Vehicle owners must apply for a California car title whenever they acquire a new or used vehicle by purchase, inheritance or by gift. A DMV car title acts as a legal form which establishes the owner of a vehicle. As such, car buyers cannot operate the vehicle without it. To obtain a car title in CA, motorists must complete the transaction in person through the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), unless they purchase the vehicle from a dealership.

In addition to applying for an auto title after acquiring a vehicle, car owners may register their vehicles at the same time, since the requirements for both transactions are similar. To learn more about how to get car titles and to discover the ways in which vehicle titles and registrations relate to one another, review the information below.

Where to Apply for a Car Title in California

Buyers must apply for a DMV car title on their own when they purchase a vehicle from a private seller or acquire a vehicle from a family member. To get car title documentation, vehicle owners must visit a DMV office to transfer the vehicle’s ownership within 10 days of purchase.

Drivers must visit a DMV branch to obtain a new or used car title, regardless of whether motorists purchase the vehicle new, used or acquire it as a gift. While applying for a California car title (also known as a pink slip), vehicle owners must submit a title and registration application along with all supporting documentation.

Motorists must pay all CA auto title fees within 30 days of completing the vehicle title transfer. Note that, dealerships complete the new car title paperwork whenever a buyer purchases a vehicle from a dealership.

Note: When getting car title documentation, drivers can reduce wait times by calling their local DMV branch to schedule an appointment in advance.

The California Auto Title Application

When applying for a car title in CA, vehicle owners must complete an Application for Title or Registration (REG Form 343). Drivers may use the new car title application to apply for a title and registration certificate at the same time.

Furthermore, the vehicle title application includes nine sections, which range from vehicle information to ownership information. When completing the application to receive a title for car ownership, motorists must provide the following information:

  • Vehicle information, such as the vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • The make, model and fuel type of the vehicle.
  • The vehicle’s license plate number.
  • Vehicle owner information, including the full name(s) and CA driver’s license number(s) of the vehicle owner and co-owners.
  • Lienholder/title holder information (if applicable), including the name and address.
  • The vehicle’s odometer reading.
  • Vehicle purchase information, including the purchase date and cost.

To obtain a certificate of title in California on an out-of-state or out-of-country vehicle, applicants must complete section seven of the application. Military members who need to get a car title must complete section eight of the application. Note that, all vehicle owners and co-owners must print, sign and date the application before they may submit it to the DMV.

Documents You Must Provide When Applying for a New Car Title in California

When applying for a new or used car title in CA, vehicle owners must submit supporting documentation in addition to the Application for Title or Registration (REG Form 343). Vehicle owners may only submit auto title documentation in person at a DMV office.

When getting a car title, motorists must provide the DMV with the following documents:

  • The vehicle’s current pink slip, with the previous car owner’s signature AND a releasing signature from the vehicle’s lienholder (if applicable).
  • An odometer mileage statement, if the vehicle is under 10 years of age. If there is not enough room on the car title for this information, motorists must obtain a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG Form 262) from the DMV.
  • Smog test certification (if applicable). Generally, vehicles must undergo a smog test if they are older than four model years, or if the vehicle runs on diesel fuel.
  • Payment for all vehicle title fees, including the transfer fee and use tax.

Note: The process of how to get a car title for gifted vehicles varies slightly. If you receive a vehicle as a gift or from a family member, you must follow the same titling process as a regular buyer. These rules apply to motorists who receive the vehicle from a family member such as a spouse, child, sibling, parent, domestic partner, grandchild or grandparent. If you acquire the vehicle from another driver, you must complete a Statement of Facts, a Statement of Use Tax Exemption (REG Form 256) and submit a valid smog certification (if applicable).

What is a California car registration?

In addition to obtaining a new title, vehicle owners must obtain auto registration documentation before they may legally drive a new or used vehicle on state roadways. Vehicle registration documents show that the DMV allows drivers to operate the vehicle throughout the state.

To obtain car registration in California, car owners must complete a smog inspection (if applicable), an Application for Title or Registration (REG Form 343), present the vehicle’s title and pay all applicable car registration fees.

What is the difference between a car title and a vehicle registration in California?

Although drivers may get car registration and title certificates simultaneously, a California car registration document and certificate of title are different documents serving two different purposes. The main difference between a new car registration and title is that a title certificate establishes vehicle ownership, while a motor vehicle registration card permits vehicle owners to drive the vehicle on public roads.

However, car owners may obtain DMV car registration and titling documentation at the same time by completing an Application for Title or Registration (REG Form 343) and submitting all supporting documentation to the DMV.

Car Title Costs in California

There are various California car title costs that applicants must take into consideration. However, the standard fee for simply obtaining a vehicle title in CA is $21.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.