How to transfer a car title to a family member?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 4, 2024

Transferring a car title to a family member can be a straightforward process if you follow the correct procedures and gather the necessary documentation. Whether you're gifting the car, selling it at a reduced price, or passing it on as part of an inheritance, understanding the steps involved will ensure a smooth transition. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

Understanding Title Transfer Requirements

Each state in the U.S. has its own regulations regarding car title transfers. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements in your state. Generally, you will need to:

  • Have the current title in your possession.
  • Complete a title transfer form provided by your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Pay any applicable fees and taxes.
  • Provide proof of insurance if required.

Gathering Necessary Documentation

Before you initiate the title transfer, ensure you have all the necessary documentation:

  • Current Title: The original title document must be available and free of any liens.
  • Bill of Sale: While not always required, a bill of sale can serve as proof of the transaction.
  • Odometer Disclosure Statement: Required for cars less than 10 years old, this document records the vehicle's mileage at the time of transfer.
  • Affidavit of Relationship: Some states require proof of the familial relationship between the donor and recipient.
  • Identification: Both parties will need valid IDs, such as a driver's license or passport.

Completing the Title Transfer Form

The title transfer form is a crucial part of the process. Here's how to fill it out:

  1. Seller Information: Enter the current owner's name, address, and signature.
  2. Buyer Information: Enter the family member's name, address, and signature.
  3. Vehicle Information: Include the vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, year, and odometer reading.
  4. Gift or Sale: Indicate if the transfer is a gift or a sale. If a sale, specify the purchase price.


In some states, the title transfer form must be notarized. This means that a notary public will verify the identities of both parties and witness their signatures. Check your state's requirements to see if notarization is necessary.

Paying Applicable Fees and Taxes

While transferring a car title to a family member might be exempt from certain taxes, you may still incur fees. These can include:

  • Title Transfer Fee: A standard fee for processing the transfer.
  • Sales Tax: Some states require sales tax even for family transfers, but others may offer exemptions.

Consult your state's DMV website or office to determine the exact fees and any possible exemptions.

Submitting the Documentation

Once you have completed the title transfer form and gathered all necessary documentation, you will need to submit everything to your local DMV. This can often be done in person or by mail. Ensure you include any applicable fees and allow time for processing.

Receiving the New Title

After the DMV processes the transfer, a new title will be issued in the family member's name. The time it takes to receive the new title can vary by state, but it typically ranges from a few days to a few weeks.

Insurance Considerations

Before completing the transfer, ensure the family member has appropriate insurance coverage for the vehicle. They will need to provide proof of insurance when registering the car in their name. Additionally, the current owner should inform their insurance company of the transfer to avoid any potential liability.

Special Considerations for Inheritance

If the car title transfer is part of an inheritance, additional steps might be required:

  • Will or Probate Court Order: These documents will serve as proof of the inheritance.
  • Death Certificate: A certified copy may be required to confirm the previous owner's passing.
  • Executor of Estate: The executor must handle the transfer if the vehicle is part of an estate.

Consult with a legal professional or your state's DMV for specific instructions related to inherited vehicles.

State-Specific Variations

As noted, each state has unique requirements for transferring a car title. Here are a few examples:


In California, both the donor and recipient must sign the title. The recipient must also complete a Statement of Facts form (REG 256).


Texas requires the transfer to be filed within 30 days. Both parties must complete Form 130-U, and the recipient must provide proof of insurance.

New York

New York mandates both parties to sign the title and complete a Vehicle Transfer Notification (Form MV-82).

Potential Pitfalls to Avoid

To ensure a smooth title transfer, watch out for these common pitfalls:

  • Incomplete Forms: Double-check that all forms are fully completed and signed.
  • Outstanding Liens: Ensure there are no liens on the vehicle, as these must be resolved before the transfer.
  • Notarization Requirements: Verify if notarization is required in your state.
  • Insurance Lapses: Ensure continuous insurance coverage throughout the transfer process.

Transferring a car title to a family member involves several detailed steps, from understanding state-specific requirements to gathering necessary documents and completing forms accurately. By following this guide and paying attention to potential pitfalls, you can navigate the process smoothly and ensure the vehicle is legally transferred to your loved one.

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