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DMV Title Transfer

Looking to buy a car in California? At Quick Auto Tags, we’re here to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible. Our comprehensive guide covers all of the important steps and tips you need to know before making your purchase. From obtaining the vehicle’s title to registering the car with the DMV, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also take a deep dive into sales tax in California, including the state and city sales tax rates, and how certain zip codes can impact the amount of sales tax you owe.


Additionally, we’ll show you how to compare the VIN of the car to the VIN on the titling document provided by the seller, so that you can avoid common scams and make a smart purchase. Whether you’re a first-time car buyer or an experienced owner, our guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to navigate the car buying process with confidence.


Getting your car titled in California can be a long and arduous process. It takes time to go through the steps to get it done. The best way for you to get what you need is with our title transfer ownership services. Once you’ve completed everything there’s no need to worry about getting pulled over by law enforcement because of an outstanding registration or license plate issue. For more information on the process continue reading below.

What documents Do I need to transfer a vehicle?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles accepts many forms for you to be able to do a transfer in California. The most common form to accept to do a transfer is the California certificate of title. However, there are cases in which the previous registered owner/seller does not have the title. Listed below are the most common forms of documentation to accept for transferring a title.

  • California certificate of title – make sure that the issue date of the title is the most current one. If it is not a current date, that means the title you have in your possession is NOT valid. The only way to find out if it is a valid title is if you call us or the DMV to confirm that it’s the most common title
  • Bill of sale – You can accept a bill of sale in lieu of a title. A bill of sale does not have to be on fancy paper, or typed up, in fact, I have accepted a bill of sale written on cardboard before. What is most important when it comes to bills of sale is that all of the pertinent information contained in the DMV records is on the bill of sale, such as full name, vehicle identification number, date of sale. Sometimes obtaining the information on a vehicle record is not possible, this is where calling us or the DMV both prove helpful.
  • Lien sale paperwork
  • Every bill of sale documenting the sales before yours – in case there are multiple buyers.

How much does it cost to do a transfer of ownership?

dmv-title-transfer-california-title-transferWhen you’re buying a vehicle in California there are a few things to keep in mind in terms of how much it is going to cost you. The #1 determining factor in pricing is sales price and sales tax. The more you paid for this vehicle the more you will pay in sales tax & the VLF (vehicle licensing fee). The rate in tax that you’ll pay is relative to what city/county you’re in. Some cities, in addition to county taxes, have to pay a city tax as well. This is why when you’re pricing out how much it costs to change the vehicle ownership of your car it is imperative that you give the most accurate information – correct city and zip code – as this information will greatly impact price. I’ll give you an example, Riverside city has roughly 8 different zip codes – the zip code 92509 will not charge a city tax, but the zip code 92501 will.

Aside from the taxes, you pay the upcoming registration fees, or any overdue registration fees will impact the price to transfer the vehicle into your name. Calling the Department of Motor Vehicles with the vehicle registration information prior to committing to the purchase of the vehicle is a good step to make sure that you know what you’re dealing with in terms of cost. Sometimes finding out that a vehicle owes back fees allows you to negotiate on the purchase price of the vehicle. The following fees are also collected by the DMV:


  1. Registration
  2. VLF (vehicle license fee) – this is based on the VALUE of your vehicle
  3. CVRA fees (this applies to large commercial vehicles
  4. Use tax (sales tax)
  5. CHP fees
  6. New license plates

The DMV says this to the new owner: “Buyer beware” – do your due diligence. In most cases, the DMV will not waive fees unless you can prove that you were misled intentionally by the previous owner.

Will I need to smog my car before?

california dmv smog check quick auto tags

Any time you do a transfer in California the SELLER is supposed to provide you with a certificate indicating that the vehicle has passed smog. However, if the vehicle was smogged within the last 90 days, that same smog can be used. If you don’t actually have the smog in your possession, don’t worry, the BAR has a record of all smogs for vehicles in a database, click here to check out the smog history of your vehicle: https://www.bar.ca.gov/services/Vehicle/PubTstQry.aspx

Do I need to document the odometer reading on the title or bill of sale?

golf cart dmv title transfer

In California, once your vehicle is older than 9 years old you will no longer be REQUIRED to document the odometer reading, however, it is advisable that you do for record keeping’s sake. There are certain units that will not require any odometer readings:

  1. Large commercial (unladen weight of 8,501 or more or a gross vehicle weight of 16,001 lbs or more) units are exempt from documenting mileage
  2. Golf carts
  3. Low-speed vehicles (LSV)
  4. Off-highway vehicles

I have a manufacturer's certificate of origin or out-of-state title.

If you have an MSO, or MCO, or out-of-state titles the requirements to register your vehicle are slightly different than a vehicle that has already been titled in California. Please click here for additional information on how to register an out-of-state vehicle.

Do I need liability insurance to transfer my vehicle?

The California DMV will not ask you to provide proof of liability insurance when you are going to transfer ownership of a vehicle. However, it is still required to have it to operate a vehicle in California.

Mistakes to avoid when buying a car

Listed below are a few tips that I HIGHLY recommend before you commit to the purchase of a vehicle.

  1. Always verify that the vehicle identification number VIN matches what is on the paperwork that is being provided to you. This is by far the most avoidable mistake to make, however, it is easily overlooked when you’re looking at the car and speaking with the seller.
  2. Try your best to verify that the title that you have in your possession is a valid title. If there is another title that was made after the title that you have is VOID and NULL. The easiest way to do this is by calling us, and we’ll do it for you over the phone for free, or call the DMV.
  3. Verify how much this vehicle owes in back fees. The absolute worst thing is to have to pay fees that are overdue because of someone else’s fault. Try your best to make sure that the previous owner pays those fees or that it is factored into the price that you pay. Some vehicles are worth buying, regardless of back fees, however, there’s the opposite situation where a vehicle has more back fees than the vehicle is worth.
  4. Make sure that the buyer & seller both sign the ownership documents.
  5. Deceased owners: If you bought your car and the owner has passed it is imperative that you obtain an ORIGINAL death certificate from the individual selling the vehicle along with DMV 5 form. Deceased owner.
  6. Military personnel:
  7. Obtain copies or personal information from the seller’s identification card or driver’s license. Including full name and address – this is your backup in case things go bad.
  8. This may be a controversial tip – but do NOT submit your title transfers to the virtual office to process your title transfer. The impression that this new program that the DMV has developed is that it is INSTANT and DONE – but it is not. The system will post your name and post your fees – but the title transfer itself is NOT complete until the paperwork is received & processed – THIS IS TAKING MONTHS and has caused major headaches for customers. I also do not recommend you mail your title application. The risk of the DMV losing your documents is too high.
  9. Additional documents may be needed depending on your vehicle or situation.

Differences between title and registration

I think it’s important to understand the small distinction between the title (proof of ownership, certificate of title, being an owner of a vehicle) and registration (fees that are paid so the vehicle can operate on California roads). You can own a vehicle that is not registered. It is possible to transfer a vehicle into your name without paying the registration IF the vehicle is in non-op. On the flip side, you can register a car but not title it. The bottom line: they are two separate things.

What will I get when the transferring ownership is complete?

Once you have completed the

  1. New original title certificate
  2. New registration card
  3. New license plates (if you requested them)

Where can I get this done?

  1. Department of motor vehicles by mail
  2. Physically at the DMV office
  3. At a licensed business partner, like Quick Auto Tags

DMV Transfer Title Online

The DMV now has a “virtual field office” (VFO) that allow customers to do CA DMV title transfer online – or so they make the customer think it’s done online.



What we have learned about VFO is that you still must provide ORIGINAL documents and they must be sent to the DMV – the “online” transaction is very much paper dependent. The DMV title status remains incomplete if those documents are not received.



Additionally, the California DMV is notorious for losing the paperwork that is mailed to them. It is strongly advised to not attempt a DMV title transfer online.

Do you have additional questions?

dmv title transfer

If you require additional information on how to title and register your vehicle please fill out the form below with your contact information and your inquiry and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

We’re here to help! Our team of experts will handle all the paperwork for you, so you can get back on the road in no time. Just sit back, relax, and let us do all the work while you enjoy a cup of coffee.


quick auto tags in riverside

Quick Auto Tags in Riverside

5586 Mission Blvd Ste B
Riverside, CA 92509
Tel: (951)409-9091