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Understanding car titles

Here's what you need to know about your car's title and ownership.

The title to your vehicle provides proof of ownership, and you might need it for a handful of situations, especially when selling your car. Discover the ins-and-outs of car titles, how to get a copy of your title, when you might need it and how to make changes to it.

What is a vehicle title?

The owner of the vehicle holds the vehicle’s title. You are issued the title to the vehicle at the time you buy your car even if you financed it and are still making payments. Several important pieces of info can be found on your car title.

  • Your vehicle’s VIN. The vehicle identification number of a car remains consistent no matter who owns it. It’s like your car’s unique ID number. It can be used to track ownership, accidents and even repair and maintenance records.
  • Make and model info. This includes the car’s model year, as well as any additional model information for trim upgrades or special engine options.
  • Permit number. Used as an administrative tracking tool.
  • Date title was issued. Extremely important — this is used to track when you bought or sold the vehicle.
  • Licence plate. The vehicle’s current plate number when the title was issued.
  • Weight class. Typically the higher a vehicle’s weight class is, the more it will cost for annual registration.
  • Full name and address of owner. The car owner’s full name and home address.

How do I add or remove people from my car’s title?

Adding or removing people from your car title is similar to getting a new title. Typically, you’ll need to file for a new title, and then update the owner info fields.

Contact your local provincial or territorial service office to complete the steps for updating owners on a vehicle.

Who is most likely to be researching car titles?

Finder data suggests that men aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

ResponseMale (%)Female (%)
Source: Finder sample of 667 visitors using demographics data from Google Analytics

Do I need my car title to get car insurance?

For the most part, no. Most car insurance providers don’t require you to show the car title when you’re purchasing a policy. Car insurers typically ask for the information of the vehicle itself, information of the principal driver(s), additional driver(s), and the area in which you live and work.

How do I transfer my car title registration when I move provinces?

You’ll need to update your license and registration when you move provinces. Although you don’t have to update your car title when you move to a new address, it might make it easier if you’ll be selling your car in the future.

  1. Search online to find the forms you’ll need to fill out for your provincial service centre.
  2. Some provinces require safety inspections to complete your registration.
  3. Go to your local provincial service centre. You’ll need to bring your driver’s license, proof of purchase for the vehicle, proof of insurance from a licensed provider within that province, the original vehicle permit, and the plate portion of the permit if you have a license plate you want to attach to the vehicle.
  4. Keep your new car registration papers in your car and update any registration stickers on your license plate.

What happens to a title when I sell the car?

There are two additional sections to the vehicle title designated to reassigning ownership. The buyer and seller both fill out their respective sections and enter the following info:

  • Buyer and seller information, usually name and address
  • Odometer reading
  • Date
  • Signatures

This title assignment can only be filled out once, and it can’t be corrected or amended. No scratching things out or erasing them. Because this form is so important, your focus and penmanship should be top-notch when you’re filling it out.

What kind of documentation do I need after selling my car?

After you sell your car, you should keep a copy of the reassigned title for your records. But why would you need to keep track of a vehicle you’ve gotten your money for and sent down the road?

Let’s say you sell a car to someone in a private sale. Both you and the buyer fill out the title transfer properly, and the new owner goes on their way.

Now six months later you receive a letter or phone call telling you your vehicle, the one you sold, has been impounded after some criminal activity. You’re told that you’re responsible for coming to get the car, as well as the damages from an accident the vehicle was involved in — you’re still listed as the owner.

How could this be possible?

If the person who bought the car never registered it in their name, you can still be held liable for what happened with the car after you sold it. This is where your proof of sale will come in handy with the title reassignment form — by presenting this information to the police and any other parties involved, you can prove that you aren’t responsible for the vehicle anymore.

What happens if I don’t sell my car directly?

If you trade in your car or sell it to a third party, you might never deal with the new buyer directly. It’s up to the dealership and new owner to transfer the title, but that’s no guarantee they will. It’s up to you to make sure the title changes hands correctly or you could still be responsible for a car you no longer own.

For example, let’s say you trade in your car with a dealership. The buyer doesn’t update the title by the required time limit, and then the buyer gets a parking ticket. The car’s VIN is still registered to you, so you get the bill for the parking ticket in the mail.

Now you’re stuck with a parking ticket that wasn’t your fault because the dealer and buyer didn’t follow the right process for transferring a title. Your next options in this scenario are to contact the dealership or provincial service centre to remove yourself from the title.

After selling your car, confirm with the buyer or third party that the title has properly transferred. Keep proof of sale and any other supporting documents in case you need to dispute issues that come up after the sale.

How do I get proof of the car sale?

You can use the title certificate with the new owner’s name, the bill of sale or the sales tax form as proof you sold your car. The forms are available from your provincial service centre.

If you need additional documentation, contact the buyer for additional proof. If your car was a trade-in, ask the dealership for proof of sale and submit it to your provincial service centre. Dealerships have no obligation to make sure your car’s future buyer fills out the proper transfer paperwork, so this is a good idea to protect yourself from future legal issues.

Sell or trade-in your car online

1 - 1 of 1
Name Product Max. Vehicle Age Mileage Range Available Provinces Vehicle Payment Link
Clutch Sell or Trade Your Car
2000 or newer
Ontario & Nova Scotia
eTransfer funds in 1 business day
Go to site
More Info
Sell or trade-in your car without the hassle. Upload basic information and get an instant offer. Get the vehicle picked up from your driveway. Available in Ontario and Nova Scotia only.

Can I transfer my car title online?

No, although regulations vary by province. Usually you need to arrive in person at a provincial service centre to transfer your car’s title.

How do I get a new car title?

We get it, you may have lost your original title or it got ruined. It’s going to take a trip to your local provincial service centre and a fee ($32 in Ontario for example) to get a new title. You’ll need to bring ID, your driver’s license and proof of insurance with you.

Frequently asked questions


Written by

Roslyn McKenna

Roslyn McKenna Ayers is insurance manager at ValuePenguin and a former publisher at Finder, specializing in home and auto coverage. Her expertise and analysis has been featured on Bankrate, MSN and Reader's Digest. She holds a BA in writing and communications from Maryville College. See full profile

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