How to Transfer a Car Title in California: Step-by-Step

California Title Transfer
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Bought a new or used car? Or gifting one?

A title transfer is required in California to prove vehicle ownership. The transfer is required if you sold, donated, or gifted your car, too.

The title transfer process is easy in the state of California. You’ll learn how it’s done in the following few steps, including the information you’ll need to present and the paying fees you’ll pay.

Car Buying and Selling: The California Title Transfer Process

Selling your vehicle or buying one through a private sale?

The CA DMV needs you to take these steps.

  1. Get the Certificate of Title or file the Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227)
  2. Fill in the title transfer section on the Certificate of Title
  3. Complete the vehicle examination
    1. Odometer disclosure (vehicles less than 10 years old)
    2. Smog certification (under 4 years old, not diesel)
  4. Show your personal documents:
    1. Proof of identification
    2. Proof of insurance
    3. Liens Satisfied Release (invalid if the paperless title or vehicle’s age two models or fewer)
    4. Bill of sale (alert the CA DMV within 5-days using the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability system or form)
  5. Pay the use taxes and the $15 vehicle transfer fee

Completing this process will award you with the title of the vehicle.

Selling a vehicle in California is similar to the vehicle examination obligations placed on the seller.

Dealerships, Out-of-state Vehicles, Inherited and Gifted Vehicles

It’s important to alert the CA DMV when a title transfers within 5-10 days of receiving the car. Each transfer method is similar but different. Read below for the specifics.

Buying from Dealerships

Dealerships will process your title & registration, sending documents to their appropriate locations.

Out-of-state Vehicles

Requires a trip to a DMV office (browse CA offices) and presenting the following:

  • Application for Title or Registration
  • Verification of Vehicle
  • Out-of-state title/registration and license plate
  • Smog inspection
  • Applicable weight certification, bill of sale, and odometer disclosure

Pay the $21 title registration fee and any extras, and you’re on the road!

Gifted/Donated Vehicles

This process is largely the same as the others, following a title transfer, odometer reading, applicable smog certification, and registration fees.

  • A gifted vehicle should include a Statement of Facts (REG 256) to eliminate the use tax and possible smog certification.
  • Inherited vehicles need an Affidavit for Transfer without Probate (REG 5)

Pay the $15 transfer title fee and the applicable $8 smog transfer fee, and the car is yours! Or gifted.

California Title Fees and Taxes

Title transfers and their associated fees and taxes are expected.

Fees can include:

  • $15 title transfer
  • $21 new title
  • $20 duplicate title

But, it could also include the following if registering a vehicle in the process:

  • 5% – 10% use tax (vehicle’s value)
  • 65% Vehicle License Fee (VLF)
  • $7 – $47+ county/district fees
  • $20 smog abatement fee
  • $7 owner responsibility fee
  • $24 CHP fee

Refer to the CA DMV’s fee calculator for exact estimation of your costs.


In summary, transferring a vehicle in California is an easy process that requires you to submit proper documentation and pay transfer fees and taxes. Double-check your paperwork and have the correct payment ready before submitting it to the DMV. If you need more information about registering or transferring a vehicle in California, please get in touch with us at DMV Connect! We are here to help make the process even easier! Thank you for using DMV Connect. We hope this article was helpful!