title is a vehicle’s birth certificate, social security number, and passport combined into one document.

Mandatory document to buy or sell a vehicle, the title is the most important document attached to your car.

What is a car title?

A car title is a legal document establishing proof of ownership of a vehicle. Issued by the state where the car, truck or SUV was purchased, the title accompanies the vehicle throughout its life.

It is reissued with each new owner and any new state of residence.

What should it look like?

Looking very much like a car’s birth certificate, the title will include the seal of the issuing state. Although the information displayed on a title varies by state, generally each title includes certain facts.

  • Identification data: VIN, brand, model, year and color
  • Owner’s name and address
  • Date of issue of the security: The date of purchase of the vehicle
  • Odometer: Reading and when it took place
  • Past due privileges: Usually the financing lender
  • Signatures: Buyer, seller, and government representative

It is not uncommon for a salesperson to defraud the system. It is up to you to make sure that the title presented by the seller is indeed a legal title. There are some things you can research and do to avoid being duped.

  • Check the issuance status of the title. If that’s not the state you’re in, it’s probably not a valid title.
  • Check the VIN by obtaining a vehicle history report from an online supplier like Automatic verification. It will cost $ 25 for a one-time report, but it’s worth it. The reports provide detailed information including previous car owners, accident history and maintenance records.
  • Check the date of issue of the title. If it is relatively new, it could be falsified.
  • Find a watermark. The absence of a watermark is a sign that the title is a copy.
  • Look for a blurry or unclear print in the document. These are indications that the document is a copy.

Buying a new car: what happens to the title?

In terms of title, buy a new car is obvious. The dealer takes care of everything related to the title. You’ll pay all the fees involved, but the dealership takes care of the paperwork.

When you buy a car, you either pay cash, lease, or finance. It is only when you pay in cash that you receive the original title. And the processing can take up to 30 days. Rent a car is glorified the rental. You never get the actual title because the car never belongs to you.

When you finance a vehicle, you will receive a copy of the title within 90 days. It will identify the lender as the holder of a lien. When you have paid the loan in full, you will receive the actual title reflecting you as the free and clear owner.

Selling or trading in a car: what do you need to know?

You don’t have to do anything when you sell a car to a dealership or trade it in as part of the deal to acquire another vehicle. Whether you have a clear title or your title has a lien holder, the dealer will take care of any title issues.

Selling your car to another private individual, however, requires some effort on your part. If you have satisfied the vehicle loan and have clear title, all you need to do is fill out the transfer information. This includes you and the buyer signing in at the appropriate places. Both parties should keep a copy.

To note: Some states require signatures to be notarized. As part of this transaction, you will also need a bill of sale. You and the buyer must keep copies with the signatures of both parties. Unless you know the buyer, only accept cash or cashier’s checks as a form of payment.

If you still owe money on the vehicle and a lien is on the title, things get complicated. The lender will want the loan to be repaid to release the lien. At this point, the easiest way is to complete the entire transaction at the lender’s offices. If it’s a local bank or credit union, it can all be done right away. You will need to make arrangements with your lender.

If it is not possible to make the transfer to the lender, the lender will still want the loan to be repaid in full before transferring the vehicle. You will need to settle this with the buyer. The best way to proceed, in this case, is for the buyer to pay your lender. The lender will issue you with a clear title and you can proceed with the transfer.

Lost car title: what are the options?

Don’t panic if your title is missing. There will be a charge, but you can replace it. You can request the replacement online, but we recommend visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) branch. In person is better. First, go to your state’s DMV website to see exactly what information and documents you need to take. But, generally, the list includes:

  • Make, model and year of the vehicle
  • Running Odometer reading
  • The VIN
  • Funding Information
  • Your Driving license
  • Cash, debit card or check for reissue costs

How to file a request for a lost title

To replace a lost title, see this resource finance and insurance tools. It provides links to state requests for replacement titles plus cost. Depending on the F&I, the cost will range from $ 2 to $ 95, depending on the state you live in.

RELATED STORIES: How to sell an untitled car

How to transfer a car title

Each state has its own rules regarding car titles. Your life will likely be much easier, in the long run, to keep up with changes as they happen. This means getting an updated title when moving to a new state or when the vehicle changes hands. This is true even when the vehicle is passed from one family member to another.

How to transfer a car title to a new state

As if you didn’t have enough on your plate when you move to a new state, add your car registration and re-title to the mix. States have their own timetables for making your car legal in its new home, but 30 days is a good place to start.

Some states require an emissions test or a safety inspection or both to titrate and register a vehicle out of state. Many also require a physical verification of the VIN. It is up to you to determine what is needed for your new home.

If you are from a title-issuing state, take your current title to the local DMV or Department of Transportation office. In addition, you will need your driver’s license, current mileage, proof of address (electricity bill, apartment lease, etc.) and a method of payment. If your new condition requires any of the tests mentioned above, you will need proof of passing.

Some states like Vermont do not require titles for cars over 15 years old. If you are from a non-title issuing state, you will need your current registration, financing documents, and any other documents listed in the last paragraph.

RELATED STORIES: Buying an out-of-state car

How to transfer a car title to a family member

While it makes sense that transferring title to a family member is somehow easier, the process is the same as with an outside buyer. This is so whether the title is clear or whether there is a lien holder.

If it is clear, fill in the required information about the current title and sign if applicable. If the State requires a deed of sale, it must be completed, even in the case of a donation. The family member then requests a new title.

If there is a lien, the lender will demand payment before releasing the lien.

How to transfer a car title with two owners

The process of transferring ownership is the same with two owners as with one. That is to say with one exception. This is the difference between “or” and “and”.

If “or” separates the names of the two owners, either owner can legally sign the transfer of ownership. If “and” separates the two names, the signatures of both owners are required for the transfer of ownership.

What are the types of car titles?

There are at least 18 types of car titles. As the owner of a private car, you will never come into contact with most of them.

  • Affidavit is a temporary title issued by the state when certain documents are missing.
  • bound is an expensive way to establish ownership when no clear ownership exists. This involves setting up a cash deposit of an amount equal to the estimated value of the vehicle. Title is issued, but the bond will reimburse an injured party if a property dispute arises.
  • Certificate of destruction is the title issued for a vehicle that an insurance company will destroy once a claim is settled.
  • Certificate of origin is the original ownership document transferring a vehicle from the manufacturer to the dealership.
  • Clear identifies the title as having no privileges.
  • Electronic titles are issued in some states as a path to a physical title.
  • Export is a title to get customs clearance in other country.
  • Floods and water damage is exactly what it sounds like. This is the title designation for a severely water damaged car.
  • Import is the designation of the first title issued by the United States for a vehicle not manufactured or sold in the United States
  • Junk is the designation of a title issued for a vehicle to be scrapped or sold for parts.
  • Lemon is the title designation for a vehicle with a mechanical problem that cannot be resolved.
  • Privilege holder is the real owner of the vehicle until it has been paid in full. It is also the name of the security held by the borrower: Titleholder.
  • Manufacturer’s declaration of origin performs the same function as the certificate of origin.
  • Odometer rollback applies to a title when someone has tampered with the odometer, preventing an accurate count of the mileage.
  • Parts only is a title when a vehicle will only be used for parts.
  • Rebuilt and Rebuilt are similar. They can be assigned to any vehicle rebuilt for road use.
  • Rescue is used by insurance companies when they total a vehicle. A salvage title is rarely changed but allows the owner to continue driving the vehicle.

What is the difference between a car title and a car registration?

The difference between a car title and a car registration is that a title proves ownership, while a car registration allows you to legally drive a vehicle.

More KBB guides:


Comments are closed.