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California Department of Motor Vehicles
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Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members

What Does Transfer Mean?

When the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) talks about "transfer," we mean a change in the registered or legal ownership of a California registered vehicle. When a vehicle changes owners, whether by sale, gift, inheritance, etc., and the new owner's name is placed on the department's records, that's a transfer.

For example, when you sell a car:

1. You and the legal owner/lienholder (the person, bank, credit union, etc., that financed the vehicle) if any, release interest/ownership of the vehicle by signing the Certificate of Title.

2. The signed title and any other required documents are submitted to DMV for transfer of ownership into the new owner's name.

3. Following completion of the transfer, DMV will issue a new Certificate of Title to the new owner(s) or if there is a lien, to the lienholder.

Are Transfer Requirements Different Between Family Members?

Yes. This information outlines the differences between a regular transfer and a family member transfer.

What Is a Family Member Transfer?

A "family transfer" is when ownership is transferred to or from a:

  • spouse
  • parent
  • child
  • grandparent
  • grandchild
  • siblings
  • domestic partner

How Is a Family Member Transfer Different from a Regular Transfer?

There are three primary differences between regular transfers and family member transfers:

1. A regular transfer requires smog certification in most cases before the vehicle can be registered in the new owner's name. A family member transfer does not require smog certification (See Smog Certification section) if the vehicle is currently registered and the biennial smog inspection is not due.

2. On a regular transfer, use tax based on the purchase price of the vehicle is due at the time of transfer. A family transfer is exempt from use tax with the exception of a transfer between siblings who are not minors. Transfers between siblings are exempt from smog certification regardless of age, unless a biennial smog is required.

3. A regular transfer requires the department to reestablish the vehicle value (reclassify) to determine the appropriate Vehicle License Fee due. The license fee is based on the purchase price or current market value of the vehicle. A transfer between family members is exempt from reclassification of the vehicle value.

To establish eligibility for the use tax or reclassification exemption, be sure to let the department know that this is a family member transfer.

What Do I Need to Do for a Family Transfer?

The DMV will require:

  • The California Certificate of Title properly signed or endorsed on Line 1 by the registered owner(s) shown on the title. You will need to complete the new owner information on the back of the title and sign it.
  • A Statement of Facts (REG 256) for use tax and smog exemption, if applicable.
  • Transfer fee.
  • Odometer disclosure for vehicles less than 10 years old. Refer to Odometer Mileage Reporting.

Additional fees, such as registration fees, may also be due.

California Certificate of Title

For information on how to fill out the Certificate of Title please refer to How To Change Vehicle Ownership.

Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

You must notify DMV within five days when you sell or transfer ownership of your vehicle.

Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Make sure you print the confirmation page for your records.

Additional release of liability information

What Fees Are Due?

The transfer fee to transfer ownership.

Statutory Authority: Vehicle Code Section 9255.

If the transfer fee is not paid within 30 days of transfer, a transfer penalty fee is added.

The registration renewal fees may be due. If the registration has expired and a Planned Non-Operation* status is not on file, you will be charged for past due fees and penalties.

Fees will be determined by the DMV when your application is submitted.

Can Transfer of Title Be Made Without Payment of Registration Renewal Fees?

If the vehicle has a Planned Non-Operation status on file with the DMV, a transfer only may be done without payment of registration renewal fees.

Smog Certification

California law requires the inspection and certification of most vehicle emission control systems every other year upon renewal of registration. This is called the biennial (every other year) smog requirement. If you are renewing your registration during a biennial period, a smog exemption for the family member transfer does not apply.