Simply explained, a car title proves that you are the legal owner of the car, so you will need to know how to get it and how long it will take to get it before making the transaction.
If you are making a cash purchase at a dealership, the dealer will generally be responsible for submitting the title documentation to your local Department of Motor Vehicles or your state transportation or collection agency. And the DMV or agency, for its part, will send the official certificate of title once the paperwork has been processed.
But if you are buying the vehicle through some type of financing, the lienholder will deliver the title to you after you have paid the loan in full.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to get a car title, how long the process takes, and give you some tips on some pitfalls to avoid during the process.
What is a car title?
A car title, sometimes confused with a vehicle registration, is the document that establishes who is the legal owner of the vehicle. The title comes into play during the car sale process, and it may also be necessary to have it on hand when you ask for a loan and want to use the vehicle as collateral.
We will briefly explain the information that the title may contain below, although the exact details may vary from state to state.
Transfer of title. This section can be used to indicate a change of ownership. If the vehicle is sold, the “Assignment of Title” section must be completed before the title is issued to the new owner.
Make, model and year of the vehicle. The make and model of the vehicle usually appear on the title, along with the year it was manufactured.
Pledgee. If the vehicle is being financed or leased, the title will generally indicate the current lienholder. In many states, the lienholder will retain possession of the title until the auto loan has been paid in full. If that is your case, once you have paid the debt, the pledgee will send you the title, which indicates that the lien has been satisfied.
Odometer reading. The title may contain an area that shows how many miles were on the vehicle’s odometer at the time of sale. When ownership is transferred, some states require that the vehicle’s current mileage be listed on the title.
Owner. The car’s certificate of title indicates the name of the current owner of the vehicle.
Vehicle identification number. It is a unique 17-character code that the manufacturer gives to each car, thanks to which buyers can know the information about it, such as the country of origin, the year and type of model, and which airbag it has on board, along with other details.
What is the difference between a car title and a vehicle registration?
A vehicle registration simply shows that the car is registered with the appropriate transportation agency, as required by law, and that the related fees have been paid. On the other hand, A car title, also known as a certificate of title, establishes who the legal owner is.
What you need to get a car title
You will need a car title to handle many common vehicle transactions. Naps selling your car, you will need to transfer it to the new owner. If you are buying a used car from a private seller, you will need to ensure that the current owner of the car transfers the title to you once you have paid the appropriate amount.
Now, what do you need to get a car title? One thing to remember is that you can get the title only when the vehicle no longer has a assessment on it, which means that it has been paid in full. Therefore, as we have explained, if you are financing the vehicle, your lienholder will normally send you a title copy once you have paid it in full.
When you buy a car, getting the title is usually pretty straightforward. If you buy a new car for cash, the dealership usually sends the papers to the local vehicle dealership, or other agency, for processing. And if you buy a used car from a private party, the seller must sign the vehicle’s title for you. But if the car is not owned by the seller, you may have to go to the lienholder to get the title to the car.
Once you have the title in your hands, you will need to register it in your name with your state DMV or the appropriate government agency. The documents required to register the title in your name vary by state, but may include …
- The title as proof that you are in possession of the vehicle;
- A bill of sale with the purchase price;
- An odometer disclosure statement;
- Information about the lien, if you borrowed money to buy the car;
- A lien release, if the current title shows that there is a lien against it from the previous owner
So how long does it take for a car title to arrive?
After submitting the necessary documentation and paying taxes and fees, you will receive a paper or electronic version of the car title in about 20 to 45 days.
Lost or duplicate title
If you have lost or misplaced the certificate of title that you obtained from the seller or the old lien holder, you can request a new one at your local DMV office or transportation agency. What you will need to obtain a replacement title can vary by state, but here’s what the general process looks like.
First, download the lost or duplicate title application from your local DMV or transportation agency website.
Second, sign the application as the legal owner of the car.
Third, have the application notarized, if required by your state. If this is not the case in your state, then you will need to include proof of identity, such as your driver’s license or passport.
Fourth, apply by mail, in person, or online, depending on state requirements.
And fifth, pay the application fee.
Be careful when obtaining a car title
Check that all the information on the certificate is correct. Details such as the year, make and model must match the vehicle you are purchasing.
If your car title comes from a private seller, make sure the seller has completed the transfer of ownership section of the title (generally located on the back of the title).
Tip: In some states, using correction fluid or an eraser in the transfer of ownership section automatically voids the document, so make sure the paper doesn’t contain any of it.
Once you have your car title, store it in a safe place. Although it is a good idea to keep it in the glove compartment of your car, it is not an ideal place. Why? Well, because if the car is stolen along with the title, the thief (s) can use this proof of ownership to sell the car.