Everything You Need to Know About Your Car Title

car title
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The car title is an essential document for any car owner, and if you want to avoid law-related issues, you need to know how to get it.

Most drivers are unaware of the processes that car ownership requires. Whether you are buying, selling or trying to get a car title duplicate, here you will find all the key information to make the process as speedy as possible.

Car Registration Versus Car Title

This is a very common question among car owners. Basically, for a vehicle to be roadworthy, both the registration and the car title are necessary. Nonetheless, they provide different information and have different aims.

The car title (also known as pink slip) is a document that establishes who is the legal owner of a car and, consequently, who is accountable for it.

As for the registration, it provides evidence that you have paid the government fees and any due taxes; it enables you to circulate with government authorization.

It is true, however, that they are both part of the same titling process, whether it is of a new car or used car. After all, you need to provide a proof of ownership (i.e., the car title) to you register your vehicle at the DMV.

Once you register your car, you will receive the license plate and a proof of registration, which can be a sticker or a document.

With the registration proof, the road authorities will have evidence that you are up to date with your car fee payments.

What Can You Find On The Car Title?

In the process of a car transaction, the buyer and the seller have to fill out the vehicle title form with general information regarding the car and the owner. This may vary from state to state, but, generally, the form includes the vehicle identification number, the license plate number, the price of purchase (when new) and the buyer’s particulars.

Most of the times, it is not necessary to hire a notary during this process, but some states require so, so be sure to consult your state DMV office.

Can There Be More Than One Name On The Car Title?

The answer is yes. You can register up to two owners when filling out the title form, and there are two technicalities when it comes to this:

  • If you separate the names by ‘and’ or a slash, the signature of both owners is required to sell the vehicle.
  • If you separate the names by ‘or’, the signature of one owner is enough.

Keep in mind that this rule may be different depending on the state.

What Happens If I Change My Name?

If you change your name after the title was filled out—with you as the owner—, you will need to do some paperwork. Basically, you will have to complete the application form offered by your local DMV. Plus, it is important to attach a certified copy of the legal name change authorization and, of course, present your ID.

Keep in mind: Most states’ local titling agencies offer the option of applying in person or by mail. Check out the specific requirements for the option you choose before you start the paperwork.

How Do I Transfer The Car Title?

The car title transfer can occur in various situations, like a vehicle purchase or sale, a divorce, a marriage or an inheritance. It basically means that you are changing the name that appears in the car title and, thus, the owner of the vehicle.

There are different processes for each situation. If, for example, you’re buying a new car, you’re in luck, because the title transfer application is normally the responsibility of the dealership.

However, if you buy a car outside your state of residence, the dealership will probably give you a bill of sale along with the car title, so that you can complete the transfer with the agency in charge of titling in your state.

In the case of a used car purchase—besides filling out the application—, it may be required that you provide the vehicle identification number, an odometer reading and a bill of sale.

What is a bill of sale? It is a document that certifies the ownership of property was transferred from one party to another.

The odometer reading is, generally, mandatory, but there can be some exceptions depending on the state; for example, when the car model is 10 or more years old or when it’s a commercial vehicle with a combined gross weight of more than 16,000 pounds.

In some cases, when transferring the car title, you will be required to pay:

  • Taxes
  • Car title
  • Licensing fees
Keep in mind: If you are paying for your car with a loan, the car title will be transferred to you once you have paid off the loan.

You have a window for informing the DMV about the transfer. This also varies depending on the state, but, generally, buyers have around 10 days since the date of purchase to complete the car title transfer. As far as the seller is concerned, they normally have a shorter period of time (5 days approximately) to inform the DMV.

What Do I Do If I Lose My Car Title?

First of all, do not panic. These things happen and, fortunately, they have a quick fix. The process depends on your state; however, most of the time, you just have to fill out a form to replace the car title.

You need to include (1) the reason why you are replacing the car title, (2) your full name, (3) your current address, (4) driving license number and (5) signature.

Has your title been damaged? Then, you will surely have to present it as proof.

Did you change your address? Then you must attach the notice of change of address to your application.

Take into account that there are some fees that you must pay both for damaged or lost car title.

As a responsible car owner, you need to know the particulars of all the situations you could be involved in. This will make it easier and less stressful, especially in unexpected situations like a car title loss.

In any case, when doubt, do not hesitate to call your local DMV for further guidance.