Car title transfer, from several states away, when the title is lost?
February 12, 2013 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Pretty please, help me! I sold my car in California in the middle of a move. We completed a bill of sale to be as official as possible, and I told the buyer that I'd mail her the title once the dust settled from my move. Now that I've unpacked, I can't find the title anywhere. The California DMV website lists some guidelines for replacing a lost title , but I'm still confused. Who's technically the legal owner right now? Would it be easiest for the buyer to fill out this form and check that the title was "not received from prior owner" and get on with it? Or would that incur some sort of penalty for either of us?

I also checked out the third-party title-replacement folks, , which is promoted on the DMV website. This says it'll take 2-3 weeks to receive a replacement title, doesn't say how much it will cost, and when I try to complete the transaction, it tells me it's unable to complete it and sends me back to the DMV website. Grr. And theeeen...what's the scoop on title transfers ? I would assume that I need to actually have a title to transfer in the first place, but would I then need to jump through this hoop as well once I receive the title? The buyer is a friend of a friend; we'd both like to do whatever results in her obtaining the title the fastest and costs the least amount of $. Also, I would like to regain just a sliver of sanity...this thing is driving me bonkers! Many thanks in advance for the help.
posted by red_rabbit to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Follow the instructions at the DMV's How to Change Vehicle Ownership page. That page includes all of the steps involved in changing the ownership of the vehicle, including instructions on how to proceed if the title is missing. In particular, if the title is missing, you and the new owner need to fill out form REG 227 to complete the transfer of ownership.

If you haven't completed the paperwork to transfer of ownership of the vehicle and you haven't filed a "Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability" then right now not only are you still the owner of record, you are also still responsible for any parking fees and/or traffic violations involving the vehicle. Furthermore, you can still be found responsible for any damage caused by the operation of the vehicle.
posted by RichardP at 12:03 AM on February 13, 2013

Who's technically the legal owner right now?

You have a bill of sale with their sig? But you haven't given them the title yet? That's tough but I'd say they paid for something (the title) you haven't given them yet, so I'd say they own it, but it's in your possession.

My father once sold a vehicle (in Cali), had a bill of sale and given the title to the person. 1.5 years later the police came to my dad asking about the vehicle (it was found in a questionable location and seemed abandoned) and he showed them the bill, the person's info and told him he gave the title to them. That was enough for them. I'm just saying that to show that no bad really came of his situation.

I'd go with what's sure, the DMV, instead of a third party.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:44 AM on February 13, 2013

Having been on the buying end and not getting the title, it's very easy. I only needed the bill of sale and a trip to DMV. There was no penalty. This was in California a few years ago, but things look to be the same now.
posted by anadem at 6:15 AM on February 13, 2013

Just remembered ... no penalty but I did have to pay for the smog test, which is legally the seller's responsibility, so if you lost that too you should reimburse the buyer.
posted by anadem at 6:20 AM on February 13, 2013

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