Procedures for auto title transfer in U.S. states vary, but shared steps include getting signatures of the seller and buyer, providing odometer readings and visiting a state office to record the title. Transferring the title of a vehicle from one person to another is required upon sale, gift or inheritance.
When buying a new or used auto from a dealership, the dealer usually handles the title transfer. But when the sale is between individuals, both seller and buyer and present and future lien holders sign the title. In most states, the correct odometer reading and vehicle identification number must be on the title.
In 2015 the procedure to transfer a title in California, for example, requires a smog test and a visit to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, where the buyer presents ownership documents, the $15 title transfer fee and taxes.
In New York the buyer visits a state Department of Motor Vehicles office with the title, proof of insurance and identification. The buyer fills out paperwork and pays a $50 title fee, registration fees and taxes.
In Illinois, the buyer takes the signed title and bill of sale to an office of the Secretary of State, where he completes an application and pays fees and taxes.
For a fee, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System provides odometer history, total-loss history, salvage history and title history to protect people from buying a stolen vehicle.