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.
Helpful and Relevant Links or Articles:
- California Vehicle/Vessel Transfer Form
- Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL/IRL) (REG 138)
- How to Transfer a Car Title in California
- California DMV Online Services
- How to Transfer a Car Title Out of State in California
- How to Transfer a Car Title to a Family Member in Another State
Table of Contents
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
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:
- Obtain the California Certificate of Title
This document proves ownership. If missing, apply for a duplicate title.
- 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.
- 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.
- Provide a Death Certificate
An original or certified copy of the death certificate is required.
- Complete Statement of Facts (REG 256)
This form confirms the owner is deceased and the relationship of an heir.
- Odometer Disclosure
Required for vehicles under 10 years old.
- Pay the Transfer Fee
A fee must be paid to transfer ownership.
- 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!