How to Transfer a Car Title in Washington?

A title certificate is a form that proves car ownership. When purchasing or selling a used vehicle in Washington, transferring the title is one of the most important steps.
In private-party car sales, the title transfer needs to be a legal and safe process. Our handy title transfer guide gives you everything you need to know when signing over a car title in WA.

To learn more about the importance of the certificate of title, read our complete guide to car titles.
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Vehicle Title Transfer Process In Washington

A transfer of the vehicle's title makes the purchaser the new owner. There are two stages to a title transfer:

1. Seller and buyer meet in person. The buyer pays the seller for the car. Both fill out the physical certificate of title and sign. The buyer is now the legal vehicle owner of the purchased vehicle.
2. The buyer registers the newly-bought vehicle and formally translates the title to their name with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL).

As the car seller, you will formalize the transaction when you transfer ownership of the car by signing the title over to the buyer. Once the seller removes the license plates, they are done with 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 Washington Department of Licensing to get title and registration in your name. You’ll also get new Washington license plates and vehicle insurance.

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 deal, right after the buyer pays for the car. There are some key details you need to pay attention to when signing a WA vehicle title.

Important Info for Signing the Title Certificate

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

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

Front of Title

The front of a Washington title has a section for the seller (red) and the buyer (teal). Here is the process for filling out the front of a WA title.

Finalize Transferring Your Car Title with DOL

You’ve done the deal and are the proud owner of a new-to-you vehicle. Your work is not yet done. The Washington DOL requires everyone to title and register their vehicles. The DOL will register the vehicle in your name and transfer the title to you at the same time.

To complete a vehicle title transfer and register your vehicle in Washington, you will need to provide the following documents to the WA DOL:

Original vehicle title (provided by the previous owner)
Completed vehicle/vessel bill of sale(form TD 420 065)
Completed a vehicle certificate of ownership application (form TD 420 001)
Payment for the Washington vehicle title transfer fee of $15
Payment for the service fee for registration: $8.
Payment for the Washington car sales tax of 6.8% of the vehicle purchase price

If you buy a car from a private party in Washington, the title must be changed to your name within 15 days. Failure to transfer the title within the allotted time will result in a $50 fine on the 16th day and $2 per day thereafter, up to a total of $125.

You also need to apply for new license plates and register the car with the Washington Department of Licensing office (DOL).

Washington Bill of Sale

Washington requires a bill of sale for a private-party vehicle transaction. In addition, a bill of sale is always recommended for legal protection. In case either party ever wants to contest the transaction, the bill of sale proves that it was legal.
These are the components that must be in a bill of sale:

Your full name and notarized signature
The other party’s full name and notarized signature
Price of the car
A description of the car
The make, model, and year of the car
Date of the transaction
A warranty disclaimer stating the car is being sold as-is

PrivateAuto includes a bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the right stage in the transaction, both the buyer and seller will be encouraged to e-sign the Washington bill of sale from within our app.

The whole deal, including the bill of sale, can be done in just a few minutes when you meet to test drive the car and agree to buy it. It’s fast, simple, and convenient. You won't have to keep track of all the documents; you will always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account as proof that the transaction was legitimate.

Is an Emission Test Required in Washington?

The State of Washington does not require emissions testing. Washington ended its emissions testing program on January 1, 2020.

Make Sure to Have Car Insurance

Washington 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.

Washington License Plates and Registration

The Washington State Department of Licensing requires all residents to title and register their vehicles in order to get Washington state license plates and legally operate on the state’s roads and highways.

Titling a vehicle and registering is the same process in Washington, so both will be completed at the same time.

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the vehicle when sold. Unfortunately, the state of Washington requires that the license plates be taken off the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the Department of Licensing for new license plates and pay the $20 Washington license plate fee.

To learn more about plates and how sellers should handle them across the US, see our state-by-state guide to license plates for a used car transaction.

Add Your Car To Your License eXpress account

You can add the car to your License eXpress account after you’ve transferred the vehicle title to your name. With a License eXpress account, you can manage any vehicles registered in your name:

Change your address.
Changing your name.
See when your vehicle's tabs are due.
Sign up or update email renewal notices and more.

To learn more about this, visit the DOL’s license eXpress guide.

Buy or Sell Cars in Washington With PrivateAuto

With the assistance of PrivateAuto, you can complete the sales process quickly and legally. This platform uses technology to help you find verified buyers and sellers, sign documents online, and find out what steps you need to take in your state to finish the sale.

See how it works today to sell and buy vehicles privately in Washington.

How to Sell Your Car Through Private Auto

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We make selling your used car safe and easy. The sales process consists of a few simple steps:

1. Gather necessary documentation
2. Register on PrivateAuto and get verified
3. List your car
4. Set your terms
5. Vet incoming offers
6. Pick a buyer
7. Schedule a test drive
8. E-sign documents
9. Get paid, instantly
10. Transfer title
11. Remove license plates
12. Cancel car insurance

Interested in Buying a Used Car in Washington?

If you’re looking to buy a used car, browse our used cars for sale in Washington. Whether you’re looking for a Ford F, a Chevrolet Silverado, or a Tesla Model X, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride of your dreams.

Washington Title Transfer FAQ

Can you transfer ownership of a vehicle without a title in Washington?

No, you will not be able to transfer ownership of a vehicle in Washington without a title. Fill out an affidavit of loss/release of interest/gross weight license (form TD 420 040)

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