When buying a vehicle (car, SUV, pickup truck, motorhome, motorcycle, electric vehicle) from a private seller in California, if the title (aka title/pink slip) is from California, the seller signs the title to release the ownership of the vehicle. There’s no extra application form to fill out because there’s already a title.
The seller is also known as the registered owner: signing and dating the CA title
The seller, also known as the registered owner, needs to sign and date on Line A of the certificate of title to release ownership. The seller also has to sign and date the odometer disclosure statement, any mistake will void the document.
Every time you buy, sell, gift, or inherit a vehicle from another party you’re required to transfer the title of that vehicle
eTags California title transfer online
eTags offers titling services in California online, meaning there’s no need to visit the local CA DMV to apply for change of ownership and title in new name.
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Once you place your CA title transfer order on etags.com, you’ll be prompted to input some details about yourself and the vehicle in question. For example, the first detail on the list is the license plate number of the vehicle you want transferred. You could also enter the VIN number instead.
After answering a few questions, you’ll have your own account where you can check that status of your title transfer and communicate with a title specialist. We’ll ask you to upload your driver’s license or passport for ID purposes along with other documents (like the ones mentioned below) such as the title itself or the application for title should the seller not have the original.
In California, the lien holder keeps the vehicle title until their vested interest in the vehicle is paid off, at which point they release the title with the lien holder section signed, dated, and stamped
If you don’t have a CA title: either lost/stolen or you have an out -of-state title
If the vehicle seller doesn’t have a California title, but you (the buyer) need a CA title because that’s where you reside, you can just apply for a duplicate title with the Form REG 227 known as Application for Duplicate Title or Transfer of Title.
The application will give the new buyer a new title and registration so vehicle not only has a new owner, it will also be legally allowed to drive on California roads. Some people choose to only get the transfer of ownership, so only the certificate of title, but not the registration, since they’re not planning on actually driving the vehicle for a while. Maybe it needs repairs, maybe it’s a seasonal vehicle or for whatever other reason.
SEE ALSO: VEHICLE TRANSACTIONS NOT SUBJECT TO TAX
If using the Application for Duplicate Title or Transfer of Title,
seller & buyer must sign NRL
When a vehicle seller sells his or her vehicle, they have to submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability known as an NRL. This document notifies the CA DMV that ownership has changed and the seller won’t be responsible for anything related to the vehicle anymore. So if the new buyer gets parking tickets, or they’re involved in a traffic violation, car accidents or even civil litigation, the seller is not responsible and has the proof thanks to the NRL.
To complete an NRL, you’ll need personal and vehicle info such as VIN, as well the new owner’s name and address and date of sale. You’ll need an odometer reading too. Legal owner transfers (transfers between lenders or removal of a lien holder from the title) do not require an NRL.
The Smog Check exemption is based on the model-year of the vehicle, not the date of manufacture
Statement of facts for tax exemption and more
If the vehicle is being gifted to you, you’ll need a completed Statement of Facts form REG 256 to get fee exemptions for family transfers and smog certification. Form 256 is also used in the case of a title transfer only or name change. If the vehicle was inherited, seller needs to submit an affidavit for transfer without probate form REG 5. Since the owner is deceased, the seller will need this form to provide proof that he or she owns the vehicle by inheritance in order to sell the vehicle.
For more information on title tranfers in California, just do a quick search on our etags blog for more details on the process.