How to Transfer a Car Title in Michigan?

A certificate of title proves car ownership. Transferring the title is one of the most important steps when purchasing or selling a used car in Michigan.
The title transfer needs to be handled correctly in a private sale. We’ll cover everything you need to know when signing over a car title in Michigan.

To learn more about the importance of the certificate of title, read our complete guide to car titles.

Vehicle Title Transfer Process In Michigan

A transfer of the vehicle's title changes the legal ownership of the car, making the purchaser the new owner. There are two stages to a title transfer:

1. The seller and buyer meet in person. The buyer pays for the automobile. Both parties must complete and sign the physical certificate of title. The purchaser is now the legal owner of the vehicle.
2. The buyer registers the newly bought vehicle and formally transfers the title to their name with the Michigan Secretary of State office (SOS).

The first step is the most critical (the meeting between the seller and the buyer) because that’s where the actual ownership changes. The second step is a necessary administrative formality.

As the car seller, you will formalize the transaction when you transfer ownership of the car by signing the title over to the buyer. The seller is officially done with the car, once they take the license plate off the car.
As the buyer, you become the legal owner as soon as the seller transfers the title to your name. You will finalize with the Michigan SOS to get the title and registration in your name. You’ll also get a new Michigan license plate and used car insurance.
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Signing the Physical Title

It’s time to do the actual ownership transfer. This is the step where the seller signs the title over to the buyer. It's probably the most important part of the whole transaction, right after the buyer pays for the car. There are some key details you need to pay attention to when signing a Michigan vehicle title.

Important Info for Signing the Title Certificate

Always keep the following in mind when signing the title certificate:

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

Front of Title

The front of the title has sections for the seller (red), and the buyer (teal).

Here is the process for filling out the back of a Michigan title.

1. In the red rectangle marked “1” the seller enters the buyer's name and address, and the car purchase price.
2. The seller enters the exact odometer information and signs and prints their name in the red field.
3. The buyer will enter the name, address, and zip code of the lienholder to appear on the new lien and then enter the date of the lien and their signature (if applicable).
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Back of Title

The back of a Michigan is meant for dealerships so don't bother flipping the paper.
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Finalize Transferring Your Vehicle Title with Michigan SOS

You’ve done the deal and are the proud owner of a new-to-you vehicle. Your work is not yet done. The Michigan SOS requires everyone to title and register their vehicle.

To complete a vehicle title transfer, you will need to provide the following documents to the Michigan SOS office:

A completed vehicle title application
Lien information (if there is a lien holder on the title)
Odometer disclosure statement form
Payment for the Michigan sales tax: 6% of the purchase price
Payment for Michigan’s vehicle title transfer fee: $15
Payment for Michigan registration fees: based on the age and weight of the vehicle
Payment for a Michigan license plate: $5
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance
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Michigan License Plate

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the vehicle when it’s sold. Michigan requires the seller to remove the plate from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the county treasurer's office for a new Michigan license plate.

Michigan's standard license plate costs $5. A vanity plate costs an additional $30.

Michigan Vehicle FAQ

How much does it cost to register a car in Michigan from out-of-state?

Michigan’s registration fee for both in-state and out-of-state vehicles) is based on the vehicle's value and is calculated using a fee schedule. For example, for a vehicle with an MSRP between $24,000-$25,000, the registration fee is $148.

In addition to the sliding-scale registration fee, there are other fees:

- $15 title fee
- $5 for a new license plate
- Use tax that is 6% of the vehicle's value

What is the tax on title transfer in Michigan?

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