What Is a Car Title? Everything You Need to Know

What Is a Car Title? Everything You Need to Know

A car title is something that a lot of you probably think you’re very familiar with, but do you actually know what it is? We’re sure that you know it’s a document pertaining to your vehicle’s ownership, but do you understand what it means, what information it contains, or how it works?

For many, the answer is no. That’s why today we’ll be taking a look at what exactly a car title is. Plus, not only will we show you what this document is, but we’ll even give you examples of how car titles work.

There is a surprising amount of information to go over, so you’ll find that everything is broken down into sections. Many of you may have different levels of knowledge on the subject, so please feel free to skip around if you feel the need to.

We’ll show you what a car title is, what the document looks like, and even some examples of how it’s used. It might seem like a lot for such a simple document, but understanding every aspect of your car title is something every vehicle owner should be confident with.

What Is a Car Title?

The title of a car is something that will usually be in the form of a physical legal document. While there are online versions in certain areas, a hardcopy is what you’ll commonly find. The car title is designed to prove ownership of a vehicle, which means that whoever is in possession of the title and named as the owner is the owner of the vehicle.

This applies to trucks, SUVs, cars, and even RVs. Think of a car title like a deed: it proves ownership of the car.

Can anyone possess a car title?

A car title is not a limited document, which means that it can be quite flexible in regard to who or what can possess it. Businesses, government entities, and others can own cars, not just ordinary people. So while you may think of car ownership as a personal thing, this is not always the case.

What can you find on a car title?

You would think that a car title might just be comprised of the owner’s name and some very basic information about the vehicle, but this is definitely not the case. You’ll actually find quite a bit of information on a car title, but keep in mind that the particulars will vary from state to state.

Now, with that being said, here are some of the items you may end up finding on a car title:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Make of the vehicle
  • Model of the vehicle
  • License plate details
  • The value of the vehicle (when new)
  • The tax value of the vehicle (at a certain date)
  • Gross vehicle weight (GVWR),
  • Horsepower
  • Personal information: typically your name, address, and status of ownership

Also, if the vehicle is not fully owned by the titleholder, the lienholder will also be named. The lienholder is the lender that has money owed to the titleholder to purchase the car: in most cases this is usually a bank or dealership.

Who issues a car title?

A car title is not issued by the manufacturer or seller of the vehicle, as many people think. Now, while the DMV may seem like another likely candidate, the Secretary of State is typically the organization that actually approves and assigns a car title. The DMV normally plays a role, but they’re not the entity that’s ultimately responsible for the creation of a car title.

How Does a Car Title Work? What Do I Need to Know?

So what is a car title? The short answer is that it’s a document that shows who the owner of a vehicle is. It contains information about the owner, and it also contains information pertaining to the specifics of the vehicle as well.

Now that you’re all caught up on what exactly a car title is, it’s time to take a look at how a title works. Sure, it’s just a small document, but it’s a document that holds a lot of value. So let’s take a look at why this document is so important.

What happens when a car is sold?

When you have the car title in your name, that means you own the car. This is all well and good, but when it comes time to sell your car you might not be sure about what to do with the title. Don’t panic: it’s not that complicated.

When you sell a car, you’ll obviously be handing the keys to the next owner. But this isn’t enough: you also need to make sure that the next owner receives the car title. Now, in order to complete this process, you’ll need to gain approval from the DMV or other relevant authority in the state in which the vehicle is owned.

Don’t panic, because this is a fairly simple process. In most cases, all you need to do is contact your local DMV and they’ll walk you through the entire process. Here are some online instructions pulled right from the New York DMV’s website. The exact process will vary from state to state, but most

What happens if I lose my title?

As we’ve mentioned a few times already, your car title is a very important document. Without it, you can’t really sell or otherwise change ownership of the vehicle. Luckily, there is usually a simple way to receive a new copy of the car title.

All you need to do is fill out an application with the state in which the car is owned. The process can either be done on paper or online, but this will ultimately depend on which state you live in.

For example, online applications exist in:

  • New York
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • South Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • Wisconsin

Keep in mind that these are only a handful of the states that have online applications, so be sure to check with your state’s current rules and regulations surrounding lost car titles. If you need assistance, your local issuing authority will generally be willing to walk you through the process.

What is a pink slip?

Some of you may have heard the term pink slip being thrown around. A pink slip is essentially the same thing as a car title, and the reason it got this colloquial nickname is due to the fact that California used to have these documents on pink paper. The term pink slips was coined back in the 1950s street racing scene, where pink slips would be traded among competitors. If somebody asks you for a pink slip, they’re referring to your title—no more and no less.

What is a car title loan?

The last thing that we want to touch on is referred to as a car title loan. These loans can be quite dangerous, since the titleholder can actually lose the car if they default on the loan’s terms.

A car title loan should only be used as a last resort, and usually entails the titleholder using their car title as collateral for the loan. These loans tend to be short (about 30 days), and come with a high interest rate. If you do happen to go this route, be prepared to provide the lienholder with a copy of your car keys.

These loans are definitely not great for everyone, but if you do find yourself in a pinch, it’s good to know that they can be a viable option. Just be careful to make all your payments on time, or else your lender might come calling to take possession of your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Car titles are something that not a lot of people know too much about. This isn’t a bad thing, since they’re not very complicated, but it can help to know what you’re looking at. That’s why we wanted to touch on car titles today, because we definitely think you should be familiar with this all-important document that proves your ownership.

A car title may seem simple, but once you really get into what’s beneath the surface, you’ll find that car titles actually come packed with information. Always make sure you have it, and if you lose it, replace it as fast as you possibly can.

We know that we went over quite a bit of information about something as simple as a car title, but we hope that we opened up your eyes a bit. If you ever feel unsure about what your car title means, please refer back to this article as a guide. There is no shame in knowing the facts and keeping them fresh.

Check your title for accuracy, keep it in a safe place, and ensure that you properly transfer the title when buying or selling a car. If you follow these steps, you’ll have nothing else to worry about with your title—so feel free to hit the road, worry-free.