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A car title is an important document that proves who owns a vehicle. Whenever a vehicle is bought or sold from an existing owner, that vehicle’s title must be transferred to the new owner. Most states do not offer an online title transfer option. However, you can prepare to transfer ownership of a vehicle either as a seller or buyer by downloading our online title guide. Our online guide will provide you with information on the forms you will need, the required fees and the specific title transfer guidelines in your state to help you have a smooth experience.

2. By Mail

Some states allow their residents to transfer their vehicle titles by mail, but these states may have certain eligibility requirements and limitations involved with this option. If you need to have a title immediately, attempting to transfer a car title by mail may not be the best option for you. You will have to wait for the postal service to deliver your request to the DMV and then wait for the postal service to deliver your new title to you. Additionally, payment options are typically limited to check and money order.

3. In Person at the DMV

The most direct way to transfer your vehicle title is in person at a DMV office. There are several states that require their residents to transfer their titles in person and do not offer online or mail-in options. Additionally, not all states offer title services through their DMV sites. As such, it is important for you to be prepared for the transaction and to know where you can apply. Our online guide offers all the information you need to transfer a vehicle in one place.


Applying for a car title transfer in California is an important step in situations where the ownership of the vehicle is passed between vehicle owners. Title transfers for cars can be completed through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Note that the CA title transfer requirements may vary slightly depending on the applicant’s circumstances and the nature of the ownership transfer. Also, both the buyer and the seller will be required to complete certain steps to successfully complete the transfer. Learn how to fill out the transfer of title forms and when to initiate this procedure in the sections below.

What is a car title transfer in California?

Prior to submitting a request for a transfer of car title in California, motorists are encouraged to learn more about the title transfer procedure and the purpose of their title certificate. Transferring a car title is a mandatory transaction that transfers ownership of a given vehicle from one individual to another.

The certificate of title, also known as a pink slip in California, is the official document issued by the state DMV for purposes of linking the old with the new owner and signing over the vehicle ownership. If the buyer fails to complete the CA car title transfer, he or she will be unable to properly register and operate the vehicle. The seller, on the other hand, must also ensure the completion of the title transfer for cars in order to avoid future liability for the vehicle.

When is a vehicle title transfer required in California?

Vehicle owners are required to complete the California vehicle title transfer transaction on each occasion the vehicle possession changes hands, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the change in ownership. Therefore, in addition to transferring an auto title after buying or selling a vehicle, you will also be required to meet the corresponding CA car title transfer requirements if you receive the vehicle by means of inheritance or as a gift.

Note: After acquiring a vehicle in a private sale, buyers are required to notify the DMV of the change of ownership and pay the transfer fees within a certain number of days after the purchase date.

Information and Documents Necessary to Transfer a Title in California

To finalize the corresponding title transfers for cars in California, motorists will have to meet several vehicle title transfer requirements, such as submitting certain paperwork and paying the applicable fees. However, the criteria to transfer a car title in CA may differ to a certain degree depending on the circumstances surrounding the ownership transfer. For instance, the following list outlines the CA title transfer requirements regarding the documentation needed to legalize the ownership transfer after a private sale:

  • A properly endorsed title containing the seller’s signature, any lien release signatures and the buyer’s signature
  • A bill of sale, if required
  • A separate odometer mileage statement, if the title does not have a designated section for this purpose and the vehicle is newer than a certain number of model years
  • Proof of smog certification, if required

Note: In the event of a lost title, a duplicate title certificate can be obtained either by the seller or the buyer with the transfer application.

If you are transferring a car title in CA in certain unique situations, you may be required to submit additional paperwork. For example, if you have received the vehicle as a gift, you will be required to submit a tax exemption statement, in addition to the forms listed above. On the other hand, if you are completing the transfer of vehicle title after the death of the original owner, you may need a particular DMV affidavit.

Steps for Performing a Transfer of Title in California

It is important to note that you cannot complete a title transfer online. Instead, you will have to file this request in person at a local DMV site. However, to expedite the transfer of car title in CA, you can make an appointment via the department’s website prior to visiting a DMV office as well.

To ensure that you avoid a rejected application, check that you have collected the necessary documents that apply to your circumstances before making your office visit. Your transfer request will be processed as soon as the department confirms that you meet the relevant requirements.

Getting a New Car Title Versus Title Transfers in California

Before getting a new car title in California, vehicle owners are encouraged to learn more about the various state titling procedures completed under different circumstances. Namely, motorists will apply for a new title for a car only when they are licensing a motor vehicle that has not been previously titled in CA under the name of another legal entity. New car titles are also issued when out-of-state drivers move to California with nonresident vehicles.

Unlike the process to order a new car title in CA, transferring an existing title certificate includes additional steps. Vehicle owners who purchase a used motor vehicle will first have to transfer its ownership in their own name by having the seller sign off the vehicle on the existing title. Motorists can then proceed to a nearby DMV office to finalize the title transfer procedure and obtain a new title in their name.

Car Title Transfer Fees in California

An important step in the California car title transfer process is arranging payment for the applicable DMV fees. In addition to the standard $15 transfer fee and the applicable tax payment, motorists may be required to pay certain registration costs, which vary depending on the vehicle type and purchase price, as well as the motorist’s county of residence. On the other hand, the fee for transferring a certificate of title after the death of the original car owner is $10.

Last updated on Friday, February 15 2019.

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