Car ownership is based on whose name appears on the car title. Each state issues its own titles, so every time a car changes owners or changes states, the owner must obtain a new title. The process of titling a car varies depending on whether the car is new or used, but the two follow the same basic rules for ownership.
The transfer of ownership section of a car title is where a buyer and seller write in their names, addresses, sale price and signatures. The title must be in the seller's name for the seller to be able to fill out this section. Likewise, the person who fills out the buyer portions of this section is the person in whose name the car will be titled. Therefore, if another person signed as the buyer on the car title, that person is the only one who can get a title in his name right now.
With a new car, the dealership usually takes care of the title paperwork. The person who signs the paperwork at the dealership and pays for the car is the person whose name will appear on the title. Therefore, if you are planning to title the car in your name, you should go to the dealership. If you are getting financing for the car, the loan will need to be in your name as well.
If someone else signed the title, but the car is supposed to be in your name, that person will need to transfer the title to you. First, he will need to obtain a title in his name by going to the state department of motor vehicles, paying the title transfer fee and waiting for the title to arrive. At this point, the two of you can fill out the portion on that title to transfer ownership, with him as the seller and you as the borrower. Then you can take this to the department of motor vehicles to get a title in your name.
Some states do not allow cars to be titled in the name of a minor. Therefore, the parent signs the title and obtains a new title in his name. When the minor reaches adulthood, the parent might want to transfer ownership to the child. In this case, the parent and child must follow the instructions to transfer the title as if they were two independent parties. To avoid the hassle and cost of a title transfer, check before buying a car to see if it can be titled in the minor's name right away.
- Lending Tree: Buying a Car -- How to Transfer Title and Register Your Vehicle
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: How to Change Vehicle Ownership
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What is owner's title insurance?" Accessed August 1, 2020.
- Old Republic Title. “What Is Title Insurance and How Does It Work?” Accessed May 22, 2020.
- Zillow. "What Is Title Insurance and Do I Need It?" Accessed August 1, 2020.
- GovInfo. "Public Law 93-533-Dec. 22, 1974," Page 1728. Accessed August 1, 2020.