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How to Change Vehicle Ownership


How to Change Vehicle Ownership

How To Get Started

You will always need:

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What Constitutes a Change in Ownership?

Any change of the registered owner or lienholder (legal owner) of a vehicle or vessel is considered to be a change in ownership that must be updated on the records at DMV. The change is usually due to:

  • Sale or gift
  • Adding or deleting the name of an owner
  • Inheritance
  • Satisfaction of lien (full payment of car loan)

Transfer - Whenever there is a change of ownership, the DMV refers to the transaction as a "transfer."

Seller - The person(s) and/or company shown as the registered owner on the Certificate of Title (and DMV's records) is always referred to as the seller, even if the vehicle is a gift.

Buyer - The person(s) and/or company who is going to become the new registered owner is referred to as the buyer.

What Fees Will Be Due?

Fees will be determined when the application is submitted to DMV and may include:

  • Transfer
  • Use Tax - Based on new registered owner's city and county of residence
  • Registration Renewal
  • Planned Non-Operation
  • Duplicate Title
  • Replacement License Plate - Due if a license plate has been lost or stolen.

NOTE: Transfer fees are due within 10 days of the "sale." Penalties are assessed if payment is not received by DMV within 30 days of the "sale." If multiple sales occur before DMV is notified, a separate transfer fee is collected for each sale when the application for transfer is received by DMV.

Is a Smog Inspection Required?

When you transfer ownership of a vehicle that is four or less model years old, a smog certification is not required; however, a smog transfer fee is collected from the new owner. When a vehicle is more than four model years old, the seller is required to obtain smog certification when transferring ownership of a vehicle UNLESS certification was obtained within the last 90 days or the vehicle is:

  • Hybrid
  • 1975 year model or older
  • Diesel powered
  • Electric
  • Natural gas powered and has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 14,001 lbs. or more
  • Motorcycle
  • Trailer
  • Vessel
  • Being transferred between family members (spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild) or by court order. A Statement of Facts form (REG 256) (PDF) must be completed for the exemption. However, if registration renewal fees are due, the smog exemption may not apply.

Most smog certifications are submitted electronically to DMV. Keep your receipt because it contains an inspection number that may be used to locate your smog certification record at DMV.

More information regarding smog requirements.

What Documents Are Required?

California Certificate of Title "pink slip" or Application for Duplicate Title (REG 227) (PDF). If the title is missing, you must use REG 227 (PDF) to complete the transfer of ownership. The lienholder's release, if any, must be notarized.

Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262)

If the vehicle has been sold more than once with the same title, the REG 262 is required from each seller.

Statement of Error or Erasure (REG 101)

Any names appearing in error require a REG 101 completed by the person(s) whose name(s) appears in error.

Statement of Facts (REG 256)

When the vehicle is a gift or sale from a family member, the new owner (buyer) completes a REG 256.

Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate (REG 5)

California Titled Vehicle or Vessel Only

This form is used when the registered owner of a vehicle has been deceased for 40 days or more, and the value of the decedent's property in California does not exceed $100,000. The vehicle must be titled in California. The REG 5 is usually completed by the next of kin. (Contact DMV at 1-800-777-0133 for complete information.)

Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (REG 4008) (PDF)

If the vehicle you are purchasing is a commercial motor vehicle, you may be required to complete a REG 4008 indicating the gross vehicle weight (GVWR) or combined gross vehicle weight (CGVWR) at which your vehicle will be operated.

Odometer Disclosure

Disclosing the vehicle's odometer mileage reading is required by federal regulations for all transfers with the following three exceptions:

  • A vehicle 10 years old or older
  • A commercial vehicle with a declared gross or combined gross vehicle weight of more than 16,000 pounds
  • new vehicle being transferred prior to its first retail sale by a dealer.

Additional Odometer Mileage Reporting information.

NOTE: If you have an older title or ownership certificate without an odometer certification box, or if the vehicle was sold more than once, complete a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262).

Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

You must notify DMV within five days when you sell or transfer ownership of your vehicle. To do so, complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL).

  • Use the NRL online service.
  • Or download the form REG 138 (PDF) and mail it to:

Department of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 942859
Sacramento, CA 94259-0001

Keep a copy for your records.
The Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability relieves you of responsibility for civil or criminal actions involving the vehicle after your date of sale. Your name, however, will not be removed from the DMV's records until the new owner submits the vehicle title to the DMV for transfer of ownership and pays the appropriate fees.

Make sure the NRL is Complete and Legible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine a selling price for my vehicle?

Check similar vehicles in newspaper classified advertisements, on the Internet, or at local used vehicle dealerships. Libraries also have various value/pricing guides to reference.

What do I do with the license plate?

Most vehicles have sequentially issued "standard" license plates that remain with the vehicle when ownership is transferred. If the license plate is a special interest or personalized license plate, you must decide if you want to retain the plate for use on another vehicle, or release your interest in the plate. Complete a Special Interest License Plate Application (REG 17) (PDF) or a Special License Plate Application (REG 17A PDF) indicating your retention or release of the special plate and give the form to the buyer.

How long will it take for everything to be complete?

When you give the buyer all of the required documentation and DMV receives your completed Notice of Release of Liability, the seller's part of the transaction is complete.

Once the buyer has provided DMV with all the proper documentation and fees, the vehicle record is updated to reflect the change of ownership, and a registration card is issued. A new title is issued from DMV headquarters within 60 calendar days.

When can I actually turn the car and keys over to the buyer?

You may safely turn the vehicle over to the new owner when:

  • You have provided the buyer with all the appropriate documentation, signatures, and certifications noted in this brochure,
  • Your completed Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability is ready to submit to DMV, and
  • You are satisfied with the payment that you have received from the buyer.
Will I have to pay for anything after I have sold my vehicle?

All of the transfer fees are the responsibility of the buyer.

Should I keep any papers after the vehicle is transferred?

Keep a copy of the completed Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability.

Do I owe taxes of any kind on the money I receive for the sale of my vehicle?

Contact your tax advisor.

What is the difference between "and" and "or" between co-owner names on a title?

When the names are joined by the word "or," one owner can sell the vehicle without the other's signature or consent. "And" or a slash (/) requires the signature of each owner to sell the vehicle.

Where do I sign?

There are four variations of the California Certificate of Title (Rainbow Title). The DMV began printing the 7- by 8-inch Certificate of Title in 1988. The older 4- by 5-inch Ownership Certificate was commonly referred to as the "pink slip." The example below indicate who signs where to properly change the ownership of your vehicle. The Certificate of Title has a special box for odometer mileage reading disclosure and acknowledgment. If you are using the "pink slip" or an earlier version of the Certificate of Title and odometer disclosure is required, both the seller and buyer must also complete a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262) (PDF).

California Certificate of Title (Rainbow Title)Earlier version of the Certificate of Title (pink slip)

HTVR 32 Online Version 11/2008

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