How to Transfer a Car Title in Kentucky

A title certificate is a legal document that establishes ownership of a vehicle. If you’re buying or selling a vehicle in Kentucky, the transfer of title is one of the most crucial steps of the entire process.
The title transfer process, especially in private-party sales, must be safe and legal for both parties. Our title transfer guide will teach you everything you need to know about transferring a car title.

Let’s get into it.

Car Title Transfer Process

1. The buyer and seller meet in person, with a notary public. The buyer pays the seller. All three parties (buyer, seller, and notary) fill out and sign the physical title certificate. The buyer becomes the legal owner of the vehicle.
2. The buyer completes the vehicle title transfer process at their local County Clerk's office. The buyer registers the car and applies for new license plates at the same time. The first step is the critical one (the meeting between the seller and the buyer). The second step is an administrative formality.

As the seller, you’ll remove the license plates and be finished with the vehicle after you sign over the title to the buyer.
As the buyer in a private party 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 your local clerk's office to get registration and a title in your name. You’ll also get new license plates and used vehicle insurance.
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Signing the Title Certificate Properly

Kentucky requires a title transfer to be notarized, so make sure to have a notary public present. When signing the car title in Kentucky, 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.
Use legal birth names only.

Front of the Title

The front of a KY title has an area for lienholders. If the vehicle has a lien, the lienholder will release the lien by filling out the field marked “1,” shown below.

Back of the Title

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

1. The seller enters the exact odometer reading, signs and prints their name, and enters the date of the transfer in the red field, marked “1”.
2. In the blue field marked “2,” the buyer prints their last, first, and middle name.
3. In the field “marked 3,” the notary will enter the required information.
4. The seller enters the sale price and the date of the sale in the field marked “4”.
5. In the red rectangle, the seller enters their name, street address, phone number, city, county, state, and zip code.
6. The buyer enters their name and address, social security number, birth month, city, county, state, and zip code in the teal-colored rectangle, marked “6”.
7. The buyer will mark that they will apply for a loan, and enter their name, address, city, county, state, and zip code, as well as the name, address, and county that the lien is to be filed in (if applicable).
8. The seller prints and signs their name in the red-colored marked “8”.
9. In the blue-colored space, the buyer prints and signs their name.
10. A notary will enter the required information under the seller and buyer. The buyer’s and seller’s signatures must be notarized.

Congrats! You’ve completed a Kentucky title transfer. Pretty simple, right?

Finalize Ownership Transfer at your Local County Clerk's Office

You've completed the transaction and are now the proud owner of a car. Your task is not yet complete. You need to finish things up with the state of Kentucky to complete the title transfer.

Registration and vehicle titling are done at the same time. When purchasing a used car, you will need to provide your local Kentucky county clerk's office with additional paperwork, including:

Completed title certificate
Proof of a valid mandatory insurance policy
A completed application for Kentucky certificate of title or registration (Form TC 96-182)
A valid photo ID
Payment for the title transfer fee: 9$
Payment for the Kentucky used vehicle sales tax of 6% of the vehicle’s purchase price

Provide Personal Documents

The buyer also needs to have a few personal documents on hand. Check that you have these before preparing for the transfer process:

Proof of Kentucky residency
Valid driver’s license
Proof of insurance

Your auto insurance must meet Kentucky's minimum requirements: bodily injury liability for $25,000 per person, property damage liability for $50,000 per accident, and personal injury protection (PIP) for $10,000 per person.

These are the minimum requirements, but you can add more to your policy, like comprehensive and/or collision coverage, or increase your liability coverage. Your insurance card must be kept in the vehicle at all times.

Kentucky Emissions Testing

Kentucky eliminated the requirement for smog certifications in 2005 when Governor Ernie Fletcher signed an emergency regulation, so this emissions testing is no longer required in this state.

Although smog checks are not required in Kentucky, there are eco-friendly driver incentives. Drivers who are making an effort to reduce their vehicle’s emissions are eligible to receive a vehicle tax break.

Residents of Kentucky who own the following vehicle types are eligible for a tax break from the state of Kentucky:

Electric cars
Plug-in hybrids
Alternative fuel vehicles
Vehicles that run off of diesel

Consider a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale isn’t required for Kentucky private-party car transactions, but it’s still good to have. When you buy or sell your used vehicle in Kentucky, the bill of sale serves as proof that the transaction took place and memorializes the terms under which it did so.

By documenting the mileage, purchase price, and condition of the vehicle, the bill of sale provides legal protection for both the buyer and the seller in case either wants to contest the transaction in the future.

If you’re buying a used car in Kentucky, the bill of sale shows that the seller has freely passed ownership of the car to you.

As the seller, the bill of sale proves that you’re no longer associated with the vehicle. If the buyer gets into trouble with the vehicle after the sale, you can show that you should not be held liable.

We provide an official Kentucky bill of sale as part of our in-app transaction process. Both buyer and seller will be prompted to e-sign the document at the appropriate stage of the transaction, right within the PrivateAuto app. The bill of sale will always be available for you to refer to, right in your PrivateAuto app.

Here is some of the information the Kentucky bill of sale requires.

Buyer and seller signatures, names, and addresses
Final sale price
Description of the vehicle
Odometer reading

For more on this important document, see our complete guide to the bill of sale in car transactions.

Kentucky License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Kentucky requires the seller to remove the plates from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to your local clerk's office for new license plates and pay the $21 Kentucky license plate fee.

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

How Can I Find a Used Car for Sale Near Me?

PrivateAuto is the best place to sell or buy a used vehicle. Here is how you can find your dream car in just a few simple steps:

1. Browse used vehicles for sale on PrivateAuto.
2. Look at the top of the page for the "Filter by Location" button. There, you will enter your location.
3. Set a search radius, such as 25, 50, or 100 miles.
4. You can make your search even more specific by choosing more filters, such as the year, the price range, the trim, etc.
5. When you click "Search," a list of all the vehicles that match your search criteria will appear.
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10 steps to selling your car with PrivateAuto

1. Gather the required paperwork
2. Register on PrivateAuto and get verified
3. List your car
4. Set your terms
5. Look through incoming offers
6. Choose a buyer
7. Schedule a test drive
8. E-sign documents
9. Get paid instantaneously with PrivateAuto Pay
10. Transfer ownership

Title Transfer in Kentucky FAQ

How do I register a vehicle in Kentucky?

Registering the vehicle in Kentucky costs $21. To apply for a Kentucky license plate, you must have a valid Kentucky vehicle registration card from the Kentucky clerk's office. To make things more efficient, you will be able to transfer ownership and register your vehicle at the same time.

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

- Photo ID
- Current original proof of Kentucky insurance effective date within 45 days​
- A completed application for Kentucky certificate of title or registration
- Payment for the registration fee: $21
- Payment for usage taxes or sales taxes as applicable

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