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How to Transfer a Car Title to a Family Member in California

How to Transfer a Car Title to a Family Member in California

As a former licensed car dealer, I’ve helped many families handle car title transfers between family members. It’s a common need – whether you’re gifting a used car, selling a vehicle at a low price, or transferring ownership after a death.

Fortunately, California makes these family transfers straightforward with some key documentation.

The process involves filing paperwork with the DMV to record the ownership change. Typical fees are under $100 total.

Throughout this guide, I’ll share the step-by-step process I’ve used hundreds of times based on DMV rules. You’ll also get tips to avoid headaches.

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Who Qualifies as a Family Member

The DMV grants special exemptions for vehicle transfers between close family. This includes:

  • Spouses and domestic partners
  • Parents and grandparents
  • Children and grandchildren
  • Siblings

Transfers between these relations can skip certain taxes and smog checks.

Required Documents for Family Transfer

To ensure it’s valid in the DMV’s eyes, a family transfer needs documentation like:

  • California Vehicle Title – Signed by both current and new owner
  • Odometer Disclosure – For cars under 10 years old
  • ID Proof – Driver’s license for new owner
  • Registration Card – Current card (if available)

And in certain cases:

  • Bill of Sale – Records sale details
  • Smog Certificate – If required locally
  • REG Forms – Special forms for exemptions

Having these ready cuts processing time tremendously.

Steps to Transfer Car Title Between Family

Once the documents are gathered, here are the 4 key steps:

1. Complete Vehicle Title Transfer Paperwork

  • Current owner signs title over to new family owner
  • New owner fills in their personal information
  • Odometer reading and date are documented

Treat it like any major financial document!

2. Submit Completed Documents to Local CA DMV

  • Bring documents to the DMV branch
  • Pay $15 title transfer fee
  • Additional registration fees may apply

Avoid the line – many DMVs now allow online reservations!

3. DMV Processes Transfer to Update Records

  • DMV verifies paperwork
  • Prints new title in the system
  • Mails new title to the registered owner

You can also track your status online with the application number

4. Wrap Up Remaining Transfer Tasks

  • The current owner reports the sale for liability protection
  • The new owner registers vehicles in their name

And ensure insurance paperwork is transferred!

How To Transfer A Car Title from A Deceased Family Member In California

If the registered owner of the vehicle is deceased, transferring the title to an heir involves these key steps:

  1. Obtain the California Certificate of Title
    This document proves ownership. If missing, apply for a duplicate title.
  2. Sign the Title
    The heir signs the deceased owner’s name and countersigns on line 1. Also complete and sign the back of the title.
  3. Complete Affidavit for Transfer without Probate (REG 5)
    This form transfers the vehicle from the estate to the heir. The heir must complete and sign.
  4. Provide a Death Certificate
    An original or certified copy of the death certificate is required.
  5. Complete Statement of Facts (REG 256)
    This form confirms the owner is deceased and the relationship of an heir.
  6. Odometer Disclosure
    Required for vehicles under 10 years old.
  7. Pay the Transfer Fee
    A fee must be paid to transfer ownership.
  8. Submit Documents to DMV Bring all documents and fees to your local DMV branch for processing.

Ownership can transfer 40 days after death if estate assets are under $166,250. Consult a professional to ensure you have what is needed for your specific inheritance situation.

Mistakes to Avoid with Family Transfers

With a process involving this much paperwork, it’s easy to foul something up. Beware of:

  • Failing smog when required
  • Late registration leading to penalties
  • Errors or typos on forms

Get a second pair of eyes to review everything before submission!


My Closing Thoughts

Transferring a car title between family members in California is simple, with clear guidance. I hope this overview gives you the confidence to handle it smoothly. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions!

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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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