What is a Title?

A certificate of title for a vehicle, or car title, is a legal document that establishes a person or a lender as a car’s owner. The title can be transferred from the car dealership or individual seller to the lender (if you took out a loan) or to you (if you paid for the car in full), but you'll likely need to ask them to do this.

The following information is usually included on a car title:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle make, model and year of manufacture
  • Name and address of the registered user (the primary person who drives the car)
  • Name and contact information of the lender, also called the lien holder (if applicable)
  • Mileage at date of sale
  • Original purchase date 

When purchasing a pre-owned car, it’s a good idea to run a title check (sometimes called a VIN check) to find out more about the car’s history, including dates that it was sold, odometer readings and whether the car was ever in an accident or a flood. To run a title check, gather the VIN of the vehicle you want to buy, have your credit card available and contact an approved National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) data provider. NMVTIS is a national consumer protection database that provides title information from states across the country.

Titling and Registering

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