California DMV Title Transfer Guide
Complete Your Title Transfer with eTags
Whether you are buying or selling a car in California, you need to know how the title transfer works. Learn all the facts and necessary links with this quick FAQ.
How To Transfer A Vehicle Title In California
When the title is transferred to you or to the buyer of your car, it must be taken to the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to get new plates and a registration.
Check out their website for a complete list of DMV locations and times.
What Is A Title?
Your car title is the official proof of vehicle ownership.
It describes the vehicle using the following criteria:
- Year of manufacture.
- Make, model, and trim level (ex: Ford Taurus LX).
- Type of vehicle (Sedan, SUV, pickup, etc.).
- The Vehicle Identification Number.
- Its weight.
- Number of passengers.
- New, used, or salvage condition.
- Odometer reading.
It will then list the owner of the vehicle and their address. It will have additional areas for the personal information of the buyer.
How to Transfer a Title in California
When a vehicle is sold or simply transferred, the old title must be signed over by the original title holder and filled out according to law. It is then signed by the buyer. If the seller has a loan on the vehicle, the bank must also sign the title recognizing the sale and release their responsibility to the vehicle. If the buyer will be using a loan, their bank also must sign it.
The title is then taken to the DMV where the clerk will enter the change of ownership into the database and create a new title. If there is a loan on the car, the title is sent to the bank until the loan is satisfied. If the car was paid for in full, the new title stays with the new owner. Once an updated title is issued and all fees are paid, the car can be registered.
Title Transfer When There Is A Lien Holder
What is a lien holder? Can I transfer my car title if there is a lien on the vehicle in California?
A lien holder is the person or business who holds the loan for a vehicle or other item of value. The lien holder is able to repossess the car if you fail to meet the requirements of the loan.
In many ways, the lien holder is the legal owner of the car until you pay off the loan.
The Odometer Reading Must Be Accurate
Whether you are just signing over the car to your teenager or selling it, make sure that the odometer reading listed on the title is 100% accurate. If you make a mistake and try to erase or adjust the numbers, the title and sale of the car can be declared invalid.
You may have to request a duplicate title in order to start the transfer process over.
Why Is My Car Title Pink?
My car title is pink. What does that mean? Can I still complete the title transfer process in California with a pink vehicle title?
Before 1990, California car titles were literally pink and were commonly called pink slips. So if you are buying an antique car with one owner, the title should not look like the new rainbow-colored title.
Do I need to have my vehicle smogged before I can transfer the title?
Before you complete a title transfer in California, the vehicle must get a smog certification. Certificates are valid for 90 days, so it is a good idea for the seller to have it done ahead of time to save the frustration of a sale gone wrong.
If the car cannot pass smog, the sale can be invalidated.
How To Fill Out The CA Transfer Of Title Forms
How do I properly fill out the title transfer forms? Do I need to sign the car title? Where do I sign?
The title has lots of different empty boxes. Which ones do you fill out? Check out this quick video for a fast explanation.
Who Pays The Title Transfer Fees?
The buyer or new owner will pay for a title transfer fee along with sales tax and potentially local use tax. If the car is purchased from a dealership, the sales tax may be included in your purchase. You will receive a document showing the sales tax is paid.
If the original title is missing, there will be additional fees for a duplicate and possibly research fees to find the original title.
California DMV Hours And Contact Information
Should you have any questions about more California title transfer requirements, check out their DMV FAQ page or give them a call at 1-800-777-0133.
For more information on questions specific to your title transfer scenario, clarification on the title transfer process in the state of California, or for CA DMV hours and to find the DMV location nearest to you, visit the official California Department of Motor Vehicles website by clicking here.
Common Questions About California Title Transfer
Are there any questions about transferring a car title that we didn’t cover?
We are constantly updating our content and welcome your feedback. Leave us a comment and let us know any other questions you might have regarding how to transfer a car title in the state of California.