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HTVR 32

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How To: Change Vehicle Ownership (HTVR 32)

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You will always need:

You may also need:

  • Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262)
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256) form
  • Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) form
  • Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) form
  • Smog certification
  • Vehicle Emission System Statement (SMOG) (REG 139) form
  • Use tax and/or various other fees

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 within 10 days of the event at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The change is usually due to:

  • Sale, gift, or donation.
  • 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 Documents Are Required?

California Certificate of Title or Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227) form
If the title is missing, you must use a REG 227 to complete the transfer of ownership. The seller and the buyer complete the title or REG 227. The lienholder’s release, if any, must be notarized, if a REG 227 form is used. If the vehicle is two model years old or less, and has a lienholder, a REG 227 cannot be used. A replacement title must be obtained through the lienholder.
Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262) cannot be downloaded because it contains security features. If the vehicle has been sold more than once with the same title, a REG 262 is required from each seller.

Statement to Record Ownership/Statement of Error or Erasure (REG 101) form
Used when a name or other information is entered on the title in error. The REG 101 is completed by the person(s) whose name(s) appears in error or, if other than a name, by the person who made the error.

Statement of Facts (REG 256) form
Used when the vehicle is obtained from a family member. The new owner (buyer) completes the REG 256.

Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate California Titled Vehicle or Vessel Only (REG 5) form
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 $150,000. The vehicle must be titled in California. The REG 5 is usually completed by the next of kin.

Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGW) (REG 4008) form
If you are purchasing a commercial motor vehicle, you may be required to complete a REG 4008 indicating the GVW or CGW at which your vehicle will be operated.

Odometer Disclosure
Disclosing the vehicle’s odometer mileage reading is required by federal regulations for all transfers unless the vehicle is:

  • 10 years old or older.
  • Commercial with a GVW or CGW of more than 16,000 pounds.
  • New being transferred prior to its first retail sale by a dealer.

Complete the odometer statement on the title or, if you are using a REG 227 or the vehicle was sold more than once, complete a REG 262.

Is a Smog Inspection Required?

When you transfer ownership of a gas-powered 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 gas-powered vehicle that is more than four model years old or a diesel-powered vehicle that is a 1998 year-model or newer and has a GVW of 14,000 pounds or less is sold, the seller must obtain a smog certification for the transfer unless biennial smog certification was obtained within the last 90 days (agreement required (see REG 139 form)) or the vehicle is:

  • 1975 and older year-model and gas-powered.
  • 1997 and older year-model and diesel-powered.  
  • Diesel-powered and weighs 14,001 pounds or more GVW.  
  • Electric-powered.
  • Equipped with a two-cycle engine.
  • Natural gas-powered and weighs 14,001 pounds or more GVW.
  • A motorcycle.
  • A trailer.
  • Special equipment.
  • An off-highway vehicle.
  • A crane.
  • A cement mixer.
  • A forklift.
  • A golf cart.
  • A street sweeper originally manufactured as a street sweeper and incapable of use for any other purpose. This does not include a vehicle that has been converted or retrofitted with a vacuum or sweeper.
  • Being transferred between family members (spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild) or by court order. A REG 256 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. However, keep your receipt because it contains the inspection number used to locate your smog certification record, if required.

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 or planned nonoperation.
  • Duplicate title.
  • Replacement license plate(s) 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.


Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

The seller submits a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability to DMV within 5 days of releasing ownership of the vehicle, trailer, or vessel. The Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability may be filed online at www.dmv.ca.gov/online/nrl/welcome or a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) form may be downloaded at www.dmv.ca.gov/online/nrl/nrlfaq and mailed to the address on the form.  You must have the buyer’s name and address and vehicle sale information.  You may want to verify the new owner’s identification to ensure the new owner is providing you with accurate name information.

IMPORTANT: Keep a copy of the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability for your records;.  collection notices can be received months or years after the vehicle has been sold; do not ignore any collection notice.  California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 5602 states the requirements for releasing liability and may be referred to for any liability disputes.

The Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability relieves you of responsibility for parking and/or traffic violations and 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, and completes all transfer requirements.  This form should be submitted by you directly to DMV; if you give this form to the new owner, the new owner may never submit it to DMV on your behalf.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine a selling price for my vehicle?
Check similar vehicles in newspapers, on the Internet, vehicle dealerships, and in value/pricing guides available at the library.

What do I do with the license plates when I sell my car?
Most vehicles have sequentially issued "standard" license plates that remain with the vehicle when ownership is transferred. If the vehicle has a special interest or personalized license plate, these plates belong to the plate owner, not the vehicle.  Aas the seller  you must decide if you want to retain the license plate for use on another vehicle, or release your interest in the license plate. You may remove the plates for reassignment to another vehicle or retain for future use and apply for a no-fee Regular Series License Plate.  This should be done prior to obtaining the smog certification (if required). Depending on the type of license plate, complete a Special Interest License Plate Application (REG 17) form or a Special License Plate Application (REG 17A) form to indicate retention or release of the special license plate and give the form to the buyer.  If you are releasing the plate ownership to the buyer, the buyer would also complete a separate REG 17 form.

How long will it take for the sale to be complete?
When you give the buyer all the required documentation and DMV receives your completed Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, the seller's part of the transaction is complete.

Once the buyer has provided DMV with all the proper documents 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 turn the vehicle and keys over to the buyer?
You may safely turn the vehicle and keys over to the new owner when you do all of the following:

  • Provide the buyer with all the appropriate documentation, signatures, and certifications noted in this brochure.
  • Submit a completed Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability to DMV.
  • Receive payment 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.

I am selling a Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) trailer and since paper titles are optional, I never requested a paper title when I registered the trailer in my name.  Since I do not have a title, what document do I used to sell the trailer?
A DMV Bill of Sale (REG 135), REG 262 form, or a bill of sale.

Do I owe taxes on the money I receive for the sale of my vehicle?
Contact your tax advisor.

What is the difference between “or” and “and” between 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. “And” or a slash (/) requires the signature of each owner to sell the vehicle.

Does DMV also need a separate bill of sale if the Certificate of Title was used to release ownership?
A separate bill of sale is not required; however, both the seller and buyer may want to complete a bill of sale and each keep a copy for their own records.

As a buyer, is there anything I should check for related to DMV matters/ownership paperwork?
NOTE: When checking DMV issued documents for the following ensure that you are reviewing an original document and not a photocopy (possibly altered).

COMPARE CERTIFICATES WITH VEHICLE

  • Physically check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which for almost all vehicles is located on the driver's side of the dash and match the actual VIN on the vehicle with the VIN shown on the Certificate of Title (or, if a REG 227 form is used in-lieu of the title, match with the current validated registration card).
  • Check the registration card to verify that the registration is current or that the vehicle is on Planned Non-Operation (PNO) status.  Many buyers are caught off-guard when purchasing a vehicle without checking this information, later to find at the DMV when transferring ownership, that substantial back fees and penalties are due for the vehicle.  Do not assume that if the plate has a current sticker that the registration is up to date, always check the registration card.
  • Match the plate number on the vehicle with the current registration card (NOTE: The plate number shown on the title may have changed since the title was printed).  

IMPORTANT TITLE/REGISTATION CARD INFORMATION

  • Check the upper right hand box of the Certificate of Title for any vehicle brands (e.g., salvage).  The registration card will also contain branding information.  NOTE: There may be situations where a vehicle was recently declared a salvage or other condition and the Certificate of Title and registration card do not reflect the recent change in status (e.g., salvage retention).
  • If the title shows a legal owner (usually a bank or finance company), then check that the legal owner released interest on either the title or a REG 166 form.  If the title is unavailable and a REG 227 form is being used, check the current registration card for any legal owner.  There may be a current lien on the vehicle in which the lien holder must release in order to transfer the vehicle into your name.  There may also be an old lien holder shown on the document, where the seller did satisfy the lien, but failed to submit the lien release to DMV long ago and the seller lost the lien release and the lien holder is no longer in business and lien holder cannot be located for a release.  In this situation, a more cumbersome process is involved, including having to make an attempt to contact the lien holder by certified mail at the last known address and obtaining a Motor Vehicle Bond for the value of the vehicle through an insurance company that issues bonds.
  • Check the "AND/OR" designation.  If the documents show "AND" (indicated by a "/"), both (or all) parties must sign; if "OR", only one party needs to sign to release interest.  
  • Check the odometer reading shown on the Certificate of Title and whether the reading reflects, ACTUAL, EXCEEDS, or NOT ACTUAL mileage.  NOTE: If the title is not available and a REG 227 form is used in-lieu of the title, the registration card does NOT reflect odometer information.  If concerned, you should check the last odometer reading on DMV’s file with DMV personnel, in person, with the registered owner at a DMV field office.
  • If the registration shows "**NO TITLE ISSUED/VEHICLE NONTRANSFERABLE** - **CONTACT DMV FOR CA TITLE INFO**”, this is usually the result of the owner bringing in the vehicle from out-of-state and requested registration only without surrendering the out of state title.  In order to transfer ownership, the valid out of state title must be surrendered.  If unavailable, the registered owner must contact the state last titled and obtain a duplicate in order for the ownership to be transferred.

SMOG INFORMATION

  • The seller is required to provide the buyer with a valid Certificate of Compliance (smog inspection).
  • If applicable, check the smog inspection report that the inspection was performed within the last 90 days, otherwise a NEW smog inspection is    
  • If the smog inspection was done within the last 90 days and was used for renewal of registration, an agreement (see REG 139 form) about the rights and responsibilities of both the buyer and seller of a vehicle regarding smog certification is required to be signed by both the seller and the buyer.  NOTE: The agreement is kept by both the seller and the buyer and is NOT submitted to DMV.
  • If the smog inspection was done within the last 90 days and was used for a transfer of ownership.

TRANSACTION INFORMATION

  • Match the name of the registered owner shown on the Certificate of Title or registration card with the person selling the vehicle.  You may want to check the person's driver's license or identification card.
  • If the registered owner is a company of business, the releasing signature must contain a countersignature (e.g., ABC CO. by Joseph Smith OR Joseph Smith for ABC CO.).
  • If the registration documents indicate multiple in-between buyers, a complete chain of ownership with bills of sale or separate REG 262 forms is required.  
    • For example, if John Doe is the registered owner and sells the vehicle to Sam Clark, who then sells the vehicle to Jane Smith, who then sells the vehicle to Robert Jones, who then sells the vehicle to you, four releasing signatures are required.  John Doe would release interest to Sam Clark either on the Certificate of Title, REG 227, REG 262, REG 135, or separate bill of sale.  Sam Clark would then release interest to Jane Smith on a REG 262, REG 135, or separate bill of sale.  Jane Smith would then release interest to Robert Jones on a REG 262, REG 135, or separate bill of sale.  Robert Jones would then release interest to you on a REG 262, REG 135, or separate bill of sale.  All four releases must accompany your application for transfer.  In-between seller/buyers CANNOT be by-passed, such as contacting John Doe and obtaining a releasing signature from him directly to you or any other variation or party where the sale did not directly occur to that person; only the person who the seller ACTUALLY sold the vehicle to can be shown on the releasing document as the person who purchased it directly from that seller.
  • Check that the mileage Odometer Disclosure Statement (on title or REG 262 form) completed by the seller and you contains no errors.  Any crossovers, alterations, etc., (including changes with initials) void the odometer statement and a NEW odometer disclosure statement is required to be completed and signed by both you and the seller.  If the odometer statement on the Certificate of Title was used which contains the error, a REG 262 form must be used along with an error statement (REG 101) form.
  • If the documents the seller is providing are stamped "export only" or similar wording, this may indicate the seller is acting as an unlicensed dealer, in violation of Vehicle Code Section 285.

Where do I Sign?

The 4 by 5-inch Ownership Certificate was issued until 1981 and commonly referred to as “pink slip.” In 1982, California began issuing a 7 by 8-inch Certificate of Title and commonly referred to as the   rainbow title. In 1994, California added a special box for odometer mileage reading disclosure and acknowledgment to the Certificates of Title. In 2002, California began issuing the current Certificate of Title which is pink with a blue border. The example below indicates where to complete the current Certificate of Title to change ownership on the 7 by 8- inch title.

California Certificate of Title (Rainbow Title)

HTVR 32 (REV. 11/2016)

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