To drive a car, the first thing you must have, even before the driver’s license, is the title of your car, with which you can then make the title transfer. In this article, we will explain how to perform this process and change the title of the vehicle.
It is mandatory to have a title of a vehicle, since, at the time of making a title transfer, that is to say, at the moment of buying or selling the vehicle. On the other hand, the title transfer also applies for name changes due to divorce or marriage, or inheritance, among other situations.
What is a vehicle title?
A vehicle title is a certificate that you must have to prove that the car is yours. The document will prove that you are the owner of the vehicle, and that, therefore, you have the legal right to put it up for sale, for which, subsequently, you will need to perform the title transfer.
To make the title transfer legally, it is necessary to carry out a procedure so that the transfer is legal, valid and in force. Although it is not a difficult process to carry out, a series of steps must be followed to obtain the certificate of change of title, which we will discuss later.
How to obtain a vehicle title
If you have a vehicle, but have not yet obtained the title, you can do so through several methods. With the advancement of technology, you can now validate the title of a car with a document that can be in printed format, or with an electronic title.
REMINDER: Either of these two formats, printed or digital, are valid.
Let’s see, below, the different ways you can obtain the title of your vehicle.
Cancel your loan
Applying for a loan and obtaining the title of your vehicle are not a good combination, since lenders usually keep this title in their file as a way to ensure that you will pay off the loan in full. When you pay off the loan, the original car title will automatically be returned to the owner.
RECOMMENDATION: As a precaution, do not keep the title inside your vehicle.
Apply for a duplicate title at the DMV.
Go to one of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices closest to where you live, or the one that is easiest for you to get to. Once you are at the branch, apply for a duplicate title.
You will need to fill out an application form. This process can be done either at the DMV offices, online or by mail. You only have to pay a fee, depending on the state, for the corresponding charges, and present the requested documentation to obtain the vehicle title.
Find your lost title
If your lien was issued in digital or printed format and you have misplaced it, you must go to a DMV office to request a duplicate title, explaining your situation.
Advices for the title transfer of a vehicle
In case you have decided to buy a car and, therefore, to make the title transfer of, for example, your new car, you must verify the information detailed below. If you don’t do it, you may later regret buying it.
- Make sure that the vehicle you will be sold has a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and verify that it is the same number that appears on the title transfer documents.
FACT: The VIN is usually located on the dashboard, on the driver’s side, and on the driver’s door frame.
- Check if the current owner of the vehicle has any outstanding debts to any bank for the car, i.e., whether or not he/she has a lien on the car.
To check the lien status of the vehicle you plan to purchase, you will need to go to the official DMV website for the place where you live. For example, if you live in New York, you should go to this link. Once inside, enter the corresponding VIN.
Another way to verify it is by calling or going to a DMV office, where they will provide you with the information you need.
- It often happens that the seller is the legal owner of the vehicle, but the title is in the name of several owners. In this case, you will need permission to make the title transfer in your name.
- Verify and document the mileage of the vehicle you are about to purchase. This will be necessary to accurately file the odometer statement.
How to do the title transfer
As explained above, a title transfer is a mandatory step after buying or inheriting a car. Although the title transfer is required nationwide, the laws vary from state to state, as not all states have the same rules.
For this, you should consult the DMV of the state in which you reside. Before consulting, you should be aware of the process to apply for a title transfer.
- First of all, you must ask the person selling you the car to assign the current title to your name. Don’t forget that this document must be verified with a signature from the owner.
- Once you have the certified document, you will have to present it, to whom it may concern, together with the completed title application and the odometer statement, which we mentioned in the previous section.
- When you have all this information gathered, you will be able to avoid scams and get the correct and legal title transfer.
FACT: You will probably be charged a fee for this procedure.
Title transfer according to the seller
Let’s see, next, how the title transfer is done according to the place where you bought the vehicle.
If you buy from a dealer
When you buy your car at a dealership, you will save the entire title transfer procedure, since the dealership will take care of all the paperwork. Once you buy the car, they will give you the title along with other important documentation, such as the odometer statement.
FACT: If the vehicle is financed, the title will be sent to the lender.
If you buy from a private seller
If you purchase the vehicle from a private seller, the title transfer is more complicated, since you are the one who must take care of the paperwork. However, this procedure is simpler if the seller is the full owner of the vehicle, since you will have to ask him to sign as the seller of the title.
On the other hand, the seller must provide you with a bill of sale. Once you have these documents, you must present them to the DMV.
If you are the one selling the vehicle
In order to correctly and legally transfer the title without any inconveniences, you will have to do the following steps:
- Prove to the buyer that you are the owner of the car with a copy of the vehicle title and lien.
- Provide a document with the change of ownership in the buyer’s name, with your certified signature.
- Provide your contact information to the buyer.