Already have a buyer or seller?  Close the sale with DealNow.

Can You Transfer a Car Title Online?

Transferring a car title is an important step when you buy, sell, donate, or inherit a vehicle. It involves changing vehicle ownership from one person to another and updating the state's motor vehicle records. Some states allow you to complete a title transfer online, saving you a trip to the DMV.

Quick links:

What is a title?

Which states allow online title transfer?

Why is a title transfer important?

Title transfer for sellers

Title transfer for buyers

What paperwork is required?

What taxes and fees are due?

How do I find the right website?

It's critical that you complete the title transfer process correctly and on time. Failure to transfer a title can have legal and financial ramifications, including fines, penalties, and liability concerns.

An online title transfer can save you time, money, and hassle, especially if you have a hectic schedule or live a long distance from a DMV office. Internet title transfers are usually faster, allowing you to receive your new title and registration sooner.

What is a Car Title?

A Certificate of Title is a legal document that establishes car ownership. It contains vital car information such as the manufacturer, model, year, and VIN (vehicle identification number).

The car title also includes the owner's name and address, as well as the names and addresses of any lienholders who have a legal claim on the vehicle (the most common type of lienholder is a lender for vehicles that have been financed).

A title serves as evidence of ownership when registering a vehicle, purchasing insurance, or changing the owner or registration. It is critical to keep your vehicle title safe and up-to-date, and to always know where it is.

Which States Allow Online Title Transfer?

The following states allow you to transfer a car title online. If you live in one of these states, click on your state to be taken to the online title transfer portal of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)—or your state’s equivalent motor vehicle registry authority.

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Florida
  4. Indiana
  5. Maryland
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Michigan
  8. Minnesota
  9. Missouri
  10. Montana
  11. Nebraska
  12. New York
  13. North Carolina
  14. Ohio
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Oregon
  17. Pennsylvania
  18. South Carolina
  19. Texas
  20. Utah
  21. Virginia
  22. Washington
  23. Wisconsin

Why is a Title Transfer Important?

A title transfer is important to both the buyer and seller of a vehicle.

Here are some of the reasons why a title transfer is necessary:

  1. In most states, transferring the title is a legal necessity, and failing to do so can result in fines or other penalties.
  2. As the seller, if the title isn’t transferred properly, you may be held accountable for any accidents or damages caused by the car, even though you no longer own it. That’s because you are still the registered owner in the DMV records.
  3. As the buyer of a used car, the title serves as proof of ownership and allows you to legally gift or sell the car should you choose.
  4. Registration and insurance: without a title transfer, the buyer cannot register or insure a car in their name.

In the end, transferring the title is important for both legal and financial reasons because it protects both the buyer and the seller.

Title Transfer for Sellers

For the seller of a used car, the title transfer portion is simple: you sign over the physical certificate of title to the buyer. You’ll need to complete all the required fields on the document, including the odometer reading. In signing over the title, you legally transfer ownership to the buyer.

It’s then the buyer’s responsibility to register the vehicle in their name with their state’s vehicle licensing regulatory body.

For instructions on how to sign over a vehicle title, read our complete guide to car title transfers.

Title Transfer for Buyers

After a car’s seller signs the title over, you’ll need to register your vehicle with the DMV or equivalent agency. You’ll also need to file a notice of transfer so that they can update vehicle ownership in their records. Unless you live in Minnesota or California, you’ll also apply for new license plates (see our state-by-state license plate guide for more on this).

Nevada Certificate of Title

Required Documentation

Paperwork requirements vary somewhat by state, but here are some of the most commonly-required documents you’ll need to provide.

  • The physical title signed by the seller (and lienholder, if applicable)
  • A bill of sale or purchase agreement (PrivateAuto makes the bill of sale super easy)
  • Vehicle registration application
  • Smog certificate or emissions inspection certificate (if required by your state)
  • Valid driver's license or identification card
  • Proof of insurance
  • Payment for applicable fees
  • Any additional forms or documents required by your state

Before you send in your title transfer and registration application, you should check with your local DMV or motor vehicle agency to find out what documents are needed in your state and to make sure you have all of them.

Taxes and Fees

After buying a used car from a private party, the new owner will need to pay a variety of taxes and fees when they register the car in their name and complete the title transfer. Fees and taxes vary by state but may include:

  • The title transfer fee covers the administrative costs of transferring the vehicle's title to the new owner.
  • The registration fee covers the cost of registering the car with the state's motor vehicle office as well as getting new license plates.
  • A vehicle sales tax is due in most states (unless you’re lucky enough to live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax). The sales tax is based on the vehicle's purchase price; the new owner may be required to pay state and municipal sales taxes also.
  • Fee for a smog check: several states need a smog check in order to register a car, and this charge covers the cost of the test.
  • County or city tax: in addition to the state sales tax, certain states may levy a county or municipal tax.
  • Late registration fee: if the new owner fails to register the vehicle within a particular term, a late registration cost may be imposed.
  • License plate fee: in states that require the owner to get new license plates, you’ll need to pay your state’s license plate fee. These costs vary significantly from one state to another.

It's important to check with your state's DMV or motor vehicle department to find out what fees and taxes are required.

Title Transfer Information by State

We’ve documented each state’s title transfer process. Click on your state below to learn more.

How to transfer a title in Alabama

How to transfer a title in Louisiana

How to transfer a title in Ohio

How to transfer a title in Alaska

How to transfer a title in Maine

How to transfer a title in Oklahoma

How to transfer a title in Arizona

How to transfer a title in Maryland

How to transfer a title in Oregon

How to transfer a title in Arkansas

How to transfer a title in Massachusetts

How to transfer a title in Pennsylvania

How to transfer a title in California

How to transfer a title in Michigan

How to transfer a title in Rhode Island

How to transfer a title in Colorado

How to transfe r a title in Minnesota

How to transfer a title in South Carolina

How totransfer a title in Connecticut

How to transfer a title in Mississippi

How to transfer a title in South Dakota

How to transfer a title in Delaware

How to transfer a title in Missouri

How to transfer a title in Tennessee

How to transfer a title in Florida

How to transfer a title in Montana

How to transfer a title in Texas

How to transfer a title in Georgia

How to transfer a title in Nebraska

How to transfer a title in Utah

How to transfer a title in Hawaii

How to transfer a title in Nevada

Transfer a title in Vermont

How to transfer a title in Idaho

How to transfer a title in New Hampshire

How to transfer a title in Virginia

How to transfer a title in Illinois

How to transfer a title in new Jersey

How to transfer a title in Washington

How to transfer a title in Indiana

How to transfer a title in New Mexico

How to transfer a title in West Virginia

How to transfer a title in Iowa

How to transfer a title in New York

How to transfer a title in Wisconsin

to transfer a title in Kansas

How to transfer a title in North Carolina

How to transfer a title in Wyoming

How to transfer a title in Kentucky

How to transfer a title in North Dakota

Conduct private car transactions easily and safely with PrivateAuto. Our innovative platform connects buyers and sellers and gives them all the tools to complete the deal, from in-app financing to secure messaging to integrated payments.

PrivateAuto allows you to negotiate the price you want, schedule the test drive meetup, and pay for the car—all within our app without compromising your personal information.

Whether you want to shop used vehicles for sale or are trying to sell your used car for top dollar, PrivateAuto will help you get the deal done.

Title Transfer FAQ

What if my car title is lost?

If you lose your automobile title, you must obtain a replacement title before you may sell or transfer ownership of the vehicle. The procedure for getting a replacement title varies by state, however it generally consists of the following steps:

  1. Submit a title replacement request to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or motor vehicle agency.
  2. Provide proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale, registration, or other papers proving you are the legal owner of the car.
  3. Pay the replacement title cost. The charge varies by state but is normally between $10 and $100.
  4. Allow for the processing and mailing of the replacement title. Depending on your location, this could take anything from a few days to many weeks.
  5. If the car has any liens, you may need to seek a lien release before applying for a replacement title.

After applying, you’ll receive your title in the mail 1-3 weeks later. Losing a car title can be inconvenient, but obtaining a replacement title is fairly simple if you have proof of ownership.

Can I get title to an abandoned vehicle?

It is sometimes possible to get the title to a car that has been left behind, but the process can be hard and varies from state to state. Here are some steps to follow in general:

  1. Check to see if the car fits the definition of an abandoned vehicle in your state. This can depend on things like how long the car has been left, what kind of shape it is in, and whether or not the owner can be found.
  2. Get in touch with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or motor vehicle agency to find out what steps you need to take to get the title to a car that has been left behind. In some situations, you may need a court order or to have the car towed to a certain place.
  3. Pay any fees that your state requires to get the title to the abandoned car.

Getting the title to abandoned vehicles can be a complicated and time-consuming process. If you need help, you might want to talk to a lawyer or the DMV in your state.

How to transfer a salvage title?

Transferring a salvage title is similar to transferring a regular car title, but depending on your state, there may be some extra steps and requirements.

Green salvaged car

Here's a general overview of the steps involved in transferring a salvage title:

  1. Get the salvage title from the previous owner. Any liens on the car should be released, and the title should be signed over to you.
  2. Repair the vehicle, if necessary. Most states will want the car to be repaired before transferring the title and registering the vehicle. You might need to have the car inspected by a licensed mechanic or your state's motor vehicle authority, depending on your state, to make sure it is safe to drive.
  3. Obtain a rebuilt title or a salvage title with a rebuilt designation. Depending on the state, this designation indicates that the car has been repaired and is road-worthy.
  4. Register the vehicle in your name with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent motor vehicle registry. You will need to provide the rebuilt or salvage title, as well as any other documentation required by your state.
  5. Pay fees required by your state to transfer the title and register the vehicle.

Different states have different rules about how to transfer a salvage title, and some states may have more steps or rules than those listed here. Be sure to check with your state's DMV or motor vehicle authority for specific guidance on transferring a salvage title. Also, some insurance companies may not cover cars with rebuilt or salvage titles, so check with your insurance company before buying a car with a salvage title.

How can I transfer a car title to a family member?

When transferring a car title to a family member, the process depends on whether you’re gifting the vehicle to them or selling it to them.

Gifting a car to a family member

When gifting a car to a family member, the main difference from a regular title transfer will be the tax ramifications. In most states, the new owner (family member) will not be required to pay sales tax. Here are the steps usually involved in gifting a car, though they can vary somewhat by state:

  1. Fill out the car title and sign it to the family member.
  2. Declare that the car is a gift on the paperwork. Most states have an official form for this.
  3. Pay any fees required by your state to transfer the title. Some states may waive the fees for a gifted vehicle.

The new owner will then need to register the car in their name.

Selling a car to a family member

If you’re selling your car to a family member, the process is very much like selling your car to a total stranger.

How can I transfer the title of a car when the owner is deceased?

Here is a general overview of how to transfer a car title when the owner is deceased:

  1. Get the previous owner's death certificate.
  2. Determine whether the deceased had a will that specified how their possessions, including the car, should be transferred. If this is the case, execute the provisions in the will to transfer ownership of the automobile.
  3. If there is no will, the vehicle may have to be officially transferred through the probate procedure. Depending on the state, this process may include going to court.
  4. Fill out the relevant documents to transfer the title to your name after you have legal right to transfer ownership of the car. Often, this entails completing a transfer of ownership form and giving proof of identity, such as a driver's license.
  5. Pay any fees imposed by your state in order to transfer the title. Fees vary by state, but usually include a title transfer cost and a registration fee.
  6. If you are a next of kin or have power of attorney, the process will be substantially easier; check with your state’s motor vehicle registry authority to find out how to proceed.

It's crucial to remember that the process for transferring a car's title after the owner's death varies based on the circumstances and the state in which the vehicle is registered. Check with your state's DMV or motor vehicle agency for precise instructions on transferring car ownership in this case.

Do I need to get new license plates after buying a car?

Most states require the new owner to get new license plates after buying a used car from a private seller. California and Minnesota are the exceptions; they mandate that the plates stay on the vehicle.

Wooden wall with license plates on it

What is an electronic title?

A computerized replica of a vehicle's paper title is known as an electronic title, sometimes known as an e-title. Instead of being printed on paper, it is saved electronically in the state's motor vehicle database. Electronic titles are becoming more popular because they provide  enhanced security, convenience, and faster processing times.

The owner of the vehicle does not need to keep track of a physical paper title with an electronic title. Instead, individuals can obtain and manage their title through the online portal of their state's motor vehicle bureau. Electronic titles can be transferred between owners digitally, saving time and money over the traditional method of mailing or delivering paper titles.

To transfer an electronic title, the current owner must start the transfer process online and give the right information about the new owner. Once the transfer is complete, the new owner can examine the electronic title and, if necessary, print a copy.

Not all states have electronic titles. Here are the states that do.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

What is a digital license plate?

A digital license plate replaces the traditional stamped metal license plate on a vehicle with a digital screen. It displays the license plate number and other information using electronic ink or a similar technology. Digital license plates could be helpful in a number of ways, such as being able to update information from a distance, track where the car is, and show messages or ads when the car is parked.

Currently, only a few states offer digital license plates via a private corporation. These states include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Michigan

Digital license plates are still a fairly new technology, and it's not clear yet if they will become more common in the future. For more info, you might like to read our complete guide to digital license plates.