What’s a Pink Slip for a Car?

A pink slip is a document that certifies ownership of a vehicle. It’s one of the most important papers related to your car.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
A “pink slip” often means a notice of termination from your job—but when it comes to cars, it refers to the official record of the vehicle’s legal owner. 
You’ll need your car’s pink slip, also known as a “certificate of title,” if you plan to sell your car or take out a loan against its value. Even if you’re not preparing to sell your vehicle, it’s worth knowing what a pink slip is and how it affects your vehicle and its ownership. 
Understanding title documents is just one part of responsible car ownership—finding the right
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Here’s Jerry’s definitive guide to everything you need to know about car pink slips—what they are, how they work, and how to handle them. 
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What’s a pink slip for a car?

A “pink slip” is a slang term for a car’s certificate of title, the official document that confers ownership of a car. Your car’s title probably isn’t actually pink, but some of them used to be, especially in the state of
, and the name stuck. 
The term “pink slip” was popularized by racing movies from the 1950s and is still used in more recent films, like The Fast and The Furious. “Racing for pinks” or “racing for slips” refers to a race in which the loser gives the title of their car to the winner, thus transferring ownership to them. 

What’s on a pink slip?

Pink slips look different from state to state, but you can expect your car’s certificate of title to include the following basic information: 
  • The name of the car’s legal owner
  • The car’s registered owner (i.e. the person who’s usually using the vehicle)
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • The license plate number
  • The car’s make, model, and year
  • The car’s purchase price
  • The car’s mileage at the time of sale
  • The car’s weight and related tax information
If your car has a
on it, or if you financed the purchase through a loan, the certificate of title will also include the name of the lienholder or lender. 
Key Takeaway: A certificate of title lists essential information about a vehicle and its owner, including the vehicle identification number and the names of the owner and lender. 
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Why your pink slip is important

Your pink slip is one of the most important documents associated with your car, so make sure to keep it stored in a safe place. Because it establishes your legal ownership of the vehicle, it eliminates the chance of fraud during a sale of the car. 
You’ll need the pink slip if you choose to
sell the vehicle
, or if you need to refinance your car.

Transferring a title to a new owner

“Racing for slips” is a big deal in movies like The Fast and the Furious because the pink slip transfers ownership of the vehicle to the winner of the race. But you may need to transfer a title even if you’re not doing a lot of street racing, because it’s a crucial step in selling or buying a car
The exact process for transferring a vehicle title varies from state to state, but in most cases, there will be a form on the back of the pink slip to be signed by both the seller and the buyer. If you’re buying or selling a car through a dealership, they’ll generally handle all the paperwork for you. 
In a private transaction, the buyer will need to bring the title, signed by both parties, to the DMV to finalize the transfer of ownership. The buyer then applies for a new title or fills out a special transfer of ownership form, while the seller signs and submits a release of liability. Both parties will have 30 days to file their respective forms. 
Be sure to check with the DMV to learn the exact rules for your state before you begin the transfer process. Depending on the state, there may be additional paperwork you’ll need to fill out along with the form on your pink slip. 
Key Takeaway: The process for transferring a title varies from state to state, so check with your local DMV before you start! 

What is a branded, rebuilt, or salvage title?

A branded title means that at some point in the car’s history, an insurance company declared the car totaled. Rebuilt and salvage titles are the two main kinds of branded titles you may encounter.
rebuilt title
indicates that the car has since been fully restored so that it’s safe to drive. A
salvage title
means that the car has been deemed a total loss. Insurance companies sell these cars to rebuilders, who can try to fix the vehicle and resell it. 
Buying a car with a branded title is usually a bad idea, especially if it’s a salvage title. Do your research on a vehicle’s history before you buy it to make sure that you’re not taking on a risky vehicle. 

What to do if you lose your pink slip

Just like the process for transferring a title, replacing a lost pink slip follows different rules from state to state. But replacing that document if it’s been lost or damaged is important—without it, you have no official proof that you own your vehicle.  
Go to your DMV’s website to find out how to replace a title in your state. If you need further information, go to the DMV in person with any paperwork you have related to the vehicle and ask for assistance. 
Replacing a pink slip can be a real hassle, so make sure you keep your certificate of title in a safe place that you’ll remember. A secure, waterproof document box or a personal safe are two good places to keep a pink slip. 
Key Takeaway: If you lose your pink slip, head to the DMV for help replacing it. Make sure to bring any car-related paperwork you have, including loan documents. 

How to save money on car insurance 

If you’re preparing to buy or sell a vehicle, making sure you have the right insurance at an affordable rate is just as important as setting up the title transfer. 
If the thought of shopping for car insurance makes your heart sink, you’re in luck.
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