How to Take a Name off a Car Title, Step-by-Step

To take a name from a car title, the person being removed signs the back of the title as the seller. The name staying on the title signs as the buyer.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Edited by Bellina Gaskey
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Removing a name from a car title is similar to selling the car. Fill out the back side of the title as if you’re selling the vehicle—and get your lienholder’s permission if needed.
  • To remove a name from a car title and transfer ownership of a vehicle, have the person being removed sign on the “seller” line and the person keeping the title sign on the “buyer” line.
  • If your lienholder possesses the title, you will need to get their permission to alter the title.
  • The process is roughly the same even if you’re bequeathing, gifting, or donating the car.

How to remove a name from a car title

The process of removing a name from a vehicle title is the same as selling the car.
  • Step one: The person being removed from the title must complete the back section of the original title as the “seller.”
  • Step two: The person who will remain on the car’s title (or the new owner) will sign on the title as the “buyer.”
  • Step three: The "buyer" will take the signed title to the local DMV and get a new title issued.
Pro tip: Your state may require you to fill out a bill of sale any time a title is transferred to a new person, even if there’s no formal exchange of money.

Removing a name from a car title with multiple names

To get your name off a joint title, you’ll have to see whether the names on the title are joined by "and," "or," or in some cases, "and/or." 
This applies to motor vehicles in every state but
Arizona
—which we’ll deal with below.
  • If the names are joined by "and": both people on the title will have to sign as "sellers" and the person to remain on the title will be listed as the "buyer".
  • If the names are joined by "or" or "and/or": only one person needs to sign as the "seller," and the person who will remain on the title can be listed as "buyer".
  • In Arizona: If both names are joined by "and/or", it’s the same as if both names were joined by "and". Both people listed must sign as sellers.

If a lienholder is listed on the title

Removing a name from a car title is a bit different if a lienholder is also listed on the title. In this case, you have a few options.
  • If you can pay off your loan in full to the lender, you’ll be able to get a lien release and proceed without their input. 
  • If paying off your car loan isn’t possible, you’ll need the lienholder’s permission to change the certificate of title.
  • If the lienholder won’t agree to make a change, you won’t be allowed to remove the desired name from the title.

Things to watch out for when taking a name off a car title

During this process, any errors or legibility issues may cause the DMV to reject your application.
Some states require signatures to be notarized (with a notary present) when changing or removing names from a title. Check with your state DMV about this step.
Other states require that the transfer be completed in person at the DMV. You may need to make an appointment in this case—be sure to bring your driver’s license and the vehicle registration.

Special cases

Sometimes, the reason a name is being taken off a title impacts the process.

Divorce

In cases such as a divorce, any title change must match the divorce agreement.
If your ex-spouse gets full ownership of a formerly shared car, this must be reflected in the title. In this case, you would sign as the "seller," and your ex-spouse would sign as "buyer," putting the car’s title in their possession.
Most states charge a sales tax on any car title changes. However, some states will waive the tax if a divorce order accompanies the application for title change. 
Check with your DMV about title fees when transferring ownership.
MORE: What happens to your car insurance after a divorce?

Treating a gift as a transfer

If you’re gifting a car—say to another family member—the process is straightforward. The gifter would sign the back of the title as the "seller," and the receiver would sign as the "buyer" with the sale price listed as $0.

Changing title to show a charitable donation

Removing your name from the title is the same if you’re donating the car to charity. 
In this case, you would sign the back of the title certificate as "seller." The charitable organization, or a representative of it, would sign the title as "buyer", with a sale price of $0.
At this point, it’s the charity’s responsibility to complete the rest of the title process, including taking the title to the department of motor vehicles to finalize the transfer.

Death

There are a few options to remove a deceased person from a car title. It may be a good idea to hire a probate lawyer to make sure the transfer of ownership is carried out properly.
If a
spouse passes away
, you can take the title to the DMV along with a copy of the death certificate.
If a car’s being left to someone in a will, the executor of the estate needs to submit a certificate or affidavit along with the transfer application.
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FAQs

No money changes hands in a title transfer. The person being removed from the title signs as the seller and "sells" the title of the car to the buyer, or whoever is remaining on the car’s title.
One owner would be considered the "seller" and the other a "buyer." From there, you just have to go to the DMV to remove your name from a title.
If you donate a car to charity, you can claim the value of the car as a tax deduction. However, this only applies if you are donating the vehicle to a recognized 501 (c)(3) charity.
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