How To Transfer Car Title in California? Ownership Change Period For Buyers & Sellers

When you are buying a vehicle from someone or receiving it as a gift, one operation needs to be completed within a specified period – ‘transferring the vehicle title’. It’s nothing but changing the ownership of the vehicle legally. So, what’s the procedure if you reside in California. Read this guide to know how to transfer a car title in California? and enjoy your new car purchase.

Why You Must Transfer Car Title Legally?

Anyone who thinks that transferring a car title is not that necessary could face many troubles afterwards. If you sell a car without transferring the ownership, you’ll be held responsible for any accidents or fines caused by that vehicle. Additionally, the longer time you take to transfer the ownership, the more penalties you’ll have to face when you finally decide to do so.

One may need to change the ownership for many reasons –

  • Selling, gifting, or donating a vehicle
  • Adding or removing the owner’s name
  • inheritance transfer of a vehicle to a family member after the owner passes away
  • Lien satisfaction (car loan has been fulfilled)

Documents Required for Car Title Transfer in California

Car ownership transfer

If you are a California resident, there are several steps for transferring your vehicle title/ownership. You’ll also need the following important documents to successfully transfer your vehicle title.

  • The application for replacement or transfer of title (REG 227) and signatures of the seller, buyer, and lienholder (if applicable).
  • There may be additional forms depending on the type of title transfer.
  • Vehicle Inspection Certification/Smog Certification (exceptions apply)

How Much Time Do I Have to Transfer My Car Title In California?

When there is a change in a vehicle’s registered owner/lienholder in California, that change must be legally updated within 10 days in the California DMV’s records. This is done by transferring the California Certificate of Title to the new owner.

The seller (or one who’s gifting/donating a vehicle) needs to notify California DMV about releasing the ownership within 5 days of the sale (or gift date). The Buyer (or gift receiver) must transfer the title to your name within 10 days of purchase (or gift date).

How To Transfer Car Title in California?

How to Transfer Car Title in CaliforniaFirst of all, you’ll need your California Certificate of Title of your vehicle. If you’re missing this document, fill out the Application of Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227). This document needs to be signed by everyone – seller, buyer, and lienholder (if applicable). Otherwise, the DMV office will reject your title transfer request.

Once all parties have signed the document, the buyer will have to submit the document in person at a local DMV office or mail it to California DMV at the below address.

Department of Motor Vehicles
Registration Operations
PO Box 942869
Sacramento, CA 94269

In case you want to visit a DMV office to submit your application, then we suggest you for an appointment to avoid lines. After applying, the buyer or (receiver of gift or inheritance) will get a new title by mail within 15-30 days.

Additional Steps To Transfer Car Title in California

There are some additional steps that buyers and sellers need to complete as a part of transferring the ownership.

Selling or Gifting a Vehicle

Sellers or gifters of the motor vehicle will have to notify the California DMV about the ownership release within 5 days of the sale or gift date. You can do this either online on the California DMV site or mail the Notice of Transfer & Release (Form REG 138).

Additionally, you’ll have to give the buyer or receiver of the gift the following documentation to complete the transfer.

  • Original car title or a competed form of Transfer of Title signed by you (i.e., the seller or gifter).
  • Proof of smog certification (not needed if you are giving the car to your family member OR for a non-diesel car that’s less than 4 years old.
  • Odometer mileage reading (only for cars below 10 years old)

You need to get the signatures of any previous lienholders on the title. If your car has lien releases, you’ll have to submit a notarized Lien satisfied form (firm RED 166).

Buying or Receiving a Vehicle as a Gift

Gifting Vehicle

Buyers or gift receivers of a vehicle must reach out to the California DMV and transfer the ownership within 10 days of purchase. Buyer will need his/her driver’s license number, license number place, vehicle id number, owner’s or lienholder’s name & address, purchase date, and price.

You can now visit your local DMV office and bring the following documents.

  • Original car title with signatures of the seller or gifter. (If the person mentioned in the title is not the seller then you must present the bill of sale as proof of ownership change).
  • Proof of inspection/smog certification. (not needed if you’re receiving the car from a family member OR the car is non-diesel and less than 4 years old)
  • Odometer mileage reading (only for cars below 10 years old).
  • $15 Ownership (title) transfer fee along with relevant taxes.

Along with these, a gift receiver will need to submit –

Buyers and gift receivers will get their new updated car title once DMV reviews and approve everything.

Car Title Transfer Fees in California

Your fees may vary depending on the type of car transfer title you are opting for.

  • Registration
  • Transfer
  • Replacement title
  • Tax based on your buyer’s residence
  • Penalties (if you fail to transfer the ownership on time)

The transfer fees can vary for different states. You can pay for these at a local California DMV office or mail them to the below address.
PO Box 942869
Sacramento, CA 94269

If you want detailed information on fees to transfer your ownership in California, here’s a detailed list of fees.

Expedited Processing

If you want to transfer the vehicle title in hurry, you may apply for expedited rush title processing with $15 additional fees.


So these were the necessary steps on how to transfer your car title in California. [This is how a California resident can transfer the car title (ownership)]. You and the new owner should immediately work on officially changing the ownership in DMV’s records within 10 days to avoid extra charges and penalties. This way you (i.e., the owner) will not be responsible for any legal problem that may arise with the car in near future.

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