A certificate of title is a document that establishes ownership of a car. If you’re buying or selling a used car in Massachusetts, the transfer of the title is one of the most crucial steps of the entire process.

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Title transfer process

Filling out the title transfer

Emission testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts bill of sale

Transfer the title

Private vehicle sales need a safe, legal title transfer process. Our Massachusetts title transfer guide gives you everything you need to know to sign over a car title in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Title Transfer Process

The key component of the entire car-buying transaction is transferring a Massachusetts vehicle title from seller to buyer. A vehicle title transfer establishes the buyer of a car as the new owner.

When the seller signs the title and hands it to you, the car is officially and legally yours. There are still some steps remaining for you to take following the title transfer, but now you’re the vehicle owner.

Signing the Certificate of Title The Right Way

When signing the title certificate, always keep the following in mind.

  • Only use black or blue ink. Any other color will void the title.
  • Do not use nicknames.
  • Write neatly.
  • Do not erase anything or use white-out.
  • Mistakes make the document invalid.

Front of Title

The front of a Massachusetts title has a section for lienholders. If there is a lien on the title, the lienholder will need to release the lien in the green-colored section shown below.

Back of Title

The back of the title has sections for the buyer (teal), and the seller (red). Here is the process for filling out the back of a Massachusetts title.


The seller enters their full name, the buyer's full name, the date of the sale, and the buyer's state, county, city, zip code, and street address in the rectangle shown in red, above.

  1. The seller enters the exact selling price, date of the sale, odometer reading, signature, and printed name (never induce tenths of a mile).
  2. The buyer enters their signature, printed name, and the date in the teal rectangle marked “3”.

Finalize Ownership Transfer with MA RMV

You’ve done the deal and are the proud owner of a new-to-you vehicle. Your work is not yet done. There are still steps you need to take to finalize the title transfer with the State of Massachusetts.

You also need to get new license plates and register the car with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

You will need to submit the following documents to your local RMV office:

  • A completed and signed application form for a car title
  • The assigned certificate of title from the previous to the current car owner
  • If the car is exempt from titling due to its age, the vehicle registration and bill of sale needs to be provided.
  • Sales tax payment (Massachusetts car sales tax is 6.25%)
  • Payment for title transfer (Massachusetts title transfer fee is $75)

In Massachusetts, title transfers can be done online.

To avoid any fees or penalties, make sure you are registering the car right after transferring the title.

Perform Emissions Testing

Massachusetts laws require the seller to provide the buyer with a passing emissions test that hasn't been used to register or renew a vehicle registration.

Car getting an emissions test completed

Cars manufactured after model year 2008 must pass an annual emissions test.

Emission Check Exemptions in Massachusetts

Cars that don’t require emissions testing:

  • New cars (for up to one year of the sale or lease date)
  • Electric cars
  • Diesel cars made before 1984
  • Diesel cars older than 15 years old or made before 1997
  • Diesel cars made before 2007 with a gross car weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds

If the car that you are buying does not meet any of these criteria, find a Massachusetts Registry for Motor Vehicles location and proceed with the test.

For locations of smog check stations visit the Massachusetts RMV website.

For most cars, the fee for performing this test will be $35.

Bill of Sale in Massachusetts

A bill of sale is a legal document that is required if purchasing a vehicle from a private owner in Massachusetts.

Here are the necessary elements in a bill of sale:

  • Your full name and notarized signature
  • The other party’s full name and notarized signature
  • Price of the car
  • The make, model, and year of the car
  • A description of the car
  • A warranty disclaimer stating the car is being sold as-is
  • Date of the transaction

PrivateAuto includes a Massachusetts bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the appropriate phase in the car-buying transaction, both you and the seller will be prompted to e-sign the bill of sale within their mobile PrivateAuto app.

PrivateAuto E-Bill of Sale

The whole transaction, including the bill of sale, can be completed in a few minutes when you meet for the test drive and approve the car. It’s so fast and convenient you won’t believe it. And then, you won't have to keep track of all your paperwork, you will always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account to prove that the transaction was legitimate.

If you find that you need to invoke MA private party lemon law, a bill of sale will provide proof of purchase.

Completing the Massachusetts Title Transfer Form

To complete the Massachusetts car title transfer form, you will need to provide the following information:

  • A completed and signed application form for a car title
  • The assigned certificate of title from the previous to the current car owner
  • Payment for all applicable car title and registration fees
  • If the car is exempt from titling due to its age, the vehicle registration and bill of sale needs to be provided
  • Sales tax exemption form, if applicable (completed by the previous car owner)

Massachusetts License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Unfortunately, Massachusetts requires that the plates be removed from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to RMV for new license plates, and pay the $30 or $75 Massachusetts license plate fee.

Buying and Selling Cars in Massachusetts With PrivateAuto

Complete the sales process easily and legally with the help of PrivateAuto. Our tech-driven platform connects you to private sellers, allows you to e-sign documents, sign documents online and receive state-specific steps to complete the sale. See how it works today to buy and sell vehicles privately in Massachusetts.

Sell Your Vehicle through PrivateAuto

PrivateAuto makes selling your used car hassle-free. The sales process consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Gather necessary documentation
  2. Register on PrivateAuto and get your account verified
  3. List your car
  4. Set your own terms
  5. Go over incoming offers
  6. Choose your perfect buyer
  7. Meet for a test drive
  8. E-sign documents
  9. Get paid, instantly
  10. Transfer title
  11. Remove license plates
  12. Cancel car insurance
PrivateAuto Identity Verification

Thinking About Buying a Used Car in Massachusetts?

PrivateAuto makes buying a used car hassle-free. Whether you’re looking for a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Jeep Grand Cherokee, or a lightly-used Toyota Rav4, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride of your dreams.

Buying or Selling A Car with PrivateAuto

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. Get started with PrivateAuto today.

10 Easy Steps for Selling A Used Car with PrivateAuto

Avoid scams, keep personal information private, and guarantee funds with PrivateAuto. Fast, convenient car transactions. Get started with PrivateAuto today

PrivateAuto makes selling your used car safe and easy. The sales process consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Gather the required documentation
  2. Create your PrivateAuto profile and get verified
  3. List the car
  4. Set your own terms
  5. Vet incoming offers
  6. Choose the buyer you like
  7. Schedule the meetup
  8. E-sign paperwork
  9. Get paid instantaneously
  10. Transfer ownership

Massachusetts Title Transfer FAQ

How to transfer a car title when the owner is deceased?

When a car owner is deceased and a family member wants to keep the car, they will need to complete a Massachusetts title transfer.

Only a beneficiary, joint-owner, or surviving spouse can transfer the vehicle’s title to another person if the owner has passed away.

Can I gift a car to a family member in MA?

Yes. In the state of MA, gifting a car to a family member is similar to purchasing a car from a private party.

The difference is that you just need to write “gift” or “$0” as the purchase price when filling out the vehicle’s title and bill of sale.

The following family members are eligible for the MA tax exemption:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Siblings
  • Children

If you fall under these categories, you will need to complete the sales tax exemption form (MVU-26)

Should I remove my license plates when I sell a used car in Massachusetts?

Yes, the seller must remove the car’s license plates when selling a used car in Massachusetts. The buyer will need to apply to RMV for new license plates.

How to transfer a vehicle title when you have an out-of-state title?

As soon as you establish residency in Massachusetts, you also will need to register the car. In the state of Massachusetts, there is no grace period for situations like this.

To transfer an out-of-state title you will need to following:

  • Proof of a valid MA insurance policy (registration and title application with insurance stamp and signature)
  • Proof of ownership through title certificate
  • Payment for all applicable fees

How to request a duplicate vehicle title in Massachusetts?

If you’ve lost or damaged your vehicle title, you have to request a duplicate title.

When requesting a duplicate title, you will need to submit the following to the MA RMV office:

  • Proof of VIN inspection
  • Completed duplicate vehicle title form (T20558)

By Mail

If you are not able to request a duplicate title in person, you can also do it by mail. You will need to send the following:

  • Filled duplicate vehicle title form
  • Correct payment for the applicable fees

When submitting your documents via mail, you will need to ensure that you are only submitting checks and money orders for the payment to be processed.

Online

For those who want to request a duplicate title online, they will need to provide the following info:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your driver’s license or ID card number
  • The last four digits of your social security number

What is the safest method of payment when selling a Massachusetts vehicle?

Before PrivateAuto, the safest way to receive payment when selling your vehicle is in cash. With PrivateAuto Pay, you can avoid the risks and hassle of dealing with large sums of cash and get paid instantaneously through our app with our integrated banking partner.

PrivateAuto Pay

By receiving your money through our integrated banking system, both buyers and sellers can stay safe while exchanging large sums of money, as they don’t have to share their contact or banking information during the car buying process.

Where can I go to transfer a vehicle title in Massachusetts?

There are numerous locations in MA where you can transfer a vehicle’s title.

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Watertown Service Center)

611 Main St.

Worcester, MA 01608

(857) 368-8200

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Southbridge Service Center)

6 Larochelle Way, Southridge, MA 015500

(857) 368-8000

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Watertown Service Center)

550 Arsenal St

Watertown, MA 02472

(857) 368-8000

For more locations, visit the Massachusetts RMV website.

What is the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Administration?

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is the administrative department responsible for licensing and registering cars in the state of Massachusetts. Think of it as the MA equivalent to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).