When you’re buying a new car or a used car from a dealership, the dealer will handle the paperwork and you’ll receive your title from DMV in the mail.
When vehicle ownership is transferred between two private parties, it’s up to them to transfer the title. If you have the California Certificate of Title for the vehicle, the seller signs the title to release ownership of the vehicle. The buyer should then bring the signed title to a DMV office to apply for transfer of ownership.
If you don’t have the California Certificate of Title, you need to use an Application for Duplicate or Transfer of Title (REG 227) to transfer ownership. The lienholder’s release, if any, must be notarized. The buyer should then bring the completed form to a DMV office and we will issue a new registration and title.
Make sure you have all signatures on the proper lines to avoid delays. Here’s a video showing where to sign on a California Certificate of Title.
Other Steps for the Seller When Vehicle Ownership is Transferred
- Disclose odometer mileage reading on the title or on a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form* (if using a REG 227), unless the vehicle is:
- 10 years old or older.
- Commercial with a GVW or CGW of more than 16,000 pounds.
- New and being transferred prior to its first retail sale by a dealer.
- Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) within 5 days of releasing ownership and keep a copy for your records.
Once the seller gives the buyer all required documentation and DMV receives the completed NRL, the seller’s part of the transaction is complete.
*If the vehicle has been sold more than once with the same title, a REG 262 is required from each seller.
Other Steps for the Buyer When Vehicle Ownership is Transferred
- Check the registration card for:
- Current registered owner(s), how names are joined (“and/or”), and lienholder/legal owner (if any).
- License plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, year, and registration expiration date.
- Title brands (if any).
- Words “Nontransferable/No California Title Issued,” indicating a California title was not issued and a REG 227 cannot be used (see FAQs).
- Get a smog inspection (if applicable).
Once the buyer has provided the DMV with all the proper documents and fees, the vehicle record is updated to reflect the change of ownership and a registration card is issued.
A new title is issued from DMV headquarters within 60 calendar days.