When you buy a vehicle, you need to transfer the vehicle’s title to establish yourself as the new legal owner.
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Before you begin:
Have the California Certificate of Title with you. Make sure the title has been signed by the buyer(s), seller(s), and lienholder (if applicable).
If you do not have the title, complete an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227).
Have the following:
- Your driver’s license number
- Vehicle license plate number
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Legal owner (or lienholder) name and address
- Vehicle make, model, and year
- Purchase date and price
Be able to pay the transfer fee. All transfer fees are the responsibility of the buyer.
Allow 30 days from the day DMV receives your documents to process your title transfer.
An individual, co-owners, trust, or business may be established as the owner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Title transfer requirements vary based on circumstance. If you need additional guidance, the FAQs below may help.
Any change of the current registered owner or lienholder (legal owner) of a vehicle or vessel/boat requires transferring the title to the new owner. Transfer of ownership between the seller and the buyer must be started with DMV within 10 days of the sale of the vehicle or boat. You will need:
- The California Certificate of Title.
- Signature(s) of the seller(s), buyer(s), and lienholder (if applicable).
- Transfer fees. All transfer fees are the responsibility of the buyer.
Once you start the online Title Transfer process, a DMV Virtual Assistant will let you know if you also need:
- Smog certification
- Use tax and/or various other fees.
- Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) form.
- A Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form.
- A Statement of Facts (REG 256) form.
- A Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) form.
- Other less commonly used forms.
The example below indicates where to complete the current California Certificate of Title.
FRONT OF TITLE: Current registered owner or legal owner (Lienholder) signs and dates here to release ownership. If you are changing legal ownership by removing or deleting a Lienholder, the current registered owner(s) does not sign line 1A/1B and does not complete lines 3A-13.
BACK OF TITLE: New lienholder’s name (such as a bank or other financial institution), if any, is printed here.
HTVR 32 (REV. 6/2022)
A vehicle can be registered in the name of a trust as registered owners. The purchasers would enter the name of the trust as the new registered owner on the back of the title with one of the trustees signing for the trust. When the transfer of ownership is processed, it would be processed just like a vehicle being registered in a company’s name vs. an individual as owner.
A vehicle or vessel may be owned by two or more co-owners. Co-owner names may be joined by “and”, “and/or”, or “or”. Certificates issued for applications not indicating “and” or “or” between the names will show “and” as represented by a slash (/) between the names.
All owners must endorse the title or registration application to register the vehicle or boat, but the requirements for releasing ownership vary.
The signature of only one owner is required to transfer ownership when the co-owner names are joined by “and/or” or “or”.
The signatures of all owners are required to transfer ownership when the co-owner names are joined by “and”. Ownership passes to the surviving co-owner upon the death of a co-owner or, with the surviving co-owner’s release, to a new owner. A deceased co-owner’s interest may only be released by one of the following:
- Heir of the deceased with an Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate California Titled Vehicle or Vessels Only (REG 5) form.
- Administrator with Letters of Administration.
- Executor with Letters Testamentary.
When the names are joined by the word “or,” one owner can sell the vehicle without the other’s signature. The word “and” or a slash (/) requires the signature of each owner to sell the vehicle.
Submit the following to DMV:
- A California Certificate of Title or, if lost, an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) form, signed for the decedent and countersigned by the heir. Example: John Jones by Mary S. Jones, sole heir, successor, administrator, executor, conservator, guardian, or trustee.
- Document authorizing transfer of the decedent’s vehicle/vessel:
- Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate California Titled Vehicle or Vessels Only (REG 5) form completed by the heir. A power of attorney (POA) cannot be used to sign a REG 5.
- Court order, Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration, Letters of Administration with Will Annexed, or Letters of Special Administration.
- A REG 256 with the applicable sections completed.
- An odometer disclosure statement for vehicles less than 10 years old completed on the California Certificate of Title or Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262) (not available online).
- Fees for transfer of ownership and, if due, registration renewal and use tax.
Transfer Without Probate
In certain situations, the decedent’s heir may transfer title of a vehicle/vessel without going through probate. Requirements are:
- A REG 5 completed by one of the following:
- Person(s) who succeeded to the property of the decedent.
- Conservator or guardian of the property of the person(s) who succeeded to the property of the decedent.
- Beneficiary under the decedent’s last will and testament.
- Trustee(s), under a trust agreement by the deceased, in which the primary beneficiaries are the next of kin.
- The value of the decedent’s property in California does not exceed $150,000.
Does not include vehicles, vessels, commercial coaches, or manufactured, mobile, or floating homes. To calculate the property value, see California Probate Code §13050.
- The vehicle/vessel is titled in California. Vehicles/vessels titled in another state must be transferred in that state (requirements may differ from California).
- 40 days have lapsed since the registered or legal owner’s date of death.
- An original or certified copy of each owner’s death certificate and, if owned jointly by two or more decedent’s, a REG 5 for the most recent decedent
- If owned jointly by two or more persons and one is deceased, a REG 5 cannot be used to circumvent the surviving owner’s interest. However, the surviving owner (if an heir) may complete a REG 5 to release the decedent’s interest. The title must be signed twice, once by the surviving owner and once on behalf of the decedent.
Establishment of a trust commits the property or assets of an individual(s) to a trustee for use or safekeeping.
- A releasing signature for a trust cannot be made by power of attorney, unless the power of attorney document is restricted to a specific transaction.
- If more than one trustee is shown without “or,” or a slash (/) between the names, each trustee must sign the title.
- If the trustee signing is not shown on the title, a REG 256 (Section G) is required attesting to his/her appointment as successor trustee by the trustor or retiring trustee.
- If a trustee releases interest of a vehicle/vessel not registered to a trust, ownership is determined by the decedent’s will as contained in the trust document. The trust document and REG 262 copies may be required.
- If no trustee name is shown on the title, a REG 256 (Section G) is required attesting to his/her appointment as trustee or successor trustee by the trustor.
Transfer With Court Documents
The Certificate of Title must be signed for the decedent and countersigned by the executor or administrator.
Once the buyer has all the required documentation and DMV receives the completed Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability from the seller, the seller’s part of the sale is complete. Once the buyer provides DMV with all the proper documents and fees, and all the requirements are met (for example, smog certification), the vehicle record is updated to reflect the change of ownership (the seller’s name is removed) and a registration card is issued to the new owner. A new title is issued within 10-15 calendar days.
It’s easy to submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) online to let DMV know that you are no longer responsible for parking/traffic violations or civil or criminal actions associated with the vehicle after the date of sale.