How to Transfer a Car Title in Illinois

A certificate of title is a document that establishes ownership of a car. If you’re buying or selling a pre-owned car in Illinois, the transfer of title is one of the most crucial steps of the entire process.
Title transfer needs to be a safe and legal process, especially in private car sales. This title transfer guide gives you everything you need to know to transfer a vehicle title in the state of Illinois.
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Vehicle Title Transfer Process

There are two stages to an Illinois 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 Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) office. 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.

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 take the plates off 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 Illinois license plates and car insurance.
Illinois requires liability insurance at a minimum. If you don’t have it, you won’t be able to register your car and legally drive it. Of course, you can opt for full coverage insurance if you want it. If you don’t have car insurance, get a quick quote here.

Sign an Illinois Title Correctly

When signing the vehicle title in Illinois, 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 The Title

The back of the title has sections for the seller (red), the buyer (teal), and the lienholder (green). Here is the process for filling out the back of an Illinois title.

Finalize Ownership Transfer with IL SOS

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 Illinois. You also need to acquire new license plates and register the car with the Secretary of State's office

You will need to submit the following to your local Secretary of State (SOS) office:

Vehicle title signed you and the previous owner of the vehicle (seller)
Bill of sale
Odometer disclosure statement
Completed application for vehicle transactions (Form VSD 190)
Proof of private party vehicle tax transaction (Tax Form RUT-50)
Payment for the Illinois title transfer fee: $150

You can also mail the above mentioned documents to this address:

Secretary of State
Vehicle Services Department
501 S. 2nd St, RM 014
Springfield, IL 62756

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

Prepare the Certificate of Title

The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State regulates vehicle titles and the transfer title process. As a buyer, you have up to 30 days to transfer a title, or you face a $20 fine. To start the transfer process, work with the seller to fill out the following information on the certificate of title:

Odometer disclosure
Sale price
Names and signatures of the buyer and the seller
Seller’s report of sale

As a seller, you need to verify you have the original or a certified duplicate title in hand before you finish the sale. You may need to replace your title if you can’t find this document.

What If There Are Multiple Car Owners?

If there is more than one seller listed on the title, all owners' names must be on the document along with their signatures.

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 Illinois residency
Valid driver’s license
Proof of insurance

Your proof of insurance must meet Illinois' minimum insurance requirements. This means having a valid liability policy that includes at least $25,000 for injury or death of one person in an accident, $50,000 for injury or death of more than one person in an accident, and $20,000 for damage to another person’s property.

These are the minimum requirements, but you can add more to your policy, like comprehensive and/or collision coverage, or increase your liability coverage.

Review Emissions Testing Requirements in Your County

Illinois doesn’t have a statewide emissions test requirement. The following counties do require emissions testing:

St. Clair

Not all vehicles in these counties are subject to inspections. Most passenger vehicles that are less than four years old, manufactured before 1996, or used for farming purposes are exempt from emissions inspections. Review all    → the exemptions listed in your county to ensure you can waive this inspection as you buy a car from a private seller in Illinois.

Consider a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale isn’t required to buy or sell a car in Illinois. It is recommended, however, as an official receipt of transfer. A bill of sale provides legal protection for both the buyer and the seller. It proves that the seller is no longer associated with the vehicle, and it proves the buyer's ownership.

PrivateAuto provides an official Illinois 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.

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

Buyer’s name, address, and signature
Seller’s name, address, and signature
Final sale price
Description of the vehicle
Odometer reading

This information proves that the seller did sell the vehicle and that the buyer is the new owner.

Transfer a Car Title Online or In Person

While most states require you to transfer a car title in person, Illinois also offers an electronic registration option. Transferring the title online can be a convenient way to finish the deal and change ownership without traveling.

Both processes require you to fill out the title. For an online transfer, follow the steps required to fill out the online transfer application. The buyer must then mail the payment, title, and other required paperwork to the Illinois Secretary of State's Vehicle Services Department within seven days of the online application.

You’ll need to bring your paperwork along with you to your local Secretary of State facility to complete an in-person transfer. If you have questions about the paperwork or fees, this option might be best, as state personnel can help you out.

Pay Applicable Taxes and Fees

The fees and taxes you have to pay to transfer a title in Illinois vary. The base title fees are $150, and you may have to pay additional fees for specific situations. As the buyer, you are responsible for paying all the fees.

IL License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Unfortunately, Illinois requires the seller to remove the plates from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the SOS for new license plates and pay the $151 Illinois 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.

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Illinois Title Transfer FAQ

How much are replacement registration cards and stickers?

A license plate sticker is required to be displayed on the rear license plate of most cars in Illinois. The sticker verifies that the vehicle is legally registered and can be driven on public roads. The cost to replace a lost or stolen license plate sticker in Illinois is $20. If you have lost your sticker or had your sticker stolen, you can request a replacement by filling out a form and paying the fee.

The registration card is a document that serves as proof of vehicle registration. It contains information such as the vehicle's make and model, the name and address of the registered owner, and the vehicle identification number (VIN). If you lose or misplace your registration card in Illinois, you can request a replacement for a fee of $3 from the Illinois Secretary of State's office. You can do this online, by mail, or in person at a Secretary of State facility. It is essential to keep your registration card up-to-date and in your vehicle at all times, as law enforcement may request it during a traffic stop.

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