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

Quick links:

What is the NC title transfer process?

How to correctly fill out the title transfer form?

Is a NC smog check required?

Is a bill of sale required?

Title transfer needs to be a safe and legal process, especially in private car sales. This North Carolina title transfer guide gives you everything you need to know to transfer a vehicle title in NC.

Vehicle Title Transfer Process

There are two stages to a North Carolina car title transfer.

  1. The two parties (buyer and seller) meet in person. The buyer pays the seller. Both fill out the physical certificate of title, and sign. From this point on, the buyer is the legal owner of the car.
  2. The buyer finalizes the title transfer process with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the same time, the buyer registers the car and applies for new license plates.

The first step (seller and buyer meeting) is the most important. The second step is a necessary formality.

  • As the seller, you’ll formalize the entire transaction when you transfer the ownership of the car by signing the title over to the buyer. You’ll remove the license plates and be done with the vehicle.
  • As the buyer in a private car sale, you become the legal owner of the car as soon as the seller transfers the title to your name. You’ll finalize with DMV to get title and registration in your name. You’ll also get new North Carolina license plates and car insurance.

Sign a NC Title Correctly

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

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

Front of Title

The front of a North Carolina 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 seller (red), the notary (purple), and the buyer (teal). Here is the process for filling out the back of a North Carolina title.

In the red rectangle, marked “1”, the seller enters the name and address of the BUYER.

  1. The seller enters the exact odometer disclosure reading, fills out the damage disclaimer section, enters the vehicle delivery date, and signs and prints their name in the red field marked “2”.
  2. In the purple rectangle marked “3”, a notary enters the required information.
  3. The buyer signs and prints their name in the blue-colored rectangle.
  4. The buyer will fill out the application for a new title certificate simply by filling out the info that applies to them, signing, and checking the boxes in the blue field marked “6”.
  5. In the blue rectangle, the buyer will fill out their personal info (full legal name, drivers license number, address, city, zip code, and county).
  6. If applicable, the lienholder enters the information in the green rectangle.
  7. The buyer enters their car insurance company, policy number as well as an accurate odometer reading followed by their signature.
  8. In the last purple rectangle, the notary will enter the required information.

Congrats! You’ve completed the first part of a NC title transfer. Pretty simple, right? Now you need to complete the transfer with the DMV.

Finalize Ownership Transfer with NC DMV

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 North Carolina. You also need to acquire new license plates and register the car with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Local DMV

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

  • All documents provided by the car's seller
  • A title application (form MVR-1)
  • Proof of a valid NC vehicle insurance policy
  • A form of identification for all vehicle owners
  • Vehicle title transfer fee: $56
  • Payment for Highway use tax (HUT): 3% (form MVR-613)
  • Registration fees
  • Payment for sales tax (North Carolina car sales tax is 7,5%)

To avoid paying a late fee or penalties, make sure you are registering the car right after transferring the title.

Perform Emissions Testing

Certain North Carolina counties require emissions testing in order to complete a title transfer and register a vehicle.

North Carolina Emissions Requirements

In the State of North Carolina, the following counties require emission testing.

  • Alamance
  • Buncombe
  • Cabarrus
  • Cumberland
  • Davidson
  • Durham
  • Forsyth
  • Franklin
  • Gaston
  • Guilford
  • Iredell
  • Johnston​
  • Lincoln
  • Mecklenburg
  • New Hanover
  • Randolph​
  • Rowan
  • Wake
  • Union

Emission Check Exemptions in North Carolina

In the 19 counties where emission checks are required, cars in the following categories are exempt

  • Light-duty cars less than 3 years old or that have 70,000 miles or less
  • Cars that are 20 years old or older​​
  • Diesel-operated cars
  • Kit cars
  • Plug-in hybrid cars

A NC emissions inspection costs $30.

North Carolina Bill of Sale

In the state of North Carolina, a bill of sale is not required for transferring the title.  A bill of sale is still a good idea, though, as it’s a legal document that acts as a receipt to protect both buyer and seller.

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

Our app includes an official North Carolina bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the appropriate stage in the transaction, the buyer and seller will be encouraged to e-sign the North Carolina bill of sale within the PrivateAuto app.

PrivateAuto E-Bill of Sale

The whole transaction, bill of sale included, can be completed in just a couple of minutes when you meet for the test drive and approve the car. It’s quick, easy, and convenient. You won't have to keep track of all your papers: you will always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account to prove that the transaction was legitimate.

North Carolina Title Transfer Forms

To complete the North Carolina car title transfer form, you will need to provide the following info:

  • Name and address of the buyer and current vehicle owner
  • Date of sale
  • Car mileage, condition, and purchase price
  • Odometer reading
  • Completed a bill of sale
  • Completed Certificate of Title
  • Damage disclosure statement
  • Drivers license or ID

NC License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Unfortunately, North Carolina requires the seller to remove plates from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the DMV for new license plates, and pay the $38.75 North Carolina license plate fee.

See our state-by-state guide to license plate requirements if you’re considering buying or selling a car in other states.

Buy and Sell Cars in North Carolina With PrivateAuto

Complete private party vehicle transactions easily and legally with the help of PrivateAuto. Our technology-driven platform helps you find verified buyers and sellers, sign documents online, and receive state-specific steps to complete the sale. See how it works today to buy and sell vehicles privately in North Carolina.

Steps for Selling Your Vehicle through PrivateAuto

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

  1. Complete necessary documentation
  2. Make your PrivateAuto account and get verified
  3. List your car
  4. Set your terms
  5. Vet incoming offers
  6. Choose a buyer
  7. Schedule a test drive
  8. E-sign documents
  9. Get paid instantaneously
  10. Transfer ownership
  11. Remove the license plates
  12. Cancel current car insurance

Interested in Buying a Used Car in North Carolina?

PrivateAuto makes buying a used car in North Carolina fast and simple. Whether you’re looking for a Toyota RAV4, a Ford F-Series, or a Ram 1500/2500/3500, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride of your dreams. Browse used vehicles for sale.

North Carolina Title Transfer FAQ

What is the safest method of payment when selling an NC car?

In most cases, the best and safest way to receive payment when selling a used vehicle is cash. With PrivateAuto Pay, you can avoid the risks and hassle of dealing with large wads of cash and get paid instantaneously through our app with our integrated banking partner

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.

PrivateAuto Pay

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

In the state of NC, when the owner of the car is deceased, you must transfer the car title. A beneficiary, spouse or joint-owner can transfer the title to someone else if the owner is deceased.

How to transfer a title after a lease buyout?

Once you pay off the loan on your car, you can request to have the lien removed from your car title by applying for a duplicate title (form MVR-4).

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

If you have an out of state title, you will need to take your out-of-state title certificate to the nearest NC DMV office.

Additional documentation that you need to have with you during this process:

How to request a duplicate title in North Carolina?

Replacing the car title is required if it's damaged, stolen, or if a lien needs to be removed.

To apply for a duplicate title you need the following:

  • The application for duplicate title (form MVR-4)
  • A lien release form from your lien holder for any liens on the vehicle
  • Proof of ID
  • Payment for the NC duplicate title fee of $21.50

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

Yes, the seller must take off the license plates when selling a used car in North Carolina. The buyer will need to apply to the DMV for new license plates.

Where can I go to transfer a vehicle title in North Carolina?

There are many different NC DMV locations, but these are the most common ones:

Department of Motor Vehicles

27 Plaza Pkwy

Lexington, NC 27292

Department of Motor Vehicles

1022 Randolf Street Ste 13

Thomasville, NC 27360