How to Fill Out a Car Title and Change Ownership
Bought a car from a private party? Use this guide to complete your car title the right way.
California Title Transfer Quick Guide
(This guide also applies to boat/vessel title transfers)
1(b). If there are two names on the title pay attention to whether they are separated by an AND or OR. If the names are separated with an AND, both owners must sign the title in order for the DMV to accept the document. If the names are separated with an OR, either owner can sign it. If an AND nor OR exist, the title requires both owners signatures.
2. If the vehicle is model year 2011 or newer, both the seller (either seller when more than one owner exists) and buyer must complete and sign the odometer disclosure section of the title.
4. Indicate the date you purchased the vehicle and for how much. If the vehicle was given to you as a gift, write GIFT and indicate the vehicle's fair market value. The fair market value of a vehicle can be ascertained by looking up the sale price of comparable vehicles. Complete a Statement of Facts (REG 256) attesting the vehicle was given as a gift and no tax is due.
5. The rest of the back of the title is for car dealership and lienholder use. More than often this section will be completed when purchasing a vehicle from an auto dealership. They will handle the title transfer and change of ownership process for you and walk you through the steps necessary to complete the process. For private party purchases or family transfers, and when a lienholder is not involved, this section can be left blank.
1. Use Tax Exemption - Certain title transfer transactions are exempt from Use Tax and require you submit a REG 256 attesting the exemption. Some examples of when you are exempt from paying Use Tax include when receiving a vehicle as a gift and/or when change of ownership occurs within family members as described by the DMV, between a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild. Use Tax is also exempt when a vehicle has been inherited or acquired due to a court order, or when adding or deleting a family member's name from the title. For these transactions complete and submit a Statement of Facts form along with your vehicle title.
2. Smog Exemption - Typically a smog check is required in order to change ownership of any vehicle which is older than 4 years. In certain cases a vehicle is exempt from the smog check requirement. These include, when a transfer occurs between family members as described above, as well as when a smog certificate has been submitted to the DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle sale/purchase date. You will most often encounter a smog check exemption opportunity when a vehicle's seller was required to (and completed) a smog inspection as part of the vehicle's registration renewal process. If your title transfer is eligible for a smog exemption, mark the appropriate box on the REG 256, sign the form and submit it with your title.
3. Document Error Correction - Any error on an official DMV document which requires correction must be corrected on said document and a Statement of Fact form be submitted along with the corrected document explaining the correction and signed by the person attesting to the error and correction. Use the blank portion on the second page of the REG 256 to write in your remarks regarding the correction. Ensure to date and sign the Statement of Facts form. Depending on the error being corrected the DMV may or may not require you have the REG 256 notarized.
Note: White-out and/or sign-overs on a Certificate of Title cannot be accepted without a Statement of Error or Erasure (REG 101) form. Download and complete the REG 101, explaining the reason for the error and include the words "NO FRAUD INTENDED" after your explanation. Mail the REG 101 along with your title document(s).
NeedTags.com® recommends you include the following important information in your bill of sale:
- Date of purchase.
- Seller name and address.
- Buyer name and address.
- Vehicle description, including make, model, year, vehicle identification number (VIN), and license plate number. You may also want to notate the vehicle's color and any distinguishing marks and/or features.
- Sale condition, i.e. sold "as-is", sold with warranty and indicating the time-period, sold with damaged engine or drivetrain, and so on.
- If the seller purchased the vehicle but never registered it in their name, the bill of sale should include the previous owner(s) information.
- The amount paid for the vehicle, including any payments made in installments or down payment.
- How payment(s) was made, i.e. cash, check, credit card or direct deposit.
Give a copy of the bill of sale to the seller and keep the original for yourself. If you don't have access to a copy machine complete two copies and have the seller sign them both.
NOTE: If a smog test has not been performed, one will need to be obtained before your title transfer is finalized. We can begin your title transfer process to help you avoid late fees. Once you get your smog check done, we'll complete your title transfer and mail you your new registration card. In the interim, you'll receive a Report of Deposit of Fee copy, indicating you are the vehicle's new owner.
Contact the seller and advise them about CVC 24007 (b)(2). Note, a smog station will inspect a vehicle regardless of who brings it in. This allows you to undertake the smog check yourself in the event you are unable to contact the seller or the seller is unwilling to perform the smog check themselves, or if you are unwilling to allow the seller access to your vehicle since the purchase has already been made. Just keep in mind, the DMV will not complete the title transfer process, nor will they mail a new Certificate of Title unless the vehicle passes a smog test. The only way around this is to file a Non-Operation status request along with your title transfer. Find money saving smog check coupons here. If a vehicle you purchased fails the smog test and the seller is not willing to work with you to resolve the matter, you may choose to seek legal counsel for resolution advice. Most often these matters are handled through small claims court. Check your vehicle's smog check history here.
How To Order: To avoid the hassle of title transfer filing through the DMV, and for infinitely faster service, choose NeedTags and leave the heavy lifting to us. Answer a few quick questions online, mail-in your title documents (overnight allowed) and get the entire process completed in minutes rather than weeks. Detailed application and mailing instruction will be emailed to you once your title transfer order is received and an experienced DMV advisor will be available to assist you if you run into any issues or have any questions.
Through NeedTags you simply bypass the lengthy "Virtual DMV" line. We will record your vehicle's title transfer within two business days of document receipt, and mail to you on that same day, your vehicle's new registration card and sticker; overnight if requested. Your request will be placed in queue for CA Certificate of Title printing through DMV headquarters immediately. This makes the process infinitely faster. NeedTags proudly leads the CA registration industry in processing speed and efficiency. We can process online title transfers for all types of vehicles including motorcycles, boats, RVs, ATVs and trailers. Are you ready? Start Here.