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When you sell your car to a private party, it’s important to transfer the car’s title as soon as you can. By not doing so, you could be liable for any damages or nefarious activities that the new owner does with the car. In many cases, not properly transferring your car’s title can lead to a series of nightmares and even more money spent on your part.

What happens if you don’t properly transfer the car’s title?

How to sell a car without a title
A New York State Department of Motor Vehicles sign | ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

If you sell a car privately and don’t properly fill out the information on the car’s title, don’t fill out a “release of liability” form, or if the buyer doesn’t transfer the title over, then the car will still technically be in your name. That means that if the buyer happens to run the car into the side of a building and run away from the scene of the crime, then the police will be contacting you since your name is still on the title. Of course, that’s a pretty extreme case, but we’re sure something like that has happened in the past.

On a smaller scale, if the buyer happens to run up a bunch of parking tickets with the car or gets it impounded, then you will technically be responsible for the bill. If this happens, then you’ll have to take the time to fill out the correct forms and you may even need to pay more fees with the DMV later on. In order to prevent any of these unfortunate circumstances from happening, it’s imperative that you transfer the car’s title properly.

Transferring your car’s title is a straightforward process in most states

People wait in line at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
People wait in line at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

While there are many issues that can come with not transferring a car’s title over properly, the good news is that a title is pretty straightforward. According to J.D. Power, transferring a car’s title is as easy as the seller signing the car’s title – also known as the “pink slip” – over to the new owner. The buyer will then need to take the title to the DMV in order to get it reissued in their name. Once the new owner has the new title, it’s officially and successfully transferred.

One thing to note, though, is that in some states, the buyer has 30 days to bring the signed title to the DMV, which can lead to the process falling through the cracks. In that case, the seller of the car will still be on the hook for it if anything should happen. Also, it’s important to note that some states require additional documentation when transferring a title such as a “bill of sale” or “release of liability” form, so be sure to check your state’s laws before selling your car to a private party.

Tips for transferring a car’s title to a new owner

A salesperson sells a car to customers.
A salesperson sells a car to customers. | Getty Images.

The next time you sell your car to a private party, it’s important to take the following tips into consideration:

  • Make sure that all of the information you fill out on the title is correct and legible. Any mistakes made on the title could necessitate filling out a correction form, which can delay the process.
  • Double check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the title itself to make sure that it matches the car’s VIN.
  • Make sure that the car’s odometer reading it correctly listed on the title
  • Always use blue or black ink as it’s harder change the information when it’s recorded on the title with those ink colors.

Ultimately, transferring a car’s title is relatively simple, but a simple mistake can lead to a number of problems. Always make sure to check with your state’s laws and DMV to make sure that the process is done correctly. If not, you could be in for a nightmare or two.


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