A title certificate is a legal document that demonstrates ownership of a motor vehicle. When purchasing or selling a used automobile in Virginia, transferring ownership is a crucial part of the transaction process.
A safe and legal title transfer procedure is essential for a successful private vehicle transaction. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about transferring a car title in Virginia.
The Process of Transferring the Title
A car title transfer establishes the buyer as the new owner of a vehicle. A title transfer happens in two stages:
- A face-to-face meeting happens with the buyer and the seller. They reach an agreement on the purchase price, and the buyer approves the vehicle. The buyer compensates the seller. The title certificate must be completed and signed by both the seller and the buyer. The car is now legally owned by the buyer.
- The buyer registers the vehicle and formally transfers the title into their name with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This involves the payment of car sales tax, the application for new license plates, and the handling of other issues.
The first step (the seller and buyer meeting) is the most important. The second step is a required formality.
- As the seller, you’ll formalize the whole transaction when you transfer ownership of the car by signing the title over to the buyer. You’ll take off the license plates and be done with the car.
- When the seller transfers the title to you as the buyer in a private car sale, you become the legal owner of the vehicle. You'll finish your title and registration with the Virginia DMV. You'll also acquire new Virginia license plates and car insurance.
Essential Info for Signing a Virginia Title
Always keep the following details in mind when completing the title certificate:
- Any spelling mistakes make the document illegible.
- Use only blue or black ink. Any other color will void the title.
- Never use white-out or delete anything.
- Write clearly.
- Use only full, legal names..
Front of VA Certificate Title
The front of the title includes sections for the seller (red), lien holders (green), and buyers (teal). Here are the steps for filling out the front of a Virginia title.
- By entering the necessary information, the lienholder will release the lien (if applicable).
- In the red rectangle marked “2”, the seller enters the BUYER’S name, address, city, state, and zip code.
- The seller enters the exact odometer reading, the date, and the sale price, then signs and prints their name in the red field marked “3”.
- In the teal-colored field, the buyer signs and prints their name.
Back of VA Certificate Title
There are red and teal sections on the back of the title for the seller and buyer. The following steps will walk you through the process of finishing the back of a Virginia title.
- The buyer enters the name, address, city, state, and zip code of the lienholder to appear on the new title and the lien date in the teal rectangle (if applicable).
- The seller verifies the type of registration they are requesting and marks which insurance certificates apply to them.
- The buyer signs their name and enters the date, social security number, address, city, state, and zip code in the teal-colored space below. .
- The buyer marks yes or no to the question at the bottom of the title (if applicable).
Congrats! You've finished the Virginia title transfer.
Finalize Ownership Transfer with Virginia DMV
You are officially the owner once you have completed the certificate. But your work is not done. To complete the Virginia car title transfer, you must still take some additional steps. You must also register the vehicle and get new license plates from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Virginia. You'll also have to pay sales tax on your new-to-you vehicle.
The following documents must be submitted to your local VA DMV office:
- Bill of sale.
- Completed certificate of title.
- Application for car registration.
- Proof of identity and address.
- Valid Virginia auto insurance policy.
- Emissions test and safety inspection.
- Payment to cover VA vehicle registration fees ($30.75 - $116.49).
- Payment to cover VA sales and use tax of 5.3% of the purchase price of the car.
When you file for VA vehicle registration, you will be able to choose what type of license plate you want. Standard license plates cost up to $45.75 in Virginia.
To avoid fines or other penalties, you should register your new car as soon as you get the title.
Virginia Emissions Testing Requirements
Some counties and cities in Virginia require that all gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles pass an emissions test. No emissions testing, no registration, and no title transfer.
The following counties and cities require emission testing:
- Prince William
- Falls Church
- Manassas Park
If you live in one of these counties or cities and want to register your car, you will need to find an emissions inspection station and take the test.
Emission Check Exemptions in Virginia
If your car fits into one of the following groups, you don't have to get it tested for emissions, even in cities and counties that require emissions testing:
- New cars with a manufacturer’s certificate of origin getting titled for the first time
- Gasoline cars 25 years and older
- Gasoline-powered cars that exceed 10,000 lbs
- Diesel-powered cars manufactured in 1997 and before model year and exceed 8500 lbs
- Clean fuel cars
- Hybrid cars (gasoline hybrids are not exempt)
The fee for performing this test will be $28 per vehicle.
Vehicle Safety Inspection
In Virginia, all registered vehicles must pass a safety inspection in order to have their registration renewed. You can get your safety inspection done at most repair shops, and it should cost around $20.
Virginia Bill of Sale
When transferring title in Virginia, a bill of sale is not required. However, we recommend always completing a bill of sale in private-party vehicle transactions, as it provides legal protection for both buyer and seller.
A bill of sale must include the following elements:
- Your full name and signature
- The other party’s full name and signature
- Price of the car
- The make, model, and year of the car
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
As part of our standard in-app transaction procedure, PrivateAuto provides you with a Virginia bill of sale. At the appropriate time during the transaction, the buyer and seller will be required to use the PrivateAuto app to electronically sign the Virginia bill of sale.
When you take the car for a test drive and decide to buy it, the whole process, including filling out the bill of sale, can be done in a few minutes. It is quick, simple, and convenient. You won't have to keep track of any paperwork; the electronic bill of sale will always be accessible in your PrivateAuto account as evidence of a legitimate transaction.
How Much are Title Transfer Fees in Virginia?
The Virginia DMV office charges $15 for the following:
- Car title transfer fee
- New vehicle title fee
- Substitute vehicle title fee
- Replacement vehicle title fee
Virginia Title Transfer Form
When buying a car from a private seller, the buyer will have to do the title transfer at their local VA DMV.
To apply for a vehicle title transfer in Virginia, you need:
- A vehicle safety inspection sticker
- The VA vehicle title
- Odometer reading
- Proof of the vehicle’s sales price (bill of sale or vehicle price certificate)
- If applicable, the transfer of certificate of title with lien (form SUT 4)
Steps for Selling Your Vehicle through PrivateAuto
With PrivateAuto, you can sell your used car quickly and easily. The sales process is simple:
- Gather necessary paperwork
- Create an account on PrivateAuto and get verified
- List the car
- Set your own conditions
- Evaluate incoming proposals
- Choose the buyer
- Schedule a test drive
- E-sign paperwork
- Get paid, instantaneously
- Perform a title transfer
- Remove license plates
- Cancel car insurance
Interested in Buying a Used Car in Virginia?
Browse our selection of used cars for sale in Virginia if you're looking to purchase one. Whether you’re looking for a Toyota RAV 4, a Ford Focus, or a Tesla Model S, you’re sure to find a great deal on the car of your dreams.
VA Title Transfer FAQ
How to transfer a car title when the owner is deceased?
If you are the beneficiary of a deceased car owner and intend to keep the vehicle, you must transfer the title to your name. The beneficiary may gift the car to a relative or sell it.
To transfer the title, you'll need to gather the following documents:
- Certificate of title
- Odometer disclosure statement
- Copy of the death certificate
- Order from the probate court to transfer the vehicle
- Transfer fee
Check out our guide on transferring a vehicle title to a family member as well!
How do you transfer an out-of-state title?
To transfer an out-of-state car title, you will need the following:
- The original out-of-state car title
- A completed application for a certificate of ownership
- A completed VA vehicle registration application
- Proof of a valid vehicle insurance policy
- Proof of identification
How to request a duplicate vehicle title in Virginia?
If your car’s title has been damaged, lost, or destroyed, you need to request a title replacement. In the state of Virginia, you can apply for a replacement title online or in person.
When applying for a duplicate title online, you will need to submit the following:
- Customer number (located on your driver’s license or ID card)
- Date of birth
- Personal identification number
- Payment for the VA vehicle title replacement fee of $15
If you are applying for your duplicate VA vehicle title in person, you need the following:
- A completed application for replacement and substitute title (form VSA 67)
- Your vehicle registration certificate
- Valid license or photo ID
- Will or court order
- Payment for the VA replacement vehicle title fee of $15
Should I remove my license plates when I sell a used car in VA?
When selling a used car in Virginia, the seller is required to remove the vehicle's license plates. The buyer must apply for new license plates with the Virginia DMV.
Consult our state-by-state guide for information on how to handle license plates in the event of a private car sale.
What is the safest method of payment when selling a car?
PrivateAuto Pay allows you to send large sums of money quickly and securely, without the risks and inconveniences that other payment methods entail.
Where can I go to transfer a vehicle title in Virginia?
There are different DMV office locations where you can transfer a Virginia vehicle’s title.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (Alexandria Office)
6306 Grovedale Dr.
Alexandria, VA 22310
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (Harrisonburg Office)
3281 Peoples Dr.
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (Chesterfield Office)
610 Johnston Willis Dr.
Richmond, VA 23236
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (Hampton Office)
1 Franklin St. Ste 100
Can I get a loan on a salvage title car?
The majority of lenders do not finance vehicles with salvage titles. To learn more about this type of branded title, please refer to our guide to salvage titles, which explains what they are and the advantages and disadvantages of a vehicle with a salvage title.
Are used vehicle prices dropping in 2023?
Used car prices appear to be decreasing, but they are not plummeting as some have predicted. However, we could be wrong. PrivateAuto will continue to be the best place to buy and sell used vehicles, regardless of price fluctuations.