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Transferring a Car Title

Car titles are important documents that verify that an individual is the owner of an automobile. Whether you are buying or selling a vehicle, the law requires that you must go through the process of transferring the title properly. Whenever you buy from a dealership, the dealer usually will take care of the transfer process on your behalf, however when you buy or sell individually you must do so in accordance with state laws, therefore knowing how to transfer a title is both important and necessary.

Buying from a Dealer

Usually but not always, a professional dealer will handle all the paperwork for you and you should make sure to follow any and all instructions the dealer gives you. In certain states it may be necessary to obtain additional paperwork provided by your insurance company in order for the dealer to complete the purchase process. Buyers are required in addition to the sale price to pay the title and registration fees as well as sales tax. When purchasing from a dealer, also make sure to verify that the names on the title are accurate so that you are properly identified as the owner. If the car is for a teenage family member, you should consider whose name should be on the title or if you prefer to have both the parents’ and child’s name included. Married couples should also consider if both parties’ names or only one name should appear. If the title says John Doe and Mary Doe as opposed to John Doe or Mary Doe, the requirements of future title transfers are thus effected, using “and” would require that both parties sign the title in the event of a future transaction transfer. Car dealers can provide more information about the differences during the time of purchase.

Selling and Buying Individually

Whenever you buy or sell car privately, a bill of sale must be prepared as the majority of states within the United States require a bill of sale document that outlines the details of the transfer or sale. In this document you should and must include the vehicle identification number, odometer reading and a statement that verifies that it is authentic, the purchase price, the vehicle’s make and model, signatures of the parties involved in the transaction and on the title.

If you have never bought or sold a vehicle, on the back you will find allotted spaces in which to write in the details of the transaction and transfer. Always make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully, depending on which state you live in, you may be required to bring the title to the Motor Vehicle registry and both parties will need to be present. If the car’s title includes a loan provider, the transfer cannot be completed until the loan has been paid off or you have obtained a certificate from the lender granting permission of the transfer as in such circumstances the lender technically still owns the vehicle.

If you are the buyer of the vehicle, you should request a new title and registration and in most cases there is a time limit of roughly 30 days in which this must be done. Buyers should check with the Motor Vehicle Registry to find out what the procedure is in the respective state in which the transaction is being made.

Charitable Donations

If you have decided that you want to donate your vehicle to charity rather than sell it, make certain that the charity is a reputable one and deserving of your support. The charity should also have a 501 C (a) tax status so that you can get a tax deduction for your donation. Also make sure the title is in your name and if there is more than one name on the title both names are needed to complete the transfer. If the car is in someone else’s name, that person will have to transfer the title. If for whatever reason you don’t have the title, you will have to request a copy from the Motor Vehicle registry.

In some cases charities will handle all the paperwork if you just hand over the car title. However this is not a recommended course of action. The best way to go about completing the info on the title certificate is to personally complete the transfer details on the back, including an accurate odometer reading as well as the charity’s name and a signature and date. Make sure to keep copies of the paperwork for your personal records in case you ever need them.


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