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How To Sign A Car Title Over

How To Sign Over A Car Title

If you are selling or gifting a car, you will need to know how to sign over a car title so that both you and the buyer are compliant with all state and local laws.

As a former licensed car dealer in Florida, I’ve helped facilitate hundreds of title transfers and filled out countless titles myself.

This process can seem complicated, especially when existing loans, multiple owners, or interstate sales are involved.

However, by following the right steps, you can ensure a smooth title transfer between private parties or dealerships.

How To Sign Over A Car Title (Visual Guide)

1Locate the original title document. This has the title number and vehicle identification number (VIN).
2Note the odometer reading. This must be provided when transferring ownership.
3Determine if there is a lienholder listed who would need to authorize the sale. Contact them to obtain a lien release if needed.
4As the seller, sign your name on the “Transfer of Title by Seller” line on the title. This releases your ownership interest. Sign in ink and double check the spelling of your name.
5Provide the buyer’s name and address where indicated.
6Both buyer and seller should initial the odometer disclosure statement to confirm the mileage.
7The buyer signs on the “Transfer of Title by Buyer” line to acknowledge transfer of ownership.
8The buyer takes the signed title to the DMV to apply for a new title in their name within a specified timeframe (often 30 days).
9The buyer pays any title transfer fees and applicable sales taxes based on the sale price.
10The DMV processes the paperwork and issues a new title to the buyer showing them as the legal owner.

Key Takeaways

Selling or purchasing a car requires legally transferring the vehicle’s title from seller to buyer via the DMV to register new ownership. Key steps include:

  • Releasing interest by signing over the title as the seller
  • Providing proper mileage, sale price, and condition disclosures
  • Settling loans prior to sale for financed vehicles
  • Checking for lienholder restrictions with jointly owned cars
  • Gathering correct documents like license, insurance, and invoices as buyer prior to visiting DMV
  • Knowing your state’s specific title transfer processes and fees

What Is a Car Title and When Do You Need to Transfer It?

A car title is a legal document that shows proof of ownership for a vehicle. It contains key details like the:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Make and model
  • Owner’s name
  • Mileage

You must sign over and transfer the title when selling or buying a car to register it under the new owner’s name with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Some reasons why legally transferring ownership is essential:

  • Enables new owner to register, insure, and maintain the car
  • Transfers liability for the vehicle
  • Protects buyer and seller in case of disputes
  • Meets your state’s requirements

Now let’s look at how to transfer a title step-by-step.

Transferring Car Title for Private Party Sales

Selling or buying a car from an individual instead of a dealer means you’ll need to handle securing all the right paperwork yourself.

Here is an overview of what both the private seller and buyer will need to do:

Seller’s Responsibilities

As the seller, you’ll need to:

  1. Sign the title to release ownership
    • Use blue or black ink
    • Sign on the correct line
    • Get signature notarized if required in your state
  2. Provide key paperwork like
    • Accurate odometer disclosure
    • Bill of sale with price and vehicle details
    • Any other documents required in your state
  3. Remove license plates if required in your state

Taking these steps protects you from liability for the car after sale.

Buyer’s Responsibilities

If you’re buying a car from a private party, you’ll need to:

  1. Verify details like the VIN match the title
  2. Ensure seller’s name on title matches seller
  3. Check title is lien-free if vehicle was financed
  4. Gather required paperwork like
    • Insurance info
    • Driver’s license
    • Any other state-specific docs
  5. Take signed title to the DMV to register the car in your name

This transfers legal ownership to you, so follow your state’s title transfer deadlines.

StateTitle Transfer Deadline
Illinois15 days
Ohio30 days
California20 days

[See DMV links for all state deadlines]

Complying with the above seller and buyer steps ensures you meet your responsibilities in the sale.

Transferring Car Title From a Dealership

Purchasing from a car dealership simplifies the title transfer process.

The dealer’s finance department handles submitting paperwork to the state DMV to issue a new title under the buyer’s name.

As the buyer, you typically won’t need to visit the DMV yourself. Instead, you’ll receive your new title by mail within a few weeks after sale.

Dealers will usually charge a documentation fee to prepare this paperwork on your behalf. This standard fee is separate from other DMV registration fees.

How to Transfer Car Title With Special Situations

Besides regular private party and dealership sales, you may encounter unique title transfer scenarios requiring additional steps:

With an Existing Loan or Lien

If selling a car you still owe money on, first contact your lender to settle the loan. Obtain proof of lien release before allowing buyer to accept the signed title.

As a buyer, check for liens and verify the title is clear beforehand using an online DMV title check.

With Multiple Owners

For jointly owned vehicles, check how names are listed on the title:

  • “John Smith AND Jane Smith” — Both owners must sign
  • “John Smith OR Jane Smith” — Either individual can sign

Consult your DMV to ensure proper signature requirements are met.

When Gifting a Car to Family

Even gifting a car requires legally transferring the title. The owner releases ownership by signing over title to the family member.

While some states offer sales tax waivers for gifts, DMV fees may still apply to the recipient. Check local laws.

When Inheriting a Vehicle

An executor will need to apply for a new title on the behalf of the deceased via the probate court. Supply documentation like the will or death certificate.

Once issued to the beneficiary, they can sign over ownership when selling. Inheritance tax may apply.

With Out-of-State Transfers

Moving or buying across state lines requires extra steps like temp registration, verifying compliance with emissions regulations, filling specialty state paperwork, and sometimes paying additional taxes.

Consult your local DMV for specific guidance when transferring to or from another state. Proper protocols vary significantly by location.

Do you need to get a title Notarized?

There are some states where you are required to get a title notarized when transferring ownership of a vehicle. Those states are:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • North Carolina
  • Montana
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • Arizona

Some additional details on state requirements:

  • In Ohio, both the seller and buyer are required to sign the notarized vehicle title.
  • In Maryland, in addition to buyer/seller signatures, the notary must verify the odometer reading and complete a bill of sale.
  • Nebraska requires titles to be notarized for transfers between private parties or to a dealership.
  • New Hampshire requires notarization for vehicles less than 15 years old.
  • West Virginia requires all titles to be notarized.

Even if not required by state law, many people still choose to get their titles notarized as an extra layer of protection and assurance when buying/selling a vehicle. It is always best to check your local laws and requirements when transferring a car title.

Tips for Smooth Car Title Transfers

Avoid delays or complications during the car sale by following these best practices:

  • Verify details like VIN, owner’s name, and odometer readings match official documents
  • Use blue or black ink for seller’s signature on title
  • Double check lien status if vehicle was financed
  • Bring proper documents like license, insurance, invoices to DMV
  • Research your state’s exact requirements for transfers including any specialty forms
  • Consider title transfer timeline and deadline limitations which vary by state

Additionally, I recommend accompanying the buyer or seller to the DMV. This guarantees the ownership transfer is completed in a timely manner.

Signing Over a Car Title Checklist

  • Gather these documents:
    •  Car title
    •  Valid photo ID
    •  Bill of sale (if required in your state)
    •  Odometer disclosure statement
    •  Lien release from lender (if financed)
    •  Other state-specific forms
  • As seller, sign the title:
    •  Ensure you are a legal owner listed
    •  Use blue or black ink
    •  Sign on correct “Seller” line
    •  Get signature notarized (if required)
  • As buyer before visiting DMV:
    •  Verify signed title matches seller
    •  Confirm lien released if financed
    •  Gather license, insurance, invoices
    •  Have payment ready
  • At the DMV:
    •  Submit signed title & paperwork
    •  Provide accurate sale price for taxes
    •  Pay title transfer and registration fees
    •  Get new plates or temporary permit
  • Final steps:
    •  Remove old license plates (if required)
    •  Update insurance with new car details
    •  Enjoy your new ride!
  • State DMV title transfer info:

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I lost my car title?

You can request a duplicate title from your state’s DMV, local county clerk’s office, or vehicle finance lender if you still have a loan.

What documents do I need when transferring a title?

Typical requirements are the signed title, bill of sale, ID, insurance, odometer statement, but check your state DMV’s website for specifics.

What if I made a mistake on the title documents?

Don’t use correction tape or fluid which can void forms. Instead, submit a correction statement to amend errors. Signing on the wrong line may require getting a replacement title before finalizing sale.

How much are title transfer fees?

Between $20-$200 typically depending on state and taxes. Calculate exactly using your state DMV’s title transfer fee calculator.

My Final Thought

I hope this comprehensive guide provided you clarity on how to successfully transfer a car title. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Sources and References:

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Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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