how to sign over a car title

One of the most significant procedures in buying or selling a car is transferring the title. That paperwork is the legal proof of who owns the car, thus it’s critical to have and store it in a secure location. The rules for signing over a car title to a new owner vary by state. Check the rules with your state’s department of motor vehicles.
Here’s everything you need to know on how to sign over a car title, whether you’re the buyer or seller.

What Is a Car Title?

The car title is a document issued by the state stating that you are the legal owner of a specific vehicle. A title normally includes the vehicle identification number (VIN), as well as the make, model, year, color, and mileage of your vehicle at the time of purchase. The title also includes your name and address, the date it was issued, and signatures from you, the seller, and state authority. If you still owe money, that information will be mentioned in the title as well.

How Does a Car Title Transfer Work?

A car title transfer consists of two steps, one for the seller and one for the buyer. First, the seller must sign the title to release possession of the car. The buyer then goes to the DMV with the signed title, and the state provides a new registration and title. Some states may require extra documents, such as a bill of sale or a transfer of ownership form, to complete the procedure.

When you buy a new car, the paperwork is handled by the dealer, and you normally receive the vehicle title in the mail from your state’s DMV. However, when private individuals acquire or sell cars, it is their responsibility to transfer the title.

States may also compel the seller to provide basic car details, such as the purchase price and odometer reading. Before signing the title, contact your state’s DMV to determine the proper line to sign and how to provide the necessary information. For example, the California DMV has a short video about where to sign.

How to Sign Over a Car Title With a Loan

When only one person is on the title, transferring ownership is simple; but, in many circumstances, a seller may have an ongoing debt on their vehicle, which means the lienholder or lending institution will be recorded on the title as having ownership interest. Before the seller may surrender the title to the new buyer, this loan or responsibility must be paid off.

In this scenario, the seller should contact their lender for guidance on how to proceed with the deal. The procedure will differ depending on the lienholder. Before accepting the signed title from the seller, the buyer will require verification that the loan has been resolved. Prior to making a purchase, the buyer should check the title’s status utilizing their DMV’s online title check feature or a third-party car history report.

How to Sign a Car Title with Two Owners

A car is frequently co-owned by two people. In that instance, the vehicle’s title will have both names, with either a “and” or a “or” connecting them. An “and” indicates that both individuals must sign the title to surrender ownership, but a “or” indicates that only one of the two parties must sign the title.

How to Sign Over a Car Title from a Dealership

When you buy a new car, transferring a title is simplified because the paperwork is handled by the dealership’s finance department. They deal directly with the DMV to get the new owner a title. Generally, the buyer will receive their title in the mail within a few weeks of purchasing.

Other Factors Influencing Car Title Transfers

Aside from buying or selling a car, there may be other activities and transactions that affect a vehicle’s title. These include moving a vehicle to another family member, repaying a loan, donating a vehicle, inheriting a vehicle, or changing one’s legal name. Because each state is unique, the DMV can provide guidance on procedures and policies for specific situations.

Also, when transferring a title, double-check the vehicle identification number (VIN) to ensure that it matches the VIN on the car. Outside the vehicle, the VIN plate is usually visible in the lower-left corner of the windshield.

If the seller is required to make an odometer reading declaration as part of the title transfer process, ensure that what is printed on the title corresponds to the car’s odometer reading. It does not have to be exact, but it should be close. And the odometer reading on the car should never be less than what is indicated on the title.

Finally, whether you are a seller or a buyer, it is usually a good idea to use a pen with black or blue ink when transferring a title, as this makes it more difficult to modify any information once it has been recorded.

What Documents Are Required to Transfer a Car Title?

The DMV should have a list, but you’ll need the original car title, the vehicle’s current odometer reading, and your state-issued driver’s license at the very least. Furthermore, the DMV may want evidence of insurance, a VIN verification form, and a bill of sale.

Pro Hint:

If you’re selling your car privately to an out-of-state buyer, check with the DMV as soon as possible to see if there are any additional title transfer procedures.

How Can I Obtain a Copy of My Car Title?

If you have misplaced your car title, you can obtain a duplicate or replacement from the DMV. Determine what information and documentation you must submit to the state. You should expect to pay a price for the service. Allow enough time for the DMV to process your request.

Do the Signatures Need to Be Notarized?

Some states demand notarized signatures on a car title or the bill of sale that goes with the title in a private transaction. A notary public is available at most large banks to witness signatures. Notary public services are typically free for bank customers and charge a nominal fee for those who are not.

Is There a Deadline for Transferring a Car Title?

The time it takes to complete a vehicle transfer in a private sale differs by state. This deadline can be anywhere from 10 to thirty days or more. Going past that deadline may result in a charge. Seller obligations vary by state, so verify with your state’s DMV. In California, for example, you have only five days following a private car transaction to file a notice of transfer and release of obligation with the DMV.

Tips On What To Consider When You Want To Sign Over a Car Title

Tip #1: Verify the VIN.

The vehicle identification number (VIN) on the title must be appropriately written and match the VIN on the vehicle’s windshield. If this does not occur, the buyer may have difficulties when registering the car. Before you buy or sell a car, be sure the information on the title matches the VIN on the car. Visit our Recall page for information on how to locate a car’s VIN.

Tip #2: Use only blue or black ink.

When signing over a used car title, use a pen with blue or black ink. Signatures signed using blue or black pens last longer. Many individuals choose blue ink because it is simpler to distinguish an original paper from a photocopy. In addition, never use whiteout. This will render your title null and void.

Tip #3: Create a Bill of Sale

When buying or selling a used car, both parties should save a copy of the bill of sale in addition to the title. This document, written by the seller, will show the amount paid, the date of the transaction, and both buyer’s and seller’s signatures.

Tip #4: Check the Odometer Reading

The number on the odometer should exactly match the mileage mentioned in the title. If the odometer reading is lower than what is listed in the original title, it is possible that the odometer has been tampered with. Buyers will think twice before purchasing the car.

Tip #5: Sign Your Name Correctly

This may sound obvious, but you’d be shocked. Do not sign the title with your new signature if you have been married or changed your name for any other reason since the original title was issued or signed over to you. Instead, sign the title with the signature that corresponds to your name as it appears on the title.

Tip #6: Sign in the Correct Location

In the same vein as the preceding tip, both the buyer and seller must sign on the correct lines. It is a concern if the new owner signs in the seller’s signature spot. The title will have to be rewritten. Before signing their names, all parties should carefully read the fine print.

Tip #7: Check for Liens

Even if you’ve had your car for a long time, sellers should check with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that there are no liens against the car before selling. Buyers should always look for liens before making a purchase. Auto liens must usually be settled before a vehicle title transfer may take place.

Tip #8: Go over it again and again.

Check, double-check, and triple-check! Even if you are aggravating the buyer or seller, explain that you want to ensure that everything is in order. Explain that if there is an error in the title, it will be much more difficult for both of you in the long run.

How to Obtain a Car Title

There are various ways to locate your vehicle’s title if you don’t already have it. Today, both paper and electronic titles are legal forms of document, so don’t worry if you only have one.

#1. To acquire your vehicle title, pay off your loan.

Most lenders maintain the title on file until the associated loan is paid off, at which point the original title document is sent to the vehicle’s owner. Owners may receive the lien release instead in some states. Once you have the title, it is critical that you maintain it in a secure location. It is not advisable to keep the title in your vehicle.

#2. Obtain a duplicate title from the DMV.

You can apply to your local Department of Motor Vehicles for a duplicate title (DMV). The application forms are available online or at your local DMV office. They may be submitted electronically, in person, or by mail. Make sure you have all of the required fees and papers in order to acquire your title.

#3. Locate a missing title

If your lien was released electronically (and you don’t have a release paper to file), or if you just misplaced your paper title, you can apply for a duplicate at the DMV.


To sign over a car title, the seller must sign the title and fill out any relevant information. The buyer can then take the signed title to the appropriate government office to transfer the title of the car to them. If the car has a lien, the lender will likely be required to sign an affidavit as well.

How To Sign Over a Car Title FAQs

How do I transfer car title in Alabama?

If you want to transfer the title of your vehicle in Alabama, you can do it by mail or in person at your local MVD office. To transfer a car’s title by mail, you must first complete a vehicle registration/Title application (Form MVT 20-1) or an application for a title.

How do I transfer a car title in Kentucky?

The buyer goes to their local County Clerk’s office with the issued title, proof of Kentucky insurance, proof of identification, and money for fees and any taxes to transfer ownership. To complete the transfer process, older titles prior to 2000 may require a completed TC96-182.

How do I transfer car title in Iowa?

Even if the transfer is a gift, all title transfers require a Bill of Sale (PDF) signed by the seller/transferor. A Buyer/Transferee has 30 days from the date of purchase to show the correctly assigned title to the County Treasurer in order for a title to be granted in the Buyer/name. Transferees After 30 days, penalties will be imposed.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like