What Is a Certificate of Title and Is There a Fee Associated With It?

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When you buy a car, the first thing you have to do is register it with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This process also includes applying for a certificate of title, which shows ownership of the vehicle. Usually, the company that finances your purchase holds onto your car title until the point of when you pay it off.
Here’s what you should understand this important document, including how you attain one, what is shows, and how much it will cost you.

What Is a Certificate of Title?

While the primary purpose of a certificate of title is to show who owns a vehicle, it also offers a variety of information about your registered vehicle.
Assignment of title: The assignment of title section is the area of the title that shows any change in ownership. If you sell the vehicle, you would list the person you’re selling it to in this area.
Car details: This section gives the vehicle’s make, model, and the year it was manufactured.
Lienholder: The lienholder is the financing company that gave you the funds to purchase the vehicle. As long as you owe them money on the vehicle, the lienholder will hold onto the title. Once the vehicle is paid off, the lienholder will send the title to the vehicle’s owner.
Odometer reading: Many vehicle titles have an area to write the vehicle’s odometer reading when it is sold to someone else. This is a requirement in many states, as the new owner has to register the vehicle in their name and the odometer reading is a crucial part of that process in many places.
Owner: This section lists the vehicle’s current owner.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): This is the vehicle’s specific identifying number. Provided by the car’s manufacturer, each car has a unique VIN, which is listed in this section.

What Are the Different Types of Car Titles?

Certificates of title come in many different types, each indicating a specific status for your vehicle. This makes it important to know which one you have, as it can affect your ability to sell it down the road.
Clean title: A clean title is for a vehicle that has never experienced any kind of significant damage, including from a wreck or natural disaster.
Flood title: A flood title lets any potential buyers know that the vehicle has been subjected to some sort of water damage, either from a flood or other source.
Lemon Law title: State Lemon Laws protect vehicle owners from defective vehicles. When an owner returns a car to the manufacturer because it has proven to be a lemon, it is given this type of title to protect future buyers from purchasing a defective vehicle.
Rebuilt title: Whenever a car has to be rebuilt to pass a state’s standards, and thus be drivable on the road, it receives a rebuilt title. This is to inform potential future owners of the history of the vehicle.
Salvage title: If a vehicle is ever declared a total loss by an insurance company, it receives a salvage title. Vehicles that are declared a total loss usually have suffered extensive damage at some point in their history, making them less desirable for someone looking to buy a vehicle.

How Much Does it Cost for a Car Title?

Whenever you register a recently purchased car or move to a new state is when you will apply for a certificate of title. The cost of applying for a certificate of title will depend on the state you are registering it in, as shown below.
  • Alaska $15.00
  • Alabama $50.00
  • Arkansas $3.00
  • Arizona $4.00
  • California $25.00
  • Colorado (Fees based on the age and weight of the vehicle)
  • Connecticut $25.00
  • Delaware $20.00
  • Florida $28.00
  • Georgia $18.00
  • Hawaii $5.00
  • Iowa (Fees based on the MSRP and weight of the vehicle)
  • Idaho $21.00
  • Illinois $95.00
  • Indiana $0.00
  • Kansas $3.00
  • Kentucky $9.00
  • Louisiana $68.50
  • Massachusetts $33.00
  • Maryland $100.00
  • Maine $75.00
  • Michigan $15.00 (Fees based on MSRP)
  • Minnesota $8.25
  • Missouri $9.00
  • Mississippi $11.00
  • Montana $25.00
  • North Carolina $10.00
  • North Dakota $29.25
  • Nebraska $25.00
  • New Hampshire $25.00 (Fees based on MSRP)
  • New Jersey $5.00
  • New Mexico $5.00
  • Nevada $52.00
  • New York $50.00
  • Ohio $15.00
  • Oklahoma $11.00
  • Oregon $93.00
  • Pennsylvania $53.00
  • Rhode Island $51.50
  • South Carolina $15.00
  • South Dakota $10.00
  • Tennessee $11.00
  • Texas $28.00
  • Utah $6.00 (Fees based on weight of the vehicle)
  • Virginia $10.00
  • Vermont $35.00
  • Washington $12.00
  • Wisconsin $69.50
  • West Virginia $15.00
  • Wyoming $15.00

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