How Do You Transfer a Vehicle Title in California?

California is the most populous state in the country due to its natural beauty, fun cities, and wonderful weather. It's no wonder a lot of people are considering moving there. If you do move to California, there are a few things you need to know about getting a driver's license and buying or selling a vehicle. 

How to Switch Your Driver's License to California

If you live in California for more than six months in a 12-month period, work there, or go to school there, you are officially a resident. This means you need to get a California driver's license within 10 days of becoming a resident. To get your California driver's license when you already have one from another state, follow these steps:

  1. Fill out a driver's license card application.

  2. Make an appointment at a nearby DMV and bring the following documents:

  3. Have your thumbprint scanned and pay the appropriatelicense fee.

  4. Pass both vision and knowledge exams.

  5. Have your photo taken and receive your ID.

Don't Forget to Take California Driver's Ed

California is unique in the fact that you have to pass a knowledge test even if you have a driver's license from another state. This is important to prove that everyone is up to date on the state's driving laws. A perfect way to refresh your knowledge for this test is by taking an Aceable California Driver's Ed course.

Buying a New Car in California

When you buy a car from a dealership, they'll handle everything, and you'll receive your title in the mail from the DMV. But, if you're buying as a private owner, it's up to you to transfer the title.

Buyers must notify the California DMV of the transfer of vehicle ownership. Head to your local DMV with the following documentation and materials:

  • The title, signed by the owner.

  • A smog certification (not required if the car is less than four years old and not diesel-powered).

  • $15 vehicle title transfer fee.

  • Money for relevant taxes and fees.

You should receive your new car title once everything has been approved.

Selling Your Old Car in California

Sellers must notify the California Department of Motor Vehicles of the transfer of vehicle ownership within five days of the sale. You can do this either online or by mailing a completed Notice of Transfer and Release Liability (NRL). You will also be responsible for providing the buyer with the required documentation for the transfer. This includes:

  • The original car title (signed by the seller). If the person on the title is not the seller, you will also need to provide the bill of sale to prove that the car has changed ownership. If the title is missing, here's how to get a new one.

  • Record the odometer mileage (if the car is less than 10 years old).

If you don’t have the California Certificate of Title, you need to use an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) to transfer ownership. The lienholder’s release, if any, must be notarized. The buyer should then bring the completed form to a DMV office and we will issue a new registration and title.

Transferring a Title Between Family Members

If you have a family member in California who is willing to sell you a vehicle, it's a relatively easy process. All you have to do is submit the following:

Know What to Do If You Move to California

Whether you are getting your driver's license or transferring a vehicle title in California, you need to know how to do it properly. You also need to learn the rules of the road, which you can do from the comfort of your home with a driver's ed course at Our fun and interactive lessons will help you pass your knowledge test with ease. 

Updated 12/14/23