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car titles

Understanding car titles

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How to make changes to your car’s title and ownership

Your car title is like your car’s birth certificate. The information on a title is extremely important, so it all needs to be accurate. The title to your vehicle provides proof of ownership, and you might need it for a handful of situations, like selling your car.

Discover how to get a copy of your title, when you might need it and how to make changes to your car title.

What’s on a vehicle title?

Several important pieces of info can be found on your car title.

  • Your vehicle’s VIN. The vehicle identification number of your car remains consistent no matter who owns it, and 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 option information for trim upgrades or special engine options.
  • Title 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.
  • Odometer reading when issued. This is also very important, and it’s used as a way to verify when you bought or sold the vehicle in question. Verifying ownership becomes vital when a crime is committed with the vehicle, and this info can be helpful to the police if your vehicle is ever stolen.
  • 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 or lender. This might be your home address, or it could be the name and address of the bank that loaned you money to buy the car if you’re still making payments.

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 what’s called the Title Assignment section and enter the following info.

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

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 must keep a copy of the reassigned title for at least 18 months. 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 his way. But 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 his 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 in the required 30 days, 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 DMV to remove yourself from the title.

After selling your car, confirm with the buyer or third party buyer 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.

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When do I get my title after paying my vehicle off?

Typically, after you make your last payment to the bank or dealership, your car title will be sent to you in the mail. The title that is sent to you should reflect all the correct information, including having your name and address on it, since you’re the true owner of the vehicle now.

If you don’t receive it within a month, contact the bank that held your car loan to find out when you should receive it.

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.

However, you’ll definitely need the title to get the car properly licensed and registered, and the information on the title could be helpful in making the car insurance process quicker and simpler.

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 DMV to find the right form for updating owners on a vehicle.

What if I lose my title?

We get it, things get lost sometimes. Unfortunately it’s going to take a bit of paperwork and a fee, typically less than $20, to get a new title sent to you. The good news is that it can be done through standard channels with your DMV.

These forms are accurate at the time of writing, but you might want to check with your local DMV to make sure you have the most recent forms.

StateFee and CostsForms
Alabama$15Download DMV form
Alaska$15Download DMV form
Arizona$15Download DMV form
Arkansas$4Download DMV form
California$21Download DMV form
Colorado$8.20Download DMV form
Connecticut$25Download DMV form
Delaware$50Download DMV form
Florida$75.25Download DMV form
Georgia$8Download DMV form
Hawaii$5Download DMV form
Idaho$28Download DMV form
Illinois$95Download DMV form
Indiana$15Download DMV form
Iowa$25Download DMV form
Kansas$10Download DMV form
Kentucky$6Download DMV form
Louisiana$68.50Download DMV form
Maine$33Download DMV form
Maryland$20Download DMV form
Massachusetts$25Download DMV form
Michigan$15Download DMV form
Minnesota$7.25Download DMV form
Mississippi$9Download DMV form
Missouri$11Download DMV form
Montana$10Download DMV form
Nebraska$14Download DMV form
Nevada$21Download DMV form
New Hampshire$25Download DMV form
New Jersey$60Download DMV form
New Mexico$5Download DMV form
New York$20Download DMV form
North Carolina$20Download DMV form
North Dakota$5Download DMV form
Ohio$15Download DMV form
Oklahoma$11Download DMV form
Oregon$90Download DMV form
Pennsylvania$53Download DMV form
Rhode Island$51.50Download DMV form
South Carolina$15Download DMV form
South Dakota$10Download DMV form
Tennessee$11Download DMV form
Texas$2Download DMV form
Utah$6Download DMV form
Vermont$35Download DMV form
Virginia$10Download DMV form
Washington$31Download DMV form
West Virgnia$15Download DMV form
Wisconsin$5Download DMV form
Wyoming$15Download DMV form
Washington DC$26Download DMV form

Frequently asked questions about car titles

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