How To: Change Vehicle Ownership

How to Get Started?

You will need a:

You may also need:

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

What Is a Change in Ownership?

Any change of the registered owner or lienholder (legal owner) of a vehicle or vessel is considered a change in ownership and must be updated on the records within 10 days at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The change is usually due to:

  • A sale, gift, or donation.
  • Adding or deleting the name of an owner.
  • An inheritance.
  • A satisfaction of lien (full payment of car loan).

Transfer – When there is a change of ownership, 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 Transfer of 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 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)
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
A REG 101 is used when a name or other information is entered on the title in error and 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
A REG 101 is 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
A REG 5 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 $150,000. The vehicle must be titled in California.

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.
  • A commercial vehicle with a GVW or CGW of more than 16,000 pounds.
  • New and being transferred prior to its first retail sale by a dealer.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.

What Fees Will Be Due?

When the application is submitted to DMV these fees may be due:

  • 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.

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 REG 138 to DMV within 5 days of releasing ownership of the vehicle, trailer, or vessel. The REG 138 may be filed online or downloaded at dmv.ca.gov and mailed to the address on the form. 

The REG 138 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 DMV’s records until the new owner submits the vehicle title to DMV for transfer of ownership, pays the appropriate fees, and completes all transfer requirements. 

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. A 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. 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.

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 REG 138, 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 within 60 calendar days.

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 REG 138.

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. The word “and” or a slash (/) requires the signature of each owner to sell the vehicle.

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 California Certificate of Title to change ownership on the 7 by 8-inch title.

Example of where to sign on a California Certificate of Title.

HTVR 32 (REV. 6/2020)