How To Transfer a Car Title in California

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Transferring a car title is a very important part of making sure the right person is listed as the owner of the vehicle. That matters for legal purposes, insurance, and a number of other reasons. You need to know how to transfer a car title in California if one of these scenarios applies to you:

You're buying or selling a car
You need to add or remove an owner
You're giving a vehicle as a gift
You're donating a car
You inherited a car
You're changing a car's ownership in a divorce settlement

To start the transfer, you need the certificate of title. That's also known as a pink slip. If it's lost or damaged, complete and submit an application for a duplicate title. Then you can use that duplicate to transfer the ownership. Here's how to work your way through the process.
Image highlighting Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Step 1. Check for a Clear Title

If the legal owner of the car is still paying for it, the title will have a lien on it. The owner needs to pay it off and get a lien release before the title can be transferred to another person.

Step 2. Complete the Application for Transfer by New Owner Section on the Title

After confirming that the owner has a clear title, it's time to complete the Release of Interest section. It's on the front side of the certificate at the bottom and requires:

The signature of the legal owner
An odometer disclosure

New owners will then need to complete the transfer section on the back. There's a lot of information required for that section. Be sure to fill out all of it, including:

Full name as it appears on the driver's license
Street address
Mailing address (if different)
Driver's license number
Date of transfer
Purchase price (write "gift" if it applies)

Step 3. Complete and Submit Additional Documents

You may need to complete and submit other documents to legally transfer a car title in California. These documents can include:

Step 4. Apply for a New Certificate of Title

Apply for a new car title with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If everything has been filled out and completed correctly, it shouldn't take long and you shouldn't have trouble getting the title transferred over.

Step 5. Pay Taxes and Fees

There are some fees that come along with transferring a car title in California. Besides use tax and the title transfer fee, you may also need to pay the following fees:

Registration fee
California Highway Patrol (CHP) fee
Vehicle license fee
Transportation improvement fee
County or district fee


To transfer a certificate of title in California, you need to both complete the Transfer by New Owner and apply for a new title. You may also need to complete other state forms, depending on your circumstances and specific situation.

When you handle the sale through PrivateAuto, you can benefit from plenty of great features that can make the transaction easier. These include:

PrivateAuto will eliminate the complexity of accepting payments through the following features:

Direct banking integration
Instant electronic funds transfers
Verified funds from buyers
Withdraw funds to your personal bank
Buyer financing available

When you're ready to buy or sell a car and transfer the title in California, contact PrivateAuto and get started today!