Handling a vehicle title transfer in California does have to be a struggle if you know what you are doing.
There’s no reason why you should be going back and forth trying to fulfill last-minute requirements for not doing some initial research.
The CA DMV requires residents who have bought, sold, or inherited a vehicle to follow instructions and complete their vehicle title transfers on time.
Be proactive, avoid long DMV lines, and have all your documents ready beforehand.
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For that reason, here are 8 big questions about California vehicle title transfer everyone should know before heading to the local DMV.
What is a vehicle title transfer?
It is a process of vehicle identity. Every time you buy, sell, gift, and/or inherit a vehicle from another party you are required to transfer the title.
Just because you move to California from another state doesn’t mean the same requirements apply everywhere.
Contact the CA DMV to be informed about the required items and fees that are mandatory prior to heading to their offices.
Keep reading the following answers to ensure you are fully aware of the DMV requirements. It is your responsibility to properly transfer the title of your vehicle.
Is it mandatory to transfer a vehicle title in California?
Yes. It’s a mandatory procedure every person living in California must comply with.
If you recently moved to California from another state, you will need to transfer your out-of-state vehicle title and registration and there’s no exemption to the rule.
You are required to title your out-of-state vehicle within 20 days of driving your vehicle as a new resident.
If you are a local and bought a car in California, the CA DMV requires you to transfer the title in your name after 10 days of the purchase date.
It’s worth noting that car dealerships usually take care of all the paperwork required to title a recently-purchased vehicle in your name.
How do I transfer the title of a vehicle in California?
The process is straightforward but many residents miss on few items, which causes delays and setbacks.
The following items are a must:
- California Certificate of Title
- Signatures of buyer, seller, and lienholders, if any
- Title transfer fee
According to your case, you may be require to submit:
- Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262): In case you have no more space to record the odometer mileage of the vehicle title.
- Statement of Facts (REG 256) form: A legal document that presents fact-based information about the vehicle.
- Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) form: A formal document that releases any lienholder on the vehicle.
- Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) form: It is a document that certifies that you have sold or transferred the vehicle to another party.
- Proof of smog certification: A document that tracks mandatory checks on smog inspections. Keep reading to find out more.
- Vehicle Emission System Statement (REG 139) form – A document that sets the rights and responsibilities between sellers and buyers in regard to smog certifications.
- Use tax and other fees
Do I have to provide a proof of smog certification in California?
Yes, you are. Unless you get an exemption. In fact, California has the strictest emission regulations in the country.
To proceed with the vehicle title transfer process, you must provide a proof of smog certification, which buyers must get it from sellers.
Note that smog certifications are exempted to sellers who got their last inspection within the last 90 days or any other of the following cases:
- Diesel/gas powered vehicles from(1975 or older)
- Two-cycle engine vehicles
- OHV and golf carts
- Diesel/ natural gas powered vehicles (more than 14,001 lbs.)
- Motorcycles and mopeds
- Vehicles with Historical Vehicle license plates
- Hybrid/electric-powered vehicles
- Trailers and other special equipment vehicles
- Cranes, cement mixers, street sweepers, and forklifts
What if bought a car with a lost title in California?
Sometimes it happens that you buy or receive a vehicle from someone who has lost his vehicle title in California.
If that’s your case, contact the previous owner to apply for a duplicate vehicle title and have it transferred it to your name right away.
This process could be frustrating since many buyers cannot reach sellers once the transaction has been completed.
To get a duplicate title, sellers must do the following:
- Fill in an Application for Duplicate Title
- Pay the $21 duplicate title fee
- Submit the application to the local CA DMV in person or by mail.
The quicker you handle this situation, the better!
How do I title a vehicle that has been gifted to me from a family member?
If you get a vehicle as a gift from a family member, you’ll be require to take care of the title transfer within 10 days of receiving the vehicle.
First, you must get the following documents from the transferor:
- Certificate of title (properly signed).
- Odometer reading if the vehicle is 10 years old or less.
- Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) form, if applicable
When it comes to gifting between family members, recipients are exempted from providing proof of smog certifications.
Then, go to your local CA DMV agency with the documents stated above and complete the following:
Statement of Facts for both, use tax and smog certification exemptions.
If you receive the vehicle as part of an inheritance, submit an Affidavit for Transfer without Probate
Pay the title transfer fees.
You may be required to provide other documents based on your case, so be prepared.
Note that the DMV consider the following categories as family members:
- Domestic partners
How do I remove a lien from a vehicle title in California?
Typically, once you completed all your car payments on your vehicle, the lienholder will send you a vehicle title, releasing the lien on your vehicle.
You’ll have 30 days after receiving the title to submit it along with the $15 transfer fee at your local DMV agency.
After receiving the title and the paid fee, your local DMV will officially remove the lien form your title.
How much does it cost to transfer a vehicle title in California?
Make sure you know how much you need to pay for title transfers in California.
Find below a list of title transfer fees before heading to your local CA DMV.
New title only: $21
Title Transfer: $15
Duplicate title: $21
Extra note: The CA DMV accepts any of the following payment methods: cash, debit/credit, money order, and cashier check.
Do you need to transfer your vehicle title in the state of California?
California drivers can now seamlessly transfer vehicle titles online with our title transfer tool.