Transferring your car's title doesn't have to be a challenging process. Learning how it works and the specific rules for your state makes buying or selling a car a bit easier. And getting help with a AAA title transfer gives you even less to worry about.
As a AAA member, you have access to an array of useful benefits you may not even know about yet, including assistance with title transfers. You can gift, sell or buy a car from someone and cut out the stress, thanks to the services you get with AAA. Discover everything there is to know about car titles and transferring them with help from AAA below.
What Is a Certificate of Title?
A certificate of title is a legal document that a state typically issues. It identifies the owner, or multiple owners, of a particular property. For cars, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues the documentation. You'll deal with car titles when buying or selling a vehicle. Car titles are necessary documentation to have in order to own and drive a car legally. You may know these documents as "pink slips," but note that car titles aren't always pink anymore.
If you buy a car from a dealer, they'll handle the certificate of title process, but if you buy with a private seller or want to transfer your title to someone else, more of the process will be your responsibility. On a vehicle's certificate of title, you'll find this information:
- Your legal name
- Your physical or mailing address
- The vehicle identification number (VIN)
- The car's year, make and body type
- The car's odometer reading and the date when issued
How Do Car Title Transfers Work?
When you sell your car to someone else, you need to transfer that vehicle's title to the buyer legally. If your name is the only one on the vehicle's title as the owner, the car title transfer process will be simple. It will involve two steps where:
- The seller releases the title: To sell a vehicle, the seller needs to sign the title. That signifies that you have released ownership of the vehicle and you approve of the transfer. In Pennsylvania, your required to have the title notarized before signing. You can then go to the DMV with the buyer for the process.
- The buyer takes the title: Once you sign the title, the buyer takes it to the DMV or AAA. The state will then issue a new registration and title. You might get a temporary registration to operate the vehicle for now, and the DMV will mail a new title later.
Not every title has just one name on it. If your title includes a lienholder, or a lender's name, that means you owe money through a loan. You have to settle that loan before selling. You may not even have the physical title in your possession until you pay off your loan. Speak to your bank or lender to discuss how you should conduct the transaction.
For titles with two names, both of the owners need to sign before selling.
Why Do You Need to Transfer Your Car Title?
Transferring a car title is a vital part of the selling process for both the seller and buyer. You'll also have to transfer your car title if you're changing ownership in other ways, like if you're gifting or donating the vehicle to someone else or if you're inheriting the car from someone else.
As the seller, you could face severe consequences if you skip transferring the title. You'd still be the legal owner of the car, meaning that if the new owner gets into any trouble, you're responsible. You might receive a ticket in the mail for illegally parking somewhere when really it was the buyer still operating the vehicle under your name. Transfer your vehicle's title to protect you from those liabilities.
Transferring the title is also an essential process for the buyer. If you're buying a car from a private owner, you need the title transfer process to:
- Legally own and operate the vehicle: The car's title serves as proof that whoever's name is on the document is the legal owner. You can't legally own the vehicle you get from a seller if you can't get a title in your name. Every state requires a car to have a title to be legally driven, as well.
- Complete the registration process: You can't register your new vehicle without a signed car title and insurance. The registration is an essential document to keep in the car, and you need it to drive the vehicle legally. If you're buying a car and need insurance, be sure to check out your AAA auto insurance optio
- What You Will Need to Transfer Your Car Title
When you're transferring a car title, you and the buyer will have a few processes and documents to complete. This will differ from state to state, so be sure to double-check the requirements for your specific location. In general, car title transfers could require these extra steps and documents:
- Bill of sale: A bill of sale includes information about the vehicle and terms of the sale. You should also include your information and the buyer's along with the selling price of the car. You may both have to sign the bill of sale in the presence of a notary. Even if your state doesn't require you to complete a bill of sale, using one in your transaction will help avoid miscommunication.
- Lien release: Even if you paid off your car, you'll need a notarized lien release from any lenders on your title. That shows that you have fulfilled your debt and that the lender relinquishes the vehicle to you, which you can then sell to a buyer.
- Odometer disclosure: While titles usually have a spot for the current odometer reading, some states require an odometer disclosure if it's not on the title. Listing the mileage when you transfer the vehicle helps prevent any discrepancies in the future. The buyer can know how much use you got out of the vehicle and measure how much they've driven the car over time.
- Application for title: This document is a bit longer than others, and it varies from state to state. In general, the application might include the seller's and buyer's names and addresses. You'll include lienholder information and details of the car, as well.
Ensure that when you fill out the necessary documents, especially the title, you write neatly and avoid spelling mistakes. If you make an error on the title, it's void. That means you could have to get a notarized statement about the error or follow another method to make a correction. Also remember that, depending on your state, you might have to pay a transfer fee and tax. The transfer fee varies by location. The seller or the buyer may cover this fee, which you should discuss before transferring the title.
Can You Transfer a Title That Is Not in Your Name?
If a title isn't in your name, you can't legally transfer it. That's because, on paper, the car isn't under your ownership. Trying to sell a car with a title not in your name is called title jumping, or you may see it referred to as a jumped or floated title. Every state considers title jumping an illegal act.
Title jumping is illegal because you essentially skip paying sales tax and registration fees for the vehicle you want to sell. It also creates a risky situation for the buyer and seller in this exchange. How it impacts each individual differs, with the potential risks for each party including:
- Seller: Risks for title jumping as the seller are more severe than they are for the buyer since the seller is engaging in an illegal act. Potential risks include fines, penalties and even jail time.
- Buyer: For the buyer, a jumped title is largely an inconvenience. A buyer could have trouble transferring the title into their name. They may also have to wait for a back and forth between the seller and whoever's name is on the title, prolonging the buying process. Buying a jumped title car is also risky because a buyer won't know as much of the vehicle's history, like who owned it or what problems the car has had.
You may have an exemption to this rule if the original owner of the car is deceased and you're the next of kin or executor.
Transferring Your Car Title Through AAA
With all this information in mind, you're probably wondering — "Can I transfer a car title at AAA?" And you can. Our title and tag services make title transfers simple. The process is similar to what you'd do at the DMV, but it'll be less of a hassle and wait when you go to AAA. As a PennDOT-authorized tag-issuing agent and messenger service, AAA Central Penn and our knowledgeable staff can help with transferring vehicle titles and other vehicle needs, like renewing or replacing your driver's license.
For some of these transactions, you may have to pay a service fee, but as a AAA member, you'll have access to many discounted rates. We'll also process these transactions for non-members, though they would pay any service fees in full. Whether you're a AAA member now or you aren't one yet, a AAA title transfer comes with many advantages. Buy or sell a car and transfer the title with our help to get a service that's:
- Convenient: With multiple locations throughout the counties we serve, finding a location for your AAA title transfer in Pennsylvania is convenient. We also staff offices with certified Notary Publics, meaning you will not have to go to different locations for your title transfer. We offer notary services to AAA Classic members for a fee, but we may waive that fee for AAA Plus and AAA Premier members.
- Time-saving: We can quickly process your AAA title transfer to help you save time. You'll avoid delays through the process as our experienced staff can walk you through what to fill out and how.
- Helpful: Trying to go through the title transfer process on your own would be overwhelming. You risk missing paperwork or making errors as you fill out a document. Our staff has experience with title transfers, so you can get the help you need during this process.
Contact AAA Central Penn for a AAA Title Transfer in Pennsylvania
At AAA, we provide much more than unparalleled emergency roadside service. Our title and tag services, along with financial, insurance and automotive offerings give you everything you need to protect yourself and your vehicle. We'd be happy to help you transfer a vehicle title, whether you're a member now or you plan on becoming one later on. Make the title transfer process much easier for yourself with AAA.
Find a Central Penn AAA branch near you to learn more about our AAA title transfer services in Pennsylvania.