How to Place a Car in Your Name

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To change the ownership of a car, you must complete a vehicle title transfer and submit it to your state's motor vehicles agency.

(Image: Getty)

Things You'll Need

  • Purchase price (if any)
  • Vehicle identification number 
  • Make, model and year of the car
  • Current odometer reading
  • Legal names and addresses of the buyer and seller or donor 
  • Signed vehicle bill of sale 

Warning

  • In some states, you may have to pay sales tax on the selling price the car as well as a vehicle transfer fee.

Buying the Car

Most states require a vehicle bill of sale, which reflects all of the details of your purchase. Many states require a state-specific bill of sale, such as California and Florida, while others will accept a generic form.

Tip

  • Your bill of sale -- while an essential part of the process -- is not proof of ownership; it only gives you the right to transfer ownership. Once you have completed the bill of sale, take it to your local motor vehicles agency office, which will issue you a certificate of title. This is proof of your legal ownership and is required in every state.

As a Gift

From a Family Member

Even if the car is a gift, you will still need all of the vehicle title transfer information associated with buying a car. However, there is usually no sales tax required on vehicle transfers between family members in most states. Family members are defined as spouses, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and partners.

From a Nonfamily Member

Generally the same procedures apply as those for gifts from family members, and sales tax is not required.

Inheriting the Car

Usually, you will need to provide the motor vehicles agency with proof of your identity and your relationship to the car owner, as well as a statement of facts and other relevant documents such as a will, death certificate or any court papers.

Tip

  • Consult a probate attorney before starting the inheritance process.

At the End of a Lease or Loan Payoff

While you owe money on -- or are leasing -- your car, the finance company will be listed on the title as the lien holder. The finance company usually takes care of the transfer, and you will receive a lien-release document in the mail. You need to submit the document to your local motor vehicles agency office either in person or by mail.

Change of Name

You will need proof of the name change in the form of an acceptable legal document, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order to give to your local motor vehicles agency office.

Tip

  • Be prepared to pay a transfer fee, once the transfer is completed, and remember to update your insurance policy to reflect your new ownership

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