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Title Transfers or obtaining a New Certificate of Title in California

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California Car Title Transfer

California car titles are one of the most important documents associated with vehicle ownership. There are four instances in which the transfer of titles is necessary in the state of California:

  • When you buy a used car.
  • When you sell a used car.
  • When you gift a vehicle.
  • When you inherit a vehicle.

More Important Information on Title Transfers

How to Buy a Car

Before you learn how to transfer car titles in California, it is important to understand the process of buying a car. There are two ways to go about it:

  • You can lease or buy a new car from a certified dealership.
  • You can buy a used car from a private seller.

When buying a new vehicle, the dealership will take care of registering and titling the car for you. All that you will have to do is purchase car insurance beforehand to take the car off the dealership lot. However, if you buy a vehicle from a private seller in California, it is your responsibility to obtain a CA car registration and transfer car title certification with the seller in person.You should also be sure to ask for the following:

  • A bill of sale
  • A vehicle history report

How to Sell a Car

If you are selling a vehicle, you need to know the process of transferring car titles. You can either sell your car in person or online. If you want to save yourself the time that you would spend meeting and haggling with difficult buyers, selling online is an excellent alternative. To do so, just follow these steps:

  1. Take your vehicle to a repair shop in order to make sure it is in good condition.
  2. Find a credible online vehicle database.
  3. Upload clear photos and an accurate description to your listing.
  4. Post a fair selling price.
  5. Include a vehicle history report as evidence of your car's condition.
  6. Provide a bill of sale as extra proof of the transaction.

How do I transfer car title in California?

On the day of the transaction, you are required to transfer title documentation into the buyer's name:

  1. Fill out the back of the Certificate of Title(pink slip).
  2. Fill out a Bill of Sale (REG 135), if you do not require an odometer reading, or a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer form (REG 262), which is only available at the DMV and acts as a bill of sale combined with odometer disclosure and power of attorney.
  3. Make two copies of Vehicle/Vessel Transfer form or Bill of Sale, which must include:
  4. Signatures of both parties
  5. Year and make of the car
  6. Selling price
  7. Sale date
  8. VIN number
  9. Provide a vehicle history report, including accident history, repairs, and a history of previous owners.

This same process is used if you are transferring the title of an RV.
Note: If you are transferring your vehicle title to someone in another state, you and the buyer will have to get in touch with that state's Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what steps to take.

If Your Title Is Lost

In the event you have lost your original vehicle title, you will have to first request a duplicate title before you sell your vehicle and transfer the title. To do so, you will simply have to fill out an Application for Duplicate Title and visit your local tax county collector's office or a nearby DMV office to hand it in.

Where to Transfer Car Title

In terms of where and what to include on the Certificate of Title document, you must include the following information on the back of the car title:

  • Odometer reading
  • Selling price
  • Date

It is required that the seller locate and fill out the "By Seller" section in order for the transfer to be complete.

Bill of Sale

In the event you are buying or selling a used vehicle from a private party and the odometer reading is not needed, the CA Bill of Sale (REG 135) can be used instead of other car title transfer documents. The Bill of Sale can also be used in conjunction with the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer form to act as a second proof of the transaction. It is the responsibility of the buyer and the seller to ensure that the following information is included in the form:

  • The year of the vehicle
  • The make of the vehicle
  • The selling price
  • The names of the buyer and seller
  • The signatures of the buyer and seller
  • The date of the sale
  • The VIN

What is a VIN?

One element that continues to come up in conversation is the VIN or vehicle identification number. This is the 17-digit code that is completely unique to the vehicle in question and is used to help buyers learn more about the car's past.
VIN history reportsfeature everything from accident reports and descriptions of past repairs to the history of all previous owners. For that reason, they are the perfect tool to make a buyer feel more comfortable.

Importance of a Good Repair Shop

While you now understand the car title transfer process in California, it is important for you to have a solid understanding of its many different components. Repair shops, while seemingly unrelated to the transfer of title, can actually make the process much easier. For example:

  • If you are selling a car, a recent and positive report from a trusted mechanic could help the process go smoother.
  • If you are buying a car, you want to be referred to a fair repair shop just in case something were to happen to the vehicle, especially if it was used.

Finally, cars are not perfect. Breakdowns and flat tires can happen to anyone at any time. When they do, it's best to have a good mechanic to contact.

Finding a Good Auto Warranty

After buying a car, it is highly recommended that you find a good car warranty. As the owner of this new or used vehicle, you will want to make sure that you are covered in a variety of instances. A basic car warranty provides you with a mileage allowance and can come with other features, such as roadside assistance and a network of repair shops.
From a private seller's perspective, it is also advisable to refer your buyer to specific car warranty insurance. Just like providing a vehicle history report, helping a buyer find a car warranty will assist you in selling the vehicle.

How to Gift a Vehicle to a Family Member

If you decide that you would rather not sell your car, gifting and donating are other viable options at your disposal. If you are transferring a car title to a family member, you do not need to provide a smog test. In the state of California, family members are considered:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Domestic partners

Half, step, and adopted family members are also included under the state definition of "family." In addition, the only instance in which a smog certification may be required is if the transfer is going to a sibling.
If you do not fit in any of the above categories, you must follow these steps to receive car title:

  1. Provide vehicle title and signature.
  2. Complete an odometer reading if car is younger than 10 years old.
  3. Submit Vehicle/Vessel Transfer (REG 262), which is only available at the CA DMV.
  4. Have the recipient of the car sign the vehicle title.
  5. Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form (REG 138) within five days of car title transfer.

How to Donate a Vehicle

Donating a vehicle is very similar to the process of gifting a car. You must follow all of the same steps:

  1. Provide vehicle title and signature.
  2. Complete an odometer reading if car is younger than 10 years old.
  3. Submit Vehicle/Vessel Transfer (REG 262), which is only available at the CA DMV.
  4. Have the recipient of the car sign the vehicle title.
  5. Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form (REG 138) within five days of car title transfer.

The only difference between donating and gifting is that most charities will require you to submit a smog certification. All smog certifications must be current, meaning that they are dated within 90 days. In addition, you may receive a tax exemption on your donation depending on the charity you choose to give to.

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