Any change of the registered owner or lienholder (legal owner) of a vehicle or vessel is considered to be a change in ownership that must be updated on the records within 10 days of the event at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The change is usually due to:

  • Sale, gift, or donation.
  • Adding or deleting the name of an owner.
  • Inheritance.
  • Satisfaction of lien (full payment of car loan).

Transfer: Whenever there is a change of ownership, the DMV refers to the transaction as a “transfer.”

Seller: The person(s) and/or company shown as the registered owner on the Certificate of Title (and DMV’s records) is always referred to as the seller, even if the vehicle is a gift.

Buyer: The person(s) and/or company who is going to become the new registered owner is referred to as the buyer.

What do I need?

Pre-Transfer Requirements

  • Smog inspection—jump over to our page on CA emissions inspections for details.
  • Vehicle verification.
  • Vehicle Registration Car

Selling a Vehicle in California

Car title, signed by yourself and any lienholders (if applicable) on the correct line(s).

  • If the title is unavailable, you’ll need to complete:
  • Current smog certification UNLESS the vehicle you’re selling is no more than 4 years old AND not powered by diesel.
  • Vehicle’s odometer reading if the vehicle is less than 10 years old.
  •  Bill(s) of sale disclosing the car’s change(s) in ownership IF your name is not the name on the vehicle title.

Giving a Vehicle as a Gift

To transfer ownership of a vehicle as a gift, you will need to provide the car recipient with:

You have 5 days from the date you gifted the vehicle to notify the California Department of Motor Vehicles of the change in ownership. In this time, you need to submit a release of liability to the DMV by either of the following methods:

Once the DMV receives your release of liability, you’ll no longer be held responsible for the gifted vehicle.

*NOTE: Lien Satisfied/Legal Owner/Title Holder Release (Form REG 166) IS NOT viable proof of lien satisfaction for cars that are 2 model years and under OR vehicles with paperless titles. You  MUST apply for and correctly sign a replacement title if the vehicle is 2 years old or less and the original title is unavailable.

Receiving a Gifted Vehicle

If you received a vehicle as a gift, you’ll need to transfer the title and registration into your name within 10 days of receiving the car. You will need the following:

  • A completed Statement of Facts (REG 256), to claim exemption from the state’s:
    • Use tax: Applicable to BOTH family transfers and donations.
    • Smog certification: Applicable ONLY to vehicle transfers between family members.
  • If the vehicle is part of an inheritance, an Affidavit for Transfer without Probate (Form REG 5).
    • Depending on your situation, you may need additional documents. Once everything’s said and done, the car’s title will officially be in your name!

If you need further assistance transferring ownership of a vehicle you received as a gift, give us a call at 818-899-9617