Transfer Vehicle Title

If you sell your vehicle or give it away in California, you must transfer the title to the new owner of the vehicle. This is a change of ownership that must be documented for various reasons. For your protection, you do not want to keep the title to a vehicle you no longer own unless you want to be responsible for insuring it, for any accidents that occur, and for the registration requirements of the vehicle. The process might sound overwhelming, but the act of transferring your title is easier than you might imagine.


Vehicle Transfer Requirement

The vehicle transfer requirement in California is simple. You sell your vehicle or gift it to someone else, and you transfer the title to them. The process is slightly different depending on how you get rid of your vehicle. You aren’t required to handle any title work if you buy a new car by trading in your old one at a dealer. They do the title work for you. However, if you sell your vehicle in a private sale, you are going to find transferring your title is a little different than giving it away.


Transfer Vehicle Title Following a Sale

When you sell your car, you have to transfer to the title to the new owner. The DMV outlines the requirements to make this easier for you. You must start with paying off the car if you have a loan on it. The lienholder must then transfer the title into your name or the name of the buyer. You must all sign it. If you own the car outright, you can bypass the lienholder signature requirements on the title.

You must also file an application for duplicate or transfer of title (form REG 166 is found on the DMV website in the State of California or in person at any DMV office location). You and the buyer must sign this. If you satisfied a lien with the sale of this vehicle, you must have Form REG 166 notarized.

If your vehicle has a smog certification, that must also be provided to the new owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle is exempt from the smog certification, don’t worry about this part of the process. If the vehicle is newer than 10 model years, the title must include the odometer reading. If there’s not a line for this reading on your title, you and the buyer must sign and submit the vehicle/vessel title transfer and reassignment form (REG 262 found on the DMV website).

Finally, you must download and print a Bill of Sale from the internet to disclose all information from the sale. You want to include your name and information, the same for the buyer, and the purchase and sales price. You must then notify the DMV within 5 business days that you have sold your vehicle and want to remove your name from the information they have on file.

Do this online or in person by filing a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form. You can also print it and mail it to the DMV, but that’s not the fastest method. Make copies of all information and provide the buyer with a set of copies and keep a set for yourself.


Gifting a Vehicle

You need to follow all the same requirements as a sale when you gift a vehicle, but you do not have to provide a bill of sale. In fact, you should notarize a statement that you’re gifting the vehicle, file the paperwork, and be done with this job. If your gifted vehicle is a donation, you want to obtain a receipt for the donation as it is a tax-deductible donation.

The cost of a title transfer in California is $15. You can pay this online, in person, or over the phone with a check, money order, debit card, or credit card. You can charge the seller or pay it yourself once the sale is complete. While all of this information is readily available for filing online, it’s preferable to handle it in person so you don’t miss anything or forget to notify the DMV. You want to be done with the ownership of this vehicle immediately so it’s not your responsibility what the new driver does with the vehicle once it leaves your possession.