How to Transfer a Car Title in New Jersey

A car title is a vital document issued by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) that legally proves ownership and must be transferred when a vehicle is new, sold, given to someone, or inherited.

Why Are Car Titles Important?

Car titles provide proof of ownership and list any liens or loans against the vehicle. They serve as a record of ownership and other key information during a car’s life span. Titles have information like the vehicle identification number (VIN), manufacturer, model, and year of manufacture. Titles may also document information like vehicle weight, odometer reading, the license plate number, lienholder, the owner’s name and address, and purchase price.

Salvage titles are issued for vehicles that are totaled and later refurbished. Titles should always be kept in a secure place and not in the vehicle itself. Vehicle registration cards, often sent with new license plates or registration tabs, may be kept in the vehicle for proof of registration.

How Do Title Applications Work?

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission processes car title applications for various situations. Regardless of the title situation, having all necessary documentation is essential for properly titling a vehicle. Title transfers for pre-owned vehicles require the previous title with the previous owner’s signature and other title transfer information on the back of the title. Required details include the sales price, odometer reading, and the seller’s name and address.

New Jersey car dealers should handle the titling, taxes, and addition of the lienholder for titling new cars if there’s a loan for the vehicle. New Jersey State Auto Used Cars will handle the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin with proof of sales tax paid. Dealers also add the lienholder to the title using the lienholder’s address and Entity Identification Number (EIN) to title the vehicle in the lienholder’s name. Lienholders hold the original title until the loan is paid.

If you purchase a car from out of state, the process is similar for pre-owned and new vehicles, but more information is needed. A New Jersey resident can title the vehicle by showing proof of ownership. New cars require the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Ownership. Pre-owned cars require the out-of-state title or former registration, as well as the VIN, in addition to the mileage, your proof of insurance, and your driver’s license.

What Happens if I Can’t Find the Title?

Car titles, like other paperwork, can be easy to misplace over the years. Missing, stolen, or damaged titles are replaceable with proper documentation submitted in-person or through the mail.

Applicants for replacement titles will need their current registration and proof of insurance. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has an “Application for Duplicate Certificate of Ownership” form for this situation, but more paperwork may be needed if you don’t have proof of ownership. Replacement titles carry an additional fee. If the replacement title has a lien attached, the title is sent to the lienholder.

Damaged titles may also be replaced for a fee; applicants need to write down how the title was damaged and provide information, including name and address, vehicle information, and the damaged title. Fines may be levied against anyone who knowingly seeks a duplicate while holding the original car title to protect legal owners of vehicles in New Jersey.

How Do I Transfer a Car Title?

Once you have the title in hand and are ready to transfer your vehicle to another owner, there are a few steps to take and some required documentation. Having all the materials ready to go will save you time and money. Title transfers should be done in person at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, usually with both the buyer and seller present.

Sellers and buyers complete the information on the back of the title, including the sales price (which will be used for calculating sales tax), odometer reading (which may be exempted for older vehicles), address, and other information. Proof of car insurance is also required. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has an “Application for Certificate of Ownership” form that must be completed for title transfers.

Sellers in New Jersey keep their license plates to transfer to another vehicle. Plates may not be transferred to another owner. Buyers provide their driver’s license number when they sign the old title and use the old title to register the vehicle and pick up new license plates.

Vehicles with liens, or a collateral safeguard by a loan company, are more complex to sell. When a car loan is paid off, the lienholder typically sends a lien release that allows the owner to apply for a title transfer into their name only. Transferring a car title with an active lien can require going through a dealer, working with the lienholder, or having the buyer pay off the loan against the car.

Titles not transferred within ten days of the date of the sale are subject to a penalty. New residents are required to transfer their car title within 60 days of moving to New Jersey. New residents need to provide their driver’s license, original title, and proof of insurance; vehicles with liens require title transfer, but the title remains with the lienholder for the loan duration.

How Do Gifted or Inherited Vehicle Title Transfers Work?

Gifted vehicles given to family or friends need to be disclosed as a gift to be exempt from sales tax. The process is similar, filling out the back of the title required, an in-person visit to the Motor Vehicle Commission, and payment of title transfer fees.

Inherited vehicles may be driven for 30 days after the owner passes; at or before that time, the title transfer is required. Transfers for inherited vehicles require an in-person visit to the Motor Vehicle Commission. The future owner’s driver’s license, proof of insurance, and supporting paperwork, like a death certificate and proof of relationship with the prior owner, are required. Inherited vehicles are also exempt from sales tax, but any liens must be paid off.

As with most official transactions, having all documentation in order is essential for car title transfers. While transferring ownership may be a simple procedure, it can become complex in cases that involve titles from other states, lienholders, gifts, inherited vehicles, and missing titles. Reviewing any special circumstances and ensuring everything is in order will save time, money, and frustration when transferring a car title in New Jersey.