How to Transfer a Car Title When Buying or Selling

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you’ll need to know where to sign on the title, what paperwork to file with the DMV, and how to navigate liens and joint ownership.
Written by Michelle Ballestrasse
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Whether you’re buying a car or selling it, the transaction isn’t complete until the car’s title has been transferred, the paperwork has been filed, and the fees have been paid.
And if you’re a buyer in certain states, until that title transfer is complete, you won’t be able to
insure the car
in your own name.
The process can be a little different when it comes to
private transactions
versus buying through a dealership. But while the basics remain consistent, it’s important to note that your state can have additional steps that affect the process as well.
That’s why the car insurance comparison shopping and broker app
has compiled everything you need to know about how to transfer a car title when buying or selling a car. We've also given examples of how the entire process works in three different states so you can get an idea of how the process can vary (and what you might expect in your state).
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How a car title transfer works

Any time a car is bought or sold, the title goes with it.
The title transfer has to be completed before you can
insure the car
In a private transaction, the car’s seller will sign the title to release the ownership of the car, and the buyer will sign the title to take over ownership. The buyer is then responsible for taking the title, along with other paperwork, to the DMV to file.
Other paperwork that may be required includes:
  • The current odometer reading
  • A bill of sale signed by both parties
  • Notice of transfer
  • Most recent smog test results
Check the requirements with your local DMV before buying a car from a private seller. If you’re missing any required paperwork, it may be harder to contact the seller and obtain them later. The bill of sale is how the DMV will calculate whatever fees or taxes you may owe before they file the title. Even if the car is a gift, a bill of sale may still be required.
Buying a car from a dealership can be easier. The dealerships will, unless they indicate otherwise, handle and file all the paperwork for you. So all you have to do is wait for your registration to arrive.
Key Takeaway In a private sale, the car’s seller will sign the title to release ownership and the buyer will sign the title to take over ownership. If you buy a car at a dealership, it will usually take care of the paperwork.

Next steps

Even after the buyer has driven away with the car and the title, the seller isn’t quite finished yet. Both buyer and seller have 30 days to file their respective forms with the DMV. The seller should file a release of liability to avoid responsibility for any trouble the car and its new owner may get into.
Meanwhile, the buyer will need to apply for a new title, or fill out and file a transfer of ownership form. Which form is needed depends on state regulations. After the forms are filed, the DMV will provide the buyer with temporary registration papers. The formal registration will be mailed to their listed address.

Whose name is listed

In most cases, there should only be one name listed on the title — the sole owner of the car. In this case, selling the car should be easy.
But in some cases, there can be two or more names on the title, such as in the case of spouses. If the names on the title are listed "Party 1 and Party 2," you’ll need both parties’ signatures on the title to transfer it. If the names listed are "Party 1 or Party 2," you’ll only need a signature from one or the other.
Additionally, if the seller has taken out an auto loan on the car, the lender, or lienholder, will be listed on the title. In this case, the seller will need to call the lender to ask if the car can be sold, and how it should be handled before
trying to sell it
In these cases, selling the car privately might be trickier, but it can still be done. How it’s done can depend on your state, along with some other regulations.
Key Takeaway If a car has a lien, the lienholder may also be listed on the title.

How to transfer a car title in Texas

Texas is relatively straightforward when it comes to transferring titles, but there are still certain forms that must be filled out, especially if the car is a gift.
If you’re selling a car to a non-family member, you’re required to provide the buyer:
  • A signed title with date of sale and current odometer reading
  • A signed Application for Texas Title and/or Registration (Form 130-U), with the sales price.
If you’re selling or gifting the car to a family member, you’ll need:
  • The signed title
  • A signed Application for Texas Title and/or Registration (Form 130-U)
  • An Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer (Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Form 14-317)
In addition, both parties must sign the affidavit and title application, but either party can file the paperwork. This must be done in person at your local county tax office.
In either case, if you’re the seller, be sure to file a Vehicle Transfer Notification with the DMV as soon as you’ve sold or gifted the car.

How to transfer a car title in Florida

Florida offers digital or paper titles, and you only need one or the other. But there are different rules that apply to each format.
If the title is paper, both sides must sign as standard. If you can’t find your paper title, you can obtain a duplicate by filing an HSMV 82101 form and paying a fee.
If the title is digital, both sides must visit a motor vehicle service center with their photo identification. Once there, both parties will have to complete a secure title reassignment form, either the HSMV 82994 or 82092.
Whether using a digital or a paper title, the buyer and the seller must individually fill out separate respective forms. The seller must fill out and file an HSMV 82050 form and the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the title. The latter must include:
  • The name and address of the buyer
  • The current odometer information
  • Selling price of the car, even if it’s a gift
  • Date the car was sold
The seller will also need to settle any liens on the car before it can be sold.
The buyer must complete an Application for Certificate of Title with/without Registration form, attach it to the title and submit it to a motor vehicle service center to transfer the title into their name. This must be done in 30 days, or the buyer may have to pay a penalty.
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How to transfer a car title in Ohio

Ohio has specific regulations for a number of different title transfer situations. The advice below is for a standard buy/sell transfer. For any other situations, refer to the
Ohio BMV’s list of regulations
Whether you’ve bought from a private seller or a dealership, you’ll need to bring to your local title office:
  • Application for Certificate of Title to a Motor Vehicle (form BMV 3774)
  • If the car is new from a dealership: Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO)
  • If the car is bought from a private seller: the original title and VIN number
Private sellers, meanwhile, must fill out the "assignment of ownership" section found on the back of the car’s title before handing it over to the buyer.

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Frequently asked questions

What if there’s a lien on my car?

If a bank or lender name is listed on your title, that means they hold a lien on your car. This means that you still owe on an auto loan that may need to be settled before you can sell the car.
But that’s dependent on your lender—some lenders may still allow you to sell the car, but you have to contact and verify with them first. In some states like Florida, however, liens must be settled before the car can be sold.

What if the car is jointly owned?

If the car is owned by a pair of spouses, that can complicate the transfer, but doesn’t prevent it.
It depends on what conjunction sits between the names on the title. If the names are joined with an "and," both parties need to sign the title to release ownership. If there’s an "or," that means either listed name can sign, and you don’t need both.

Who’s liable for the car if the buyer doesn’t file the paperwork?

This question drives home the absolute importance of filing a release of liability. This document tells the DMV that you are no longer the owner of the car, and are therefore no longer responsible for it.
Without the release, a buyer can rack up parking tickets, toll violations, or other infractions that you, the last known owner, will be liable for paying.
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