Transfer a Vehicle as a Gift

What does transfer mean?

When the California Department of Motor Vehicles talks about "transfer" we mean a change in the registered or legal ownership. When a vehicle changes owners whether by sale, gift, or inheritance, and the new owner's name is placed on the department's records, that's a transfer.

Are Transfer Requirements Different When a Car is Transferred as a Gift?

Yes, this information outlines the requirements for transfer of ownership when your vehicle is acquired as a gift.

Reclassification of Vehicle Upon Transfer

Upon change of ownership, the department reestablishes the vehicle value and determines the appropriate Vehicle License Fee based on the purchase price or current market value of the vehicle. Gifts are not exempt from the reclassification and are reclassified based on the current market value of the vehicle.

California Certificate of Title

For information on how to fill out the Certificate of Title, please refer to, "How to Complete the California Certificate of Title to Transfer Vehicle Ownership".

Can I Transfer Ownership to Myself Without Paying Registration Renewal Fees?

If the vehicle has a Planned Non-Operation status on file with the DMV, a "transfer only" may be done without payment of registration renewal fees for a vehicle that is not going to be operated.

How Much Will It Cost to Register the Vehicle?

Total amount of fees due will be determined when you submit your application to the DMV. If the transfer fee is not paid within 30 days of transfer, a penalty fee is added. If the vehicle is not currently registered, and a Notice of Planned Non-Operation (REG 102) is not on file with the DMV, you may be held responsible for past due registration fees and penalties. For further information regarding Planned Non-Operation and vehicle registration, refer to the information in "Reporting Vehicle Status".

Registration Renewal Fees Paid Prior to Transfer

If registration renewal fees are paid to the department before the vehicle is transferred, the vehicle is considered to be currently registered and the fees are not refundable.

Do I Need a Smog Certificate?

Yes, you do. In order to register the vehicle in your name, a smog certificate is required at the time of transfer. There are some exemptions, such as eligible family member transfers. Please refer to "How to Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members", for more information.

You Are Exempt from Paying Use Tax

Normally, use tax is due at the time of any regular transfer. However, because your vehicle was acquired as a gift, you are not charged use tax. To apply for this exemption, you must complete and submit the Statement of Facts (REG 256) with your application.

Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

You must notify DMV within five days when you sell or transfer ownership of your vehicle.

Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Make sure you print the confirmation page for your records.

Additional release of liability information