Transferring a Title in California

When doing a California title transfer, there are some special steps you need to go through to make sure you are in step with the CA DMV and the law. The State of California has laws which have to do with owner liability when selling a vehicle and being air quality compliant, which most other states do not have.

1. Get a Smog Certificate.

Should your vehicle meet the requirements, you'll need to obtain a smog certificate, showing proof that the car has passed a smog check in the last 90 days from purchase. A smog can be done all over CA at most auto mechanic and service centers (just look for the sticker in the window). There are also official smog check stations as well as STAR facilities where you can get this done. California does offer smog exemptions for vehicles six model years old or newer, which you will find along with other smog certificate info on the DMV website.

2. Remove Yourself From Traffic Ticket Liability.

The second thing you'll need to do is fill out and send in a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form, which MUST be done by you the seller within 5 days of selling or you may end up being liable down the road for the new owner's traffic tickets! 

3. Official Release of Vehicle Ownership.

Step number three on the way to a successful turnover of California vehicle registration is the legal release of ownership from yourself to the new owner. This refers to” you” the seller signing in the applicable fields on your certificate of title (pink slip). In some cases, you will also be required to complete an odometer disclosure statement. This disclosure statement appears on the title and is required for all vehicles 10 years or newer.

4. Filing Certificate of Title.

The final step in doing a California title transfer is the filing of the certificate of title--also known as the "pink slip" in CA--which officially transfers ownership and liability of the vehicle to the new owner. This is a very crucial step as well, in that it clears the vehicle seller of any potential legal liability through having proper proof of sale on file with the DMV. The DMV website will give you the many options regarding this step, and exactly how to choose the title certificate transfer option that describes your situation.

Those are the four fundamental steps to a successful California title transfer, which if done in a timely way, should have you liability-free, DMV-compliant, and in good standing legally as well.

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